THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Untold lives blog

169 posts categorized "Politics"

29 March 2019

Colours of the Royal East India Volunteers

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The British Library is celebrating the completion of a four-year project to conserve two unique but badly degraded silk flags dating from the 1790s.

REIV colours after conservation Colours of Royal East India Volunteers after conservation (Foster 1068 and Foster 1069) - image © British Library Board

The flags are a set of colours belonging to the Royal East India Volunteers formed by the East India Company in London during the French Wars to protect East India House and the Company warehouses ‘against hazard from insurrections and tumults’ and to assist the City government in times of disorder. 

The REIV were embodied at two separate periods, from 1796 to 1814 and then from 1820 to 1834.  The field officers were elected from Company directors, and commissioned officers were recruited from clerks and officials at East India House and the warehouses.  The supervisory grades in the warehouses became non-commissioned officers who led labourers serving as privates. By 1799 there were three regiments with about 1500 men.  A register of labourers in the REIV soldiers 1820-1832 has survived giving age, height, home address, reason for discharge from the corps.  Some men were discharged because training clashed with their warehouse duties or secondary afternoon jobs. Others were judged unfit to serve – Charles Twort was discharged for having bad feet and corns.

The-Leadenhall-volunteer-drest-in-his-shawl'The Leadenhall volunteer, drest in his shawl' by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey 8 March 1797 NPG D12480 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Each REIV regiment had a set of colours.  It appears that Lady Jane Dundas embroidered all three sets. Her husband Henry Dundas wrote to Company director David Scott on 4 November 1796 that Lady Jane had taken a fancy that she ought to work a pair of colours for the East India Corps and that she needed instructions. Lady Jane presented the colours at three public ceremonies in April 1797, July 1797, and June 1799.

REIV MatthewsConsecration of colours which Lady Jane Dundas presented to the Third Regiment of Royal East India Volunteers at Lord's Cricket Ground on 29 June 1799.  The watercolour by Henry Matthews is part of the British Library’s Visual Arts collections (WD2425). It is reproduced in William Griggs, Relics of the Honourable East India Company (1909).

One set of colours was presented to the re-embodied REIV on 14 June 1821. When the REIV was finally disbanded in 1834, these colours were deposited in the museum at East India House. Sir George Birdwood found the colours later in the 19th century at the India Store Depôt at Lambeth and placed them in the Military Committee Room at the India Office in Whitehall.  They were still on display in Whitehall as late as 1963. 

Military Committee Room India OfficePhotograph of the Military Committee Room, India Office, Whitehall  (BL, Photo 272). The colours can be seen in a degraded state unfurled above the door.

In 1895 the colours were lent to Empire of India Exhibition at Earl’s Court.  The catalogue described them as ‘tattered and torn in the most approved fashion but no tale of glory hangs thereby. Only in marches and reviews in London Fields did these colours wave to the breeze, and damp and the ravages of rats and mice are responsible for their present condition’.

REIV  before conservation 1Colours of Royal East India Volunteers before conservation (Foster 1068 and Foster 1069) - image © British Library Board

The colours had become fragile, fragmentary and soiled. Large areas of silk loss made the flags very hard to interpret. Surprisingly, the complex embroideries which decorated the centre of the flags were predominately intact although structurally very weak.

REIV  before conservation 2Colours of Royal East India Volunteers before conservation (Foster 1068 and Foster 1069) - image © British Library Board

The conservation treatment of these two flags included: surface cleaning; removal of the central embroideries; wet cleaning; crease removal; mounting on a padded board covered by a digitally printed image of the flag to enable interpretation and covering with a specially dyed nylon net which prevents the loss of the fragmentary silk.

The conservation will enable access, display and research by ensuring the longevity of these precious and important flags.

Liz Rose, Textile Conservator, and Margaret Makepeace, Lead Curator East India Company Records

Further reading:
William Foster, The East India House (1924), chapter XII.
Margaret Makepeace, The East India Company's London Workers: Management of the Warehouse Labourers, 1800-1858 (2010), chapter 6.
The Empire of India Exhibition – Illustrated official catalogue (1895).
C H Philips, The correspondence of David Scott Vol 1 1787-1799 (1951), p.88.
James D. Geddes, Colours of British Regiments (2002).

 

REIV colours and Liz

Come behind the scenes and meet those involved in this project on Tuesday 2 April at our Textile Conservation Show and Tell.

 

12 February 2019

Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford, part 2: The Breakfast Club and 'the Irish Question'

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Stephen Noble continues to explore the lives of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford in this second of two blog posts. The correspondence and papers of this fascinating couple were acquired by the British Library in 2016 and are now available to be viewed in our Manuscripts Reading Room.

Chichester Samuel Parkinson-Fortescue was born 18 January 1823 in County Louth, Ireland, and became MP representing the County in 1847. He met Countess Waldegrave in 1849 and was devoted to her from the start. They eventually married in 1863.

Carlingford Image 1Chichester Samuel Parkinson-Fortescue, Baron Carlingford and 2nd Baron Clermont by Lock & Whitfield, published by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington. Woodburytype, published 1883. NPG Ax17696. Used under Creative Commons Licence.

Countess Waldegrave supported Fortescue in his political career and was at the time widely regarded as the main cause of his rise through the Liberal Party, and his prominent roles in the Liberal governments of the late 19th century. The parties they hosted at Strawberry Hill were an opportunity for the top politicians of the day to network, and for Countess Waldegrave to influence the political conversation. Fortescue served as Chief Secretary for Ireland, President of the Board of Trade and Lord Privy Seal, and took his place in the Cabinet in 1868 in no small part thanks to Countess Waldegrave’s lobbying of Gladstone on his behalf.

Carlingford Image 2Selected correspondence of Lady Waldegrave, Add MS 89287/1/3/6

Fortescue was a member of a group called ‘The Breakfast Club’. This was a group of about a dozen leading political figures who met once a week for Breakfast, where discussion included Whig politics and Whig literary culture. Fortescue was by disposition more of a traditional Whig thinker than a Liberal one, and these meetings were a place to forge useful political connections with figures including Lord Aberdare (a Home Secretary under Gladstone), Thomas Erskine May (Chief Clerk to the House of Commons and author of an authoritative work on the British Constitution), and Lord Dufferin (Viceroy of India).

Carlingford Image 3Letter from Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue to Henry Bruce, later Lord Aberdare, 15 December 1870, Add MS 89287/2/2/1. Permission kindly given by Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan.

Ireland was a central feature throughout Fortescue’s political career. He was first appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1865, and returned to the role in 1868. He was also made a member of the Irish Privy Council in 1866. In this time he drew up, and helped pass, some important pieces of legislation, including the Irish Church Act (1869) which disestablished the Anglican Church in Ireland. Vanity Fair commented at the time ‘it is fortunate that the new order of ideas should have been introduced under the guidance of one who knows so well as he the necessities of the country’. However, he was not rewarded for his work by the voters of County Louth, who voted him out in the 1874 election. He was immediately given the title Baron Carlingford and continued to play a role in front line politics from the House of Lords.

Carlingford Image 4Gladstone's Cabinet of 1868 by Lowes Cato Dickinson. Oil on canvas, 1869-1874. NPG 5116. Used under Creative Commons License. (Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue is 5th from the left).

Ireland was a hotly debated political issue during this period. Legislation became difficult to pass with divisions arising between parties, and between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. For Baron Carlingford, it was the question of Irish Home Rule that led to his eventual split from Gladstone’s Liberal Party, aligning himself instead with the Liberal Unionists in 1886.

The correspondence and papers of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford (Add MS 89287) are now available to be viewed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

07 February 2019

Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford, part 1: political influence and family ties

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The papers of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford (Add MS 89287) were acquired by the British Library in 2016. Stephen Noble, who catalogued the papers, introduces the collection and explores the personal and political lives of this fascinating couple.

Frances, Countess Waldegrave was born Frances Braham on 4 January 1821. The daughter of John Braham, a noted opera singer, Frances rose to prominence in Victorian society due to her many high profile marriages. After her short-lived marriage to John Waldegrave, Frances caused some scandal by marrying his half-brother, George Waldegrave, 7th Earl Waldegrave. Through this marriage she became Countess Waldegrave and inherited Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham, originally built by Horace Walpole. In 1847 she married George Granville Harcourt, a man 36 years her senior, and in 1863 Countess Waldegrave married for the final time to Chichester Samuel Parkinson-Fortescue, later Baron Carlingford. Fortescue had been devoted to Countess Waldegrave since they first met in 1849, and their marriage lasted until her death in 1879.

Waldegrave Image 1 (cropped)Frances Elizabeth Anne (née Braham), Countess Waldegrave by Camille Silvy. Albumen print, 24 February 1861. NPG Ax51617. Used under Creative Commons Licence. Cropped from original.

Countess Waldegrave became known as one of the foremost political hostesses of her generation, as well as a great intellect and an adept political influencer. She, along with Baron Carlingford, managed a wide circle of political friendships, both nationally and internationally. The parties she hosted at Strawberry Hill were considered to be important social and political occasions. The influence of the couple was widely commented on. Newspapers reported on the guest lists of the Strawberry Hill parties and many suspected that Baron Carlingford and Countess Waldegrave were used by Anthony Trollope as the models for his characters Phineas Finn and Madame Max in the novels Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux.

Waldegrave Image 2Anthony Trollope, Phineas Redux (London, 1874) Yes, There She Is facing p. 273. British Library shelfmark: 12620.f.26.

Family was another important aspect of Countess Waldegrave’s life. In July 1860 she formally adopted her niece Constance after Constance’s mother died earlier that year. Countess Waldegrave was very taken with Constance and felt the need to ensure that she received a proper education. Constance and Frances had a good relationship, and Constance continued to view her with gratitude and affection.

Waldegrave Image 3Letter from Constance Braham to Frances, Countess Waldegrave, 4 January 1875, Add MS 89287/1/1/2. Permission kindly given by Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan.

Lady Waldegrave enjoyed matchmaking, with one of her more successful pairings being that of Constance with Edward Strachey, later 1st Baron Strachie. The two had known each other since childhood, and Frances, along with Mary Strachey, mother of Edward, encouraged their interest in one another. In Baron Carlingford’s 1878 diary (Add MS 63686, f. 161) he wrote that he had ‘Joined F[rances], Constance and Eddy Strachey at Opera Comique, H.M. Ship. Pinafore’, and notes that Eddy had also been out with Constance to a play just the night before. He writes, ‘F[rances] & I talk a great deal about him & C[onstance]’.

Waldegrave Image 4Letter from Constance Strachey née Braham to Chichester Parkinson-Fortescue, Baron Carlingford, 4 January 1889, Add MS 2/1/1/28. Permission kindly given by Charles Strachey, 4th Baron O'Hagan.

Countess Waldegrave died on 5 July 1879, and did not get to witness the wedding of Constance and Edward Strachey in 1880. The Countess’s death was a devastating loss for both Constance and Baron Carlingford, who largely withdrew himself from society after her death. Constance remained close to her ‘Uncle Carlingford’, and was a great comfort to him throughout his later years.

The correspondence and papers of Countess Waldegrave and Baron Carlingford are now available to be viewed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Stephen Noble
Modern Archives and Manuscripts

31 January 2019

The Favourite and the Marlborough Papers

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All things are chang'd in Court & Town

Since Sarah's happy days

And she that once had scarce a Gown

Now Queen and Kingdom Sways

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite has been wowing audiences over the past few weeks with its political intrigue, wonderful costume design, and sharp dialogue. To this we might add the strong employment of documents in understated supporting roles: letters exchanged, financial records examined, and books consulted in secret. Archivists have a habit of picking up on documents and recordkeeping in films - Star Wars Rogue One saw a number of recordkeeping takes on the poor digital preservation planning displayed by the Empire – and when I came out of the cinema I wanted to see how the actions of Anne, Sarah and Abigail were recorded in the Blenheim papers.

The papers – so named because they were formerly housed at Blenheim Palace – consist primarily of the personal papers and correspondence of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and Sarah Churchill, Lady Marlborough. 

Correspondence

Volumes Add MS 61414-61418 contain Sarah's correspondence with Anne, or rather letters received from Anne (originals and copies) and drafts and copies of Sarah's letters to Anne. Many of the letters were annotated by Sarah as she compiled arguments in defence of her behaviour and position.

In this letter, undated apart from 'Wednesday night', but thought to be from 1692, Anne acknowledges Sarah's request of a place for Abigail Hill on her staff:

Add ms 61415 f32 CROPAdd MS 61415, f 32 "As to what you say about Mrs Hill you may asure [sic] your self she shall have ye place you desire for her"

Throughout the film Sarah and Anne refer to each other as Mrs Freeman and Mrs Morley. The earliest surviving letters using these names date to 1692, although in her memoirs Sarah claimed that they had been in use prior to 1688.

Affectionate letter A to SAdd MS 61416, f 7 Anne to Sarah

Sarah's correspondence with her husband can also be found in the archive, and is partly written in cipher. Add MS 61575 contains copies of the various ciphers used by the Marlboroughs, and in the image below we can see two different numbers used to refer to Anne.

Cipher cropCipher table, Add MS 61575

Groom of the Stole, Lady of the Bedchamber, Mistress of the Robes, and Privy Purse

Sarah's roles in the royal household are well documented in her personal papers. Add MS 61420 is a volume of accounts, correspondence and papers accumulated through her various household positions. They include copies of the warrants of appointments, and bills and instructions which give us an insight into palace life and the Queen's tastes.

Addms61420warrantAdd MS 61420, f 3 Warrant to admit Sarah into the Place and Quality of Mistress of the Robes

Addms61420housekeeperAdd MS 61420, f 28 Details of disbursements made to Faith Browne, annotated by Sarah in her role as Privy Purse.  The Mr Cogg referred to here was Sarah's goldsmith.

Gathering evidence for her defence

Sarah’s papers bear evidence of her arrangement and use of the material in preparing pieces defending her position, partially surviving the subsequent arrangements of later keepers of the archive. These include copies of letters between the principals in the tug-of-war for Anne’s favour, charting Abigail’s marriage to Masham, her taking of the lodgings at Kensington – all with Sarah’s annotations and notes on the events.

Abigail letter cropAdd MS 61454, Abigail's letter to Sarah defending her behaviour.

Sarah note on Abigail cropSarah's annotation. "This letter so full of a good conscious was writ to me by my lady Masham after she had done me so much mischeif [sic], in I think the still [style] of her master Harley in her own hand writing"

S annotation cropOrganisational note by Sarah, "Leters in 1709 when Abigal ruled"

Sarah also collected copies of satirical poems and pamphlets which circulated throughout  court and parliamentary circles. Add MS 61462 includes material written by Sarah’s friend and confidant the literary critic Arthur Maynwaring, some of which may have been co-authored by Sarah herself. These copies also feature Sarah’s annotations and notes.

Addms61462abigalAdd MS 61462, f 16 A Ballad on Mrs Abigal [sic] To the Tune of, the Dame of Honour, 1708

 

Addms61462f145cropAdd MS 61462, f 145. Letter of resignation drafted for the use of Marlborough by Maynwaring, address to the Duke of Shrewsbury, Jan 1711.

This post has been a quick dip into the 610 volumes and files which constitute the Marlborough papers, which can be accessed in the manuscripts reading room in the Library.

Further reading

Ophelia Field, The Favourite (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002)

Francis Harris, A Passion for Government. The Life of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991)

Blenheim Papers, Add MS 61101-61701, Add Ch 76069-76142

Alex Hailey

Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

29 January 2019

The shooting of the British Consul General at Isfahan and Sowar Chowdri Khan

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Persia (Iran) declared its neutrality in the First World War on 1 November 1914.  Nevertheless, owing to its oil deposits and proximity to British-ruled India, Persia became a battleground for the Great Powers during the War.  In January 1915, the Germans launched a major infiltration campaign in British occupied southern Persia.  German agents sought to instigate popular rebellion amongst the local population against Allied forces, and to sabotage and destroy British installations and interests.

IOR L PS 10 332 f77Map of ‘Persia & Afghanistan’, April 1908 (IOR/L/PS/10/332, f 77) Open Government Licence

On 2 September 1915, Thomas George Grahame, British Consul General at Isfahan, and Chowdri Khan, one of the Indian sowars (cavalry soldiers) composing his escort, were attacked in a lane after riding out on horseback from the Consulate.  This attack resulted in the wounding of Grahame and the death of Khan.  The incident was viewed by Charles Murray Marling, HM Minister to Tehran, as being part of a German campaign of assassinations.
 

IOR R 15 1 710 f10Map of British consular jurisdictions in Persia, 1907 (IOR/R/15/1/710, f 10) Open Government Licence

Grahame sent an account of the incident to Marling.  He recounted that he saw a man walking in front of him in the lane, who suddenly turned around and stepped to the side of the path.  Grahame ‘saw his arm raised, heard a shot and felt a twinge under [his] left arm’.  He saw the man moving in the direction of Chowdri Khan, as Grahame’s frightened horse broke into a canter.  He then saw another man, who ‘raised both arms as if to give a signal to some one unseen’ as Grahame passed him.  As Grahame galloped away he ‘heard three shots fired – presumably on Chowdri Khan’.

IOR L PS 10 490 f249

IOR L PS 10 490 f250 Copy of statement by Thomas George Grahame, British Consul General at Isfahan, 2 September 1915 (IOR/L/PS/10/490, f 249-250) Open Government Licence

Grahame wrote that he sought help for Chowdri Khan from two policemen and another Indian Sowar he passed on his way back to the Consulate, from where orders were given to find and assist Chowdri Khan.

Resaidar Malik Rab Nawaz Khan, of the 11th King Edward’s Own Lancers, Native Officer in charge of the Isfahan Consulate General Guard, stated that Sowar Khan Mohamed Khan was the first to be ready to search for Chowdri Khan.  He left the Consulate alone, ‘regardless of dangers’, and found Chowdri Khan, ‘wounded, but still alive’.

Khan Mohamed Khan tried to carry Chowdri Khan to the nearby Church Missionary Society Hospital, but after going 200 yards his strength failed him.  Some Persians came to his assistance and Chowdri Khan was carried to the Hospital, but after a few minutes, he died.

The Resaidar stated that he hoped that Khan Mohamed Khan’s ‘promptitude and bravery’ would be ‘recognised in a fitting manner’.

IOR L PS 10 490 f252

IOR L PS 10 490 f253 Copy of statement by Resaidar Malik Rab Nawaz Khan, 11th King Edward’s Own Lancers, 6 September 1915 (IOR/L/PS/10/490, f 252-253) Open Government Licence

Grahame learnt that seven shots in total had been heard from the CMS Hospital.  The first was the one fired at Grahame, but the rest appeared to have been fired by two other men ‘lurking about in the lane’.  According to one informant, ‘two of these three men were wearing German badges’. 

This incident was soon followed by the British Vice-Consul at Shiraz being shot and killed in the street on 7 September.  By the end of 1915, the situation in southern Persia had deteriorated so badly for the British that they decided they needed to raise ‘a force for the restoration of law and order’, the South Persia Rifles.

Susannah Gillard
Content Specialist, Archivist
British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership

Further reading:
India Office Records files which can be viewed on the Qatar Digital Library:
British Library, File 3516/1914 Pt 14 'German War: Persia; general situation' IOR/L/PS/10/490
British Library, File 3516/1914 Pt 9 'German War: Persia' IOR/L/PS/10/486
Touraj Atabaki, ‘Persia/Iran’, 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 2016).
Touraj Atabaki (ed.), Iran and the First World War: Battleground of the Great Powers (London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006).
Donald M. McKale, War by Revolution: Germany and Great Britain in the Middle East in the Era of World War I (Kent, Ohio; London: Kent State University Press, 1998).
Denis Wright, The English Amongst the Persians During the Qajar period, 1787-1921 (London: Heinemann, 1977).

 

24 January 2019

‘Methods of barbarism’: how Emily Hobhouse exposed the humanitarian crisis of the Boer War

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On 24 January 1901 Emily Hobhouse arrived in Bloemfontein, South Africa, bringing with her a large consignment of supplies for the women and children of the refugee camp there.  The inhabitants of the camp were fleeing the fighting and destruction caused by the Second Anglo-Boer War.  The Bloemfontein camp was home to thousands of displaced Boer civilians who were confined in the camp in temporary shelter without the facilities needed to sustain such large numbers.  The appalling conditions that Hobhouse witnessed would motivate her to challenge the British authorities at the highest level.

Hobhouse brought to light the conditions of the camp, as well as the extreme military tactics being utilised against the Boer in South Africa under General Kitchener.  After visiting the camp in Bloemfontein Hobhouse visited a number of other camps to survey the wider situation and found conditions much the same.

Image 1Add MS 42848 A: example of admittance card for the Camp Hospital at Mafeking

Determined to change the situation, she resolved to take it up with the authorities on her return to England.  One of the Parliamentarians she met was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who was leader of the opposition.  The report of what Hobhouse had encountered in Bloemfontein is recorded in Campbell-Bannerman’s papers at the British Library (Add MS 41252, ff.244-245).

Image 2Add MS 41252 Campbell-Bannerman Papers

On hearing Hobhouse’s account of the camps in South Africa, Campbell-Bannerman was shocked by such ‘methods of barbarism’.  As well describing as the condition of the people in the camps, Hobhouse lamented how British military tactics were the source of this misery.  She explained that the British Army, wherever they went, took care to destroy all means of subsistence.  They did this by burning farms, grains and livestock.  Such tactics intentionally left the women and children with little choice but to move to the British camps or face starvation.  Her meeting with Campbell-Bannerman led him to make a famed speech on the matter at Holborn in June 1901.  He then took forward her complaints to Parliament, as outlined in Campbell-Bannerman’s ‘Notes on South Africa’ (Add MS 41243 A).

Image 3Add MS 41243 Campbell-Bannerman Papers

Hobhouse’s protest did not end there.  She sent her report to another Liberal politician, George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, as recorded in the Ripon Papers (Add MS 43638), and continued to expose the camps in her book The Brunt of the War (1902) which gave testimonies of those who were there.  The book also recorded the number of deaths in the camps, counting them in the tens of thousands and included estimates of the deaths of non-white refugees.  Through this book, knowledge of the squalor of the camps was communicated to the wider public.

Emily Hobhouse and her reports from Bloemfontein gave the British authorities a different perspective on the Boer War and made the camps – which became known as concentration camps – a national scandal.  Her persistence ensured that the conditions of the camps were relayed to Parliament, which was eventually forced to establish the Fawcett commission to investigate.

Iamge 4The signature of Emily Hobhouse on one of her letters to Ripon,Add MS 43638 f.76.


Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts


Further Reading:
Hobhouse, E. The Brunt of the War, (London: Methuen & Co, 1902)
Add MS 41243 A, Campbell-Bannerman Papers, ff.36-37, On Methods of Barbarism. 1901-1902.
Add MS 41252, Campbell-Bannerman Papers, ff. 234-243; (f) reminiscences by Emily Hobhouse relating to South Africa, 1901.
Add MS 43638, The Ripon Papers, ff. 36, 54, 75, 93, 97 Emily Hobhouse, social reformer in South Africa: Correspondence with Lord Ripon: 1901-1906.

 

13 December 2018

The Red Sea to India non-stop: Amelia Earhart, Southern Arabia, and British Obstructionism

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On 15 June 1937, Amelia Earhart, the pioneering aviator, and her navigator, Fred Noonan, landed at Karachi airport in their specially modified Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane.  They had been flying for over thirteen hours and travelled more than 1800 miles from Assab, in Eritrea.  By doing so they’d completed the first ever non-stop flight from the Red Sea to India, as Karachi was a part of then.

Amelia_Earhart_standing_under_nose_of_her_Lockheed_Model_10-E_Electra _smallAmelia Earhart standing under the nose of her Lockheed Model 10 Electra plane via Wikipedia

Earhart had flown from Assab that morning and had used Aden as a checkpoint along the way.  Permission had also been given to land at the British enclave should it be necessary.  From Aden, however, the Americans were restricted to flying a course along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.  This restriction has often been attributed to Saudi refusal to grant permission to fly over its territory, but the region in question was not, and still is not, part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The flight would have passed over the Hadhramaut, at the time under a loose British protectorate, and the territories of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, where British influence and control was strong.  In December of the previous year, the United States Embassy in London had written to the Foreign Office giving details of Earhart’s plans for a round-the-world flight and requesting permission to fly through and land in British territories along the way.  The matter was passed on to the Government of India, who agreed to the flight, with certain restrictions, but envisaged complications with the stretch along the South Arabian coast.

IOR_L_PS_12_1981_0592

IOR_L_PS_12_1981_0594 Extracts from a letter from the US Ambassador to London to the British Foreign Secretary, IOR/L/PS/12/1981, ff. 296-297

Civil aviation was in its infancy at the time and the British had been developing an air route along the Arab side of the Persian Gulf from Baghdad.  For various strategic and pragmatic reasons the British had gone to some lengths to establish control over the air space in the region, securing agreements with the Arab Sheikhs that gave them a good deal of authority over the management of air traffic.

IOR_L_PS_12_2054_0271Map showing some of the Royal Air Force routes from the United Kingdom to Far East Asia, via the Arabian Peninsula and India, IOR/L/PS/12/2054, f. 134

The Sheikhs of Bahrain and Sharjah had agreed to delegate to the British the authority to refuse private aviators permission to fly through or land within their territories.  The British had so far failed to obtain the same from the Sultan of Muscat.  Earhart’s requested flight was seen as an opportunity to gain this further degree of control in the region.

The attempts of the Political Agent in Muscat, Major Ralph Watts, to secure the Sultan’s agreement to delegate such authority to the British were unsuccessful, however, and instead efforts were made by the Political Resident in the Persian Gulf and the Government of India to try to dissuade the Americans from looking to fly through or land in the Sultan’s territories.  They were told that there was little hope of obtaining permission from the Sultan and the country in question was described as “desolate, inaccessible and entirely unsuitable for any emergency landings”.  Those that did land risked death or injury at the hands of “wild tribesmen”.

T 11308_0015Al-Hawtah, capital of the district of Lahej, part of the “desolate” and “inaccessible” country the British warned of, part of 'An Account of the British Settlement of Aden in Arabia, compiled by Captain F.M. Hunter

It was this obstructionism from the British, rather than Saudi refusal, which compelled Earhart to follow a line just off the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, rather than over land.  An obstructionism given in response to the Sultan of Muscat’s refusal to relinquish yet more power to the British.

John Hayhurst
Content Specialist, Gulf History – BL/Qatar Foundation Partnership

13 September 2018

A day in the life of an East India Company Director

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Every April the stockholders of the East India Company elected 24 men to serve as directors for the following year.  Two were then chosen by the directors to be Chairman and Deputy.  These ‘merchant- statesmen’ had responsibility for governing a vast overseas empire as well as dealing with administrative minutiae such as petitions from home staff.  What was a typical working day for an East India Company director in the early 19th century? 

East India HouseJoseph C Stadler, East India House 1817 - P1389 Images Online

The Court of Directors met at East India House in Leadenhall Street in the City of London to take ‘cognizance of all matters of record relating to the Company’.  Thirteen directors had to be present to form a quorum.  One Court had to be held every week, but the directors often met two, three, or more times.  Proceedings generally started at 11am or midday, sometimes at 10am.  They usually broke up between 6pm and 7pm, although sittings might go on until 10pm. There were fines for non-attendance. During a sitting, some directors might go off to other parts of East India House whilst unimportant matters were being dealt with, but if something was brought forward for discussion, all directors were recalled to the Court before business continued.

  EIC Court RoomThomas Hosmer Shepherd, The Court Room, East India House c.1820  - WD 2465 Images Online

Court meetings started with the reading of all papers received since the last session. Dispatches from India were read in Court before being sent to the different departments at East India House, but the vast body of consultations copied back to London were merely referred to and read as necessary. Lengthy debates often took place. Matters were either dealt with immediately or referred to one of the specialised committees of directors. There were sixteen committees in 1813: Buying, College, Correspondence, Government Troops and Stores, House, Law Suits, Library, Military Fund, Military Seminary, Preventing the Growth of Private Trade, Private Trade, Secrecy, Secret, Shipping, Treasury, and Warehouses.

The Court then adjourned and the committees of directors convened.  About 5pm the Court came back together to consider reports from the committees and make final decisions. The Court also swore in captains and officers of Company ships, and saw civil and military servants returning to India.

EIC chairChair used by the Chairman of the Court of Directors manufactured c.1730 - Foster 905 Images Online

Directors took turns at presiding over sales at East India House, and committees often sat on days when the Court was not meeting.  With very few exceptions, the Chairman and Deputy attended East India House every morning, and frequently were there until late in the day: ‘their constant attention is indispensable, from the frequent communication with Ministers and the Government Offices’. They often had to go to the west end of town on government business.  

General Court Room 013355Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, General Court Room, East India House, c.1820 - WD 2466 Images Online

In return for their services, directors enjoyed patronage rights over certain civil and military appointments as well as a salary, fixed in 1793 at £300 per annum for directors and £500 each for the Chairman and Deputy.  In 1814, the General Court of Proprietors voted an increase: £1200 for the Chairman, £1000 for his Deputy, and £500 for directors (£700 for those on the Secret Committee or Committee of Correspondence).  Not all stockholders approved of the pay rise: the vote was 51 in favour, 21 against.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Proceedings of the Select Committee appointed by the General Court of Proprietors, on the 6th October 1813, to consider and report upon the expediency of augmenting the allowances to the Directors for their attendance upon the business of the Company … (London, 1814)