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Who is Gandhi?

chris young
chris young
Featured 3 months ago


A charismatic Indian nationalist, leader of the National Congress Party, who led the successful campaign for Indian independence.


Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi (1869-1948). Studied law in London, but in 1893 he moved to South Africa, where he campaigned against discriminatory legislation aimed at Indian immigrants. In 1914, he returned to his native India, where he supported the campaign for Home Rules, rising to become the leader of the Indian National Congress Party, a democratic, non sectarian party which campaigned for an end to British rule.

As leader, Gandhi advocated a campaign of non violent civil disobedience and non cooperation, in order to make the imperial administration unworkable and so force the British to negotiate. In 1930 he led a 200 mile march to the sea, in order to protest against a tax on salt, and persuaded his followers to wear only homespun cotton, in order to protect domestic Indian producers. He was jailed in 1922-24, and again in 1930-31.

A devout Hindu, he nonetheless denounced the inequities of the traditional caste system, and publicly flouted its conventions by mixing with "untouchables" and obliging his disciples to live among the peasantry and to engage in manual labour. unlike many of the other Congress leaders, he saw village life as the spiritual heart of India, and by engaging with the peasantry, he won them over to a cause which until then had been the preserve of the educated urban middle class.

A Round table Conference in London (1931) agreed on some constitutional reform, including elections for Indian local government, but the Conservative majority in Parliament prevented further concessions. Gandhi continued his campaign, encouraged by support from the British labour movement and the left.

The British General Election of July 1945 returned a labour government committed to decolonisation, with Indian independence at the top of the agenda. Lord Louis Mountbatten was dispatched to Delhi as Viceroy, with instructions to prepare the colony for independence. difficult negotiations followed, with Muhammad Ali Jinna, leader of the Muslim League, insisting on a separate state for the Muslim minority. Gandhi bitterly opposed Partition, but was unable to prevent it, and in 1947 India and Pakistan were recognised as independent states.

It was a bloody, violent process, with communal rioting and pogroms directed against both Hindus and Muslims, massive population movements and floods of refugees in both directions. Gandhi used his influence to stop the fighting in Bengal, but his stance made him enemies among the extremists in both camps. He was assassinated later that year in Delhi, shot by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic.


The US had made it clear that it was ready to use force to remove the communist administration, and in that context the decision to station missiles in Cuba could be seen as a defensive move.


The plan to unseat Castro by sponsoring an invasion of Cuba had been developed under the Eisenhower administration. Promised success by his military and intelligence chiefs, Kennedy allowed the plan to proceed, and in April 1961 the Cuban exiles landed at Bahia de Cochinos. Expecting a popular uprising in their support, they were disappointed. Pinned down on the beach, they requested air support from the American fleet. Kennedy refused and the landing failed, with the Cuban exiles killed or taken prisoner by the Cuban army.

While attention in the US was focused on Kennedy, his failure to support the rebels and the covert nature of the operation, in the Soviet Union it was interpreted as a clear case of American aggression against a friend and ally. Seen from this perspective, the Soviet decision to station missiles in Cuba was a defensive move, equivalent to American bombers and missiles stationed in Britain, Turkey and West Germany.

Needless to say, the Kennedy administration disagreed, and set out to compel the withdrawal of the weapons. Burned once by the Joint Chiefs and the CIA, the President resisted their calls for an invasion, and opted for a blockade and the use of diplomatic channels.

While the popular belief is that Kruschiev "blinked", the reality is that Soviet Premier used a back channel contact to offer Kennedy a compromise. The USSR agreed to withdraw the missiles from Cuba, and in return the US undertook that there would be no invasion of Cuba, and obsolete Titan missiles stationed in Turkey would not be replaced when they were withdrawn.


There was little competition for Central Africa. As for East Africa, the stakes were extremely high.


Colonization, in Africa and elsewhere, started with trade counters on the coast and, specifically, since the first explorers were Portuguese whose home is on the Atlantic, with its West Coast.

France and Spain shared the western bulge of the continent, and the Southern part of the gulf if Guinee was mostly Portuguese with a sprinkling of French, Spanish and English trade counters. The Cape was held by the Dutch (at least until they had to give it up to the Brits at the Congress of Vienna).

The inland movement by the French and the Belgians towards Central Africa was comparatively an easy stride. Paris mobilised in 1898 and, pointing North-East from Gabon, reached Southern Sudan without encumbrance. There, at the oasis of Fashoda, Colonel Marchand was defeated by Earl Kitchener (the hero of Khartoum) and France backtracked to her coastal and Sahara dominions a lot faster than she had advanced.

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The heart of Africa (the vast Congo pluvial basin) became personal property of the King of the Belgians by a stroke of his sceptre. He had heavily invested in Stanley's rescue voyage to locate Livingstone and, upon his success, he simply annexed the huge territory with its undiscovered riches and that was it.

The fact of the matter is that no one was particularly interested in a thickly wooded territory impossible to explore and inhabited by wild beasts and ferocious pigmy. Leopold wanted it? He could have it. What he could do with it remained to be seen.

The story of East Africa is a very different one. It started, as to be expected, with a strong Islamic imprint with the exception of the Northern part of Ethiopia that, for reason still discussed by historians, was frankly Christian and Christian is still today.
One likely reason is that Arabs were traders, they occupied and cultured their conquered territories wherever they could and deemed it necessary. They did not colonise in the way we understand colonization. Therefore, when the region, that no one had wanted for its impervious mountains and lack of rivers, suddenly became relevant with the opening of the Suez Canal, the Horn of Africa was still "Terra Nullius" (literally, and rather presumptuously put, "it belonged to no one"). Hence, everyone jumped to the occasion trying to secure a harbour, a base or at least a foothold on the Red Sea and on the new shortcut route to India and to Australia.

We are in the 1870s by now, and the newly made Germans had joined the haunting party, and so had the newly made Italians. Therefore, on the Red Sea Coast soon there was nothing left for the hopeful imperial powers for an easy take.

The Italians moved west from their bases in Assab and Massaua to a total disaster (1896). The Germans occupied Mozambique, the French Djibouti... On their account, Westminster attempted to outsmart everyone with a pharaonic project that, had it worked, it would have cut everyone else from further advances.

While Cecil Rhodes Moved North from the Cape, and Kitchener South from Cairo, British engineers followed their military advances with railroad tracks. The idea being of joining the two ends of a gigantic stretch of British territory from the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope. Once completed, Africa West of the Nile, of the Lakes and of the Rift Valley would have been Off Bound for any non-British adventurer.

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If the European Powers did not come to logger heads over the Horn of Africa on this issue it was because the project did not work, and because the Ethiopians and the Bantus did the job for them. The death of Napoleon's III nephew in South Africa (1879) and the defeat of the Italian Army at Adwa had been lessons for everyone. Fighting a conventional war in a heavy forested plateau more than 3,000 meter high in order to conquer a rough land, a irksome people (already Christian to top it all) was definitely not worth the effort.

The French hung to their postage stamp in Djibouti and the Italians to their narrow Eritrean coastal strip. The English retired to Aden and left to the Egyptians the charge of running their affairs in the Sudan.

The Horn of Africa remained under African rule because nobody cared for it in the beginning but, afterwards, because nobody could tame its peoples and its splendid wilderness


Catherine d'Medici was effectively ruler of France during large part of the French Catholic/Protestant Religious Wars of the late 1500s. She shepherded her 3 sons through Regency and Reign.


Catherine d'Medici was a political pawn practically from birth. Her parents died within a month of her birth in 1519. She lived mostly in convents thereafter. She was held hostage by the City of Florence for years after a revolt.

King Charles the V of the Holy Roman Empire, was crowned Holy Roman Emperor as a reward, conquered Florence releasing Catherine and returning Florence to Medici rule. Pope Clement VII (former Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici) arranged her marriage. She was married to the Prince of France (later King Henry II of France) when she was 13 in 1533. Henry died in 1559. Henry's mistress Diane de Poiters fulfilled most of the court duties. Catherine was basically powerless. She did have a large number of children after an 11 year gap (7 children that lived).

Francis II, her son, was 15 when he became King reigned only a short time (1559-60). Mary Queen of Scots had married Francis the previous year. Her uncles the Duke de Guise and Cardinal of Lorraine began to run the French government which was very unpopular.

Catherine realized her son was going to die and prepared to become regent. Her 9 year old son Charles the IX ruled from 1560 to 1574 when he died.

Catherine son Henry abandon the throne of Poland-Lithuania to return to France as Henry III. He ruled with Catherine as a sort Chief Executive . He was without children and was assassinated in 1589 after Catherine herself died earlier that year. This was the end of the Valois family name. Henry of Navarre (of the House of Bourbon) was to become Henry IV of France (Catherine had married her daughter Margaret to him).

France was almost constantly in a state of Civil or Religious War throughout this the time. Numerous peace agreements were negotiated to varying success. The weakness of the Valois kings was a ongoing problem.

Catherine came to power out necessity. She fought hard for her family.



Contracted Labor, particularly of the 1500s and 1600s era, notably in colonial North America. Later much of the labor was taken over by Slaves.


Indentured referred to boiler plate printed contracts between Master and Servant in which the 2 copies of the same were folded together and indentured at the margins before separation of the document and retained by each party. Verification of authenticity of either could easily be made at a later time by superposition of the two. Indentured servitude was a generally a British custom and distinctive of early North America.

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The Master took on responsibilities to provide food, clothing, shelter, transportation and general maintenance of health to the Servant. There could also be a payout of goods or money at the end of the contract. The Servant to provide obedient labor (sometimes skilled) for the Master usually for a specific time period (often several years). This labor was often back breaking field labor. Indentured servants were often very poor and uneducated.

Legislation provided a limited set of rights for the Servants. The legislation was written by people who were Masters attempting to provide a stable workforce. In America the harsh conditions often were fatal to any type of Laborer. The cultivation of Tobacco created a great demand for labor in the new Colonies. Indentured servitude was a traditional way of raising labor for such a purpose. The children of indentured servants were free men until they also were contracted.

Slavery had the advantage of the laborer having no rights and producing children that were also slaves.


He did it himself. Or, rather, Emmanuel de las Casas wrote it out for him.


After the battle of Waterloo (1815) Napoleon surrendered to the British and left France to finish his days on the Island of Saint Helena.
He was accompanied for this last trip by a small group of faithful friends. Among them: de Las Casas.
Napoleon lived in the Longwood Plantation for 6 years before he died. His friends stayed with him until his demise.
He spent his time taking long walks and rides. He dictated his memories and discussed with his friends.

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His relationship with the governor of the island were tense. The one was supposed to adequately supply his pantry and cellar, which he would less than richly do because of the allocated budget by the Home Office. But what the Emperor found most offensive, was that the governor would never call him anything else but "General". Whereas Napoleon would in no way answer unless addressed as: "Your Majesty".

His life was neither solitary (he had a few friends) nor uncomfortable. The Longwood Plantation is a beautiful park with a lovely cottage surrounded by flower beds and fruit trees. At least that is what it was when I visited the place back in 1964.
But he was sad, he was depressed and anxious about his son who had gone to Vienna with his mother.

Was he poisoned by his jailers? There is evidence in that sense as arsenic was later found on his skull, at the base of his hair. But, in those days arsenic was commonly used for all sorts of reasons, including hair pomade.

His body was patriated in 1840 on the initiative of the second restored monarchy of King Louis Philippe d'Orléans (the first restauration of the Bourbon family only lasted 16 years from 1815 to 1831). It was done in great pomp and the Emperor was welcomed back to France by mournful crowds.
He now rests in an elaborate coffin in the Church of the Invalides Palace in Paris.

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