Quotulatiousness

June 23, 2017

British and Irish Iron Age hill forts and settlements mapped in new online atlas

Filed under: Britain, History, Science — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Guardian, Steven Morris talks about a new online resource for archaeological information on over 4,000 Iron Age sites:

Maiden Castle in Dorset. View of the west gate and ramparts (English Heritage)

Some soar out of the landscape and have impressed tourists and inspired historians and artists for centuries, while others are tiny gems, tucked away on mountain or moor and are rarely visited.

For the first time, a detailed online atlas has drawn together the locations and particulars of the UK and Ireland’s hill forts and come to the conclusion that there are more than 4,000 of them, mostly dating from the iron age.

The project has been long and not without challenges. Scores of researchers – experts and volunteer hill fort hunters – have spent five years pinpointing the sites and collating information on them.

[…]

Sites such as Maiden Castle, which stretches for 900 metres along a saddle-backed hilltop in Dorset, are obvious. But some that have made the cut are little more than a couple of roundhouses with a ditch and bank. Certain hill forts in Northumbria are tiny and probably would not have got into the atlas if they were in Wessex, where the sites tend to be grander.

Many hill forts will be familiar, such as the one on Little Solsbury Hill, which overlooks Bath. But there are others, such as a chain of forts in the Clwydian Range in north-east Wales, that are not so well known. Many are in lovely, remote locations but there are also urban ones surrounded by roads and housing.

The online atlas and database will be accessible on smartphones and tablets and can be used while visiting a hill fort.

H/T to Jessica Brisbane for the link.

May 5, 2017

Back from the brink of extinction … the Scottish Tory

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Spectator, Alex Massie discusses one of the most unexpected political revivals of this century:

Twenty years ago, Conservatism all but died in Scotland. Tony Blair’s landslide victory made Scotland, at least in terms of its Westminster representation, a Tory-free zone. At no point since has the party won more than a single Scottish seat, and the last time the party won more than a quarter of the Scottish vote, in 1983, its current leader, Ruth Davidson, was four years old. Two years ago, the Tories won just 14 per cent of the vote, an even worse result than 1997. This seemed to fit a broader narrative: Toryism had been beaten back into England, a sign of the union’s exhaustion and a Scotland moving inexorably towards independence.

How different it all looks now. The most recent opinion polls in Scotland suggest the Tories could win as many as one in three ballots cast on 8 June. One opinion poll even suggested that, albeit on a uniform swing, the party could win as many as a dozen Scottish seats — including Moray, seat of the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson. In an era where elections are delivering extra-ordinary results, one might just be a stronger union and a strange rebirth of Scottish Conservatism.

Massie credits the leader of Scotland’s Conservatives for much of the turnaround:

Just as it remains hard to imagine how the SNP could have risen to its current state of supremacy without Alex Salmond, so it is difficult to underestimate Ruth Davidson’s importance to the Scottish Tory revival. Her personal background — working-class, lesbian, BBC journalist — is often used to explain her ability to reach a wider audience than previous Tory leaders, but there is more to it than that. Viewed from one angle, she is every inch the modernising Tory — her influence played a large part in persuading Theresa May to maintain the commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid. But seen from a different perspective, she is also a traditional Conservative: a god-fearing Christian and former army reservist. She believes in gay marriage because she is a Conservative, not despite it.

Most of all, she offers an alternative to SNP orthodoxy. Sturgeon warns that only a vote for the SNP can ‘protect’ Scotland against an ‘unfettered’ Tory govern-ment whose values are alien and inimical to those of Scotland. Davidson observes that ‘the SNP is not Scotland’. Unionists are Scots too. Labour, not so long ago the party of Scotland, might even finish fourth in this election, at least in terms of seats won. If Ian Murray retains Edinburgh South, he will be Scotland’s only red panda.

Political anthropologists are already asking why the Scottish Tory party, previously thought close to extinction, has made such a remarkable recovery. For more than a generation on the left, the idea of the Tories being an invasive species in Scotland has been the foundation of first Labour and then SNP politics — but it no longer holds. If at least one in four Scots are prepared to endorse Tory candidates, can one really maintain the fiction there is something grubbily disreputable or even unpatriotic about voting for a Conservative candidate?

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

May 2, 2017

Britain’s “foregone conclusion” election

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh provides a thumbnail sketch of how Britain got to the point of having an election where the end result is not in great doubt, and the likely losers and big losers:

[British PM Theresa May] has now broken that promise [to serve the full term her party won in 2015], unapologetically. Any half-sane politician’s instinct would tell her that this is an incredibly dangerous thing to have done, and we all know that voters generally loathe unnecessary election activity, or that they pretend to. But the current polls suggest that the British public completely understands why she broke the promise, that they approve of her breaking it, and that they intend to reward her for it. If you follow the UK election as a Canadian, you will hear May talking about “strong and stable” government at about 200 RPM, in exactly the same way Stephen Harper used to. This is no coincidence.

The Labour Party is torn between the old-fashioned socialist militants who made Jeremy Corbyn leader and the respectable corporate types who actually run the party and serve in the House of Commons. The UK has legislation requiring fixed-term parliaments, so May needed the support of Labour in a Commons vote in order to hold an early election. A Parliament can still be dismissed early if there is a vote of no confidence in the government, or if two-thirds of MPs vote to allow it.

Which they did. Corbyn loyalists, uncertain whether their man could survive as leader until 2020, had little reason not to consent to the snap vote. Labourite Corbyn-haters, seeing a chance to dispose of their village-Marxist boss without the dangers of a party coup, went along too. They almost seem to be half-throwing the election, relieved to have some prospect of Labour returning to power before 2025.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party, seemingly in firm control of Scottish politics and culture, made the Quebec mistake of talking about another independence referendum too soon after losing one. It is a classic shark jump. The people of Scotland seem to have realized that within Scotland, the UK general election will be a referendum on whether they want another divisive, stressful independence struggle right away.

This is not looking like good news for the strident but useless SNP delegation to Westminster. Polls show the Conservatives running a strong second in Scotland, with a chance of taking ten or so seats away from the Nats. Four years ago, I would have fully expected to be typing “Jesus Christ just held a press conference in Clackmannanshire” before I typed the words in that last sentence.

March 28, 2017

The next Scottish referendum

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill says that despite the common assertion that those in favour of Brexit can’t object to Scottish independence, the people who supported Brexit have a strong case to argue against Scotland splitting away from the United Kingdom:

The argument is that if you backed Brexit, then you haven’t got a leg to stand on when it comes to opposing Nicola Sturgeon’s latest stab at Scottish independence. They’re the same thing, innit? ‘No one involved in Brexit, or who supported Brexit, can make any argument against Scottish independence except emotional ones’, says a writer for the Spectator.

Actually, the opposite is the case. Brexiteers are precisely the right people to put the case against Scottish independence. Because the argument against Scottish independence is the same as the argument for Brexit. Namely that people should not shy away from democracy, with all the debate and disagreement and difficulties it involves, but rather should embrace it. That instead of hiding from our responsibility to engage in national public life, or handing that responsibility over to ‘expert’ external bodies who will do decision-making on our behalf, we should accept this responsibility, and cherish it. Where Brexit represented a brave reclaiming of the institution of democracy, Scottish independence is driven by a sense of exhaustion with it, and by a rather elitist urge to opt out of it.

To many observers, Brexit and Sturgeon’s campaign for Scottish independence are the same thing: attempts to rupture longstanding unions. (Very longstanding in the case of the UK: 310 years. Not so much in the case of the EU: 24 years.) But the bigger, more important question is surely why these unions are being called into question.

[…]

For leftists in particular, many of whom threw their lot in with the idea of Scots independence during the Indy Ref of 2014, Scottish independence is attractive precisely to the extent that it allows them to circumvent what they see as the backward, Tory-esque thinking of a majority of Brits, especially English people. They, and also many in the SNP, fantasise that Scotland is a progressive, socialist-at-heart nation, and these fine instincts are being stymied by the votes and attitudes of dumb English people. Solution? Cut yourself off. Avoid even having to have the argument with the ignorant masses, never mind having to win it, by creating your own siphoned-off pseudo-independent nation in which you’ll always get your own way.

As one left commentator said during Indy Ref, the left’s flirtation with Scottish nationalism is driven in part by its irritation at ‘the sheer scale of the defeats suffered by the left’. One radical writer described Scottish nationalism as a ‘potential escape mechanism’ for leftists north of the border tired of living under governments in Westminster elected by the low-information right-wing hordes south of Hadrian’s Wall. And that’s what ‘independence’ is for Sturgeon and Co, too: an ‘escape mechanism’, a means of fleeing from the consequences of democracy into your own aloof, agreeable statelet.

This is why this independence movement seems to have so little to do with actual independence, as confirmed by the SNP’s desire to break from Westminster only to wrap itself in the interfering arms of the oligarchy in Brussels: because modern Scottish nationalism isn’t about independence at all. Except, perhaps, independence from the masses. From the British throng. From democracy. From a demos that has proven so disappointing to always-angry Scottish nationalists and to British leftists who see an independent Scotland, shorn of the millions who currently make up British democracy, as an opportunity to create the state-socialist utopia that they know a majority of Brits would find unappetising.

March 25, 2017

When reality TV goes feral

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, a sad tale of a failed reality TV show that went off the air … but the people involved were not told about it:

After a year cut off from modern life in the Scottish Highlands, imagine re-emerging to find a world where Donald Trump is US president, Britain has left the EU and Leicester won the Premier League.

For the contestants of the Channel 4 programme Eden, coming back from isolation means not just coming to terms with 2017 but also the news that their year of toil in the wilderness barely made it on to television.

The programme, which first aired in July last year, was billed as a social experiment where 23 strangers were brought to the remote west Highlands of Scotland to build a self-sufficient community away from technology and modern tools. The year-long saga would be recorded by four crew members and personal cameras.

However, only four episodes of the show – covering March, April and May – were screened, as viewing figures dropped from 1.7m to 800,000. Sexual jealousy, infighting and hunger also meant that over the year, a reported 13 of the 23 contestants left the show, though Channel 4 would not confirm the dropouts.

Despite the show being taken off air, those still toiling for survival in the wilds of the 600-acre estate on the Ardnamurchan peninsula were not informed that their ordeal had not been broadcast since August.

So much for those dreams of fame and fortune from “starring” in a reality TV show.

H/t to Colby Cosh for the link.

March 20, 2017

Scotland … here they go again

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is eager to get the voters back to the polls for another go-around for Scottish independence (well, not independence-independence, but separate-from-Britain-but-desperate-to-stay-in-the-EU-independence). Stephen Daisley comments on the situation as of Saturday:

The SNP has managed to spin normally sceptical hacks the line that Downing Street was caught on the back foot by Miss Sturgeon’s Monday surprise. It’s true that the timing was news to Number 10 — received wisdom ran that the Nationalist leader would unveil her gambit at the SNP annual spring conference in Aberdeen this afternoon.

But the UK Government has known since 2014, when Miss Sturgeon’s party refused to accept their 55% to 45% defeat, that another push for separation was a matter of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’. Contingency plans have been in place for some time, both to push back a referendum do-over until after Brexit and, if need be, to fight one immediately. The Nationalists are not dealing with that nice Mr Cameron anymore.

And Theresa May’s response to Miss Sturgeon’s demand was more cautiously-worded, better thought through, than the contributions that became common from David Cameron during the first referendum. Crucially, she did not dole out a flat No; instead, she said Not Yet.

[…]

Next week, she will ask MSPs to vote for a Section 30 request, petitioning Westminster for the power to hold a second referendum. There is no mandate for the Scottish Parliament to pursue such a policy. The constitution is reserved to the UK Parliament; a party winning a Holyrood election on a manifesto of surrendering Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent or withdrawing Scottish troops from an international conflict would not be thought to have grounds for pursuing such policies.

Even if this point were conceded — it is done so from first principles by the eager constitutionalists who populate the Scottish academy — there is another flaw in the Nationalists’ argument. True, they came first in the May 2016 election and their manifesto envisioned ‘Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will’ as cause for a re-run of 2014’s ‘once in a generation’ poll. But the Nationalists failed to secure a majority of seats at Holyrood for that proposition, winning only 63 out of 129. Fortunately for the SNP, they have six to spare in the shape of the Scottish Greens, once a conscientious party of the Left but, under Patrick Harvie, a Me-Too faction for the most triangulating government since New Labour.

Every time the Nats get themselves into a jam, every time it looks like they might finally have to stop girning and start governing, up pop the six little anoraks, festooned with CND badges and brimming with good intentions, and they come to the rescue. Time after time, Mr Harvie drags the SNP out of a hole and gets nothing in return except a pat on the head. That isn’t leadership; it’s the political instincts of Lassie.

The Greens’ amening of Miss Sturgeon’s gambit is different from previous acts of handmaidenry because it breaks the party’s pledge to the voters. In the manifesto they were elected on last May, the Greens promised:

‘Citizens should be able to play a direct role in the legislative process: on presenting a petition signed by an appropriate number of voters, citizens should be able to trigger a vote on important issues of devolved responsibility. As we proposed on the one year anniversary of the Independence Referendum, this is the Scottish Greens’ preferred way of deciding to hold a second referendum on Independence. If a new referendum is to happen, it should come about by the will of the people, and not be driven by calculations of party political advantage. In such a referendum the Scottish Greens will campaign for independence.’

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

November 5, 2016

The Gunpowder Plot Exploding the Legend

Filed under: Britain — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

July 23, 2016

QotD: Separatism and the EU

Filed under: Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

All the current nationalist parties of small nations in Europe — the Scots, the Welsh, the Basque, the Catalans, the Flemish — strongly support membership in the European Union, which is dedicated to, and even predicated upon, the extinction of national sovereignty. One would have thought that these parties wanted, at a minimum, national sovereignty. The contradiction is so glaring that it requires an explanation.

The human mind is not a perfect calculating machine, and no doubt all of us sometimes contradict ourselves. Perfect consistency tends to be disconcerting — but so does glaring inconsistency. It’s possible that the nationalist parties’ leaders don’t perceive the contradiction, being so blinded by ideology that they are simply unaware of it. But another possible explanation exists: by leading their nominally independent countries, they forever will be able to feed at the great trough of Brussels and distribute its largesse in true clientelistic fashion. The nationalist leaders certainly lead their people, but by the nose.

[…]

Oddly enough, I have not seen the contradiction between current nationalism and support for remaining in the European Union referred to in the press, though I don’t read every paper in every language. This is surely one of the first times in history, however, that the expression, “Out of the frying pan into the fire,” has become not a warning, but the desired destination of substantial proportions of whole populations.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Nationalist Contradictions in Europe: Why do breakaway political parties want to remain in the European Union?”, City Journal, 2016-06-27.

July 4, 2016

The SNP manages to be “a party of protest and a party of government at the same time”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

John Kay discusses the differences between the English anti-EU vote and the Scottish anti-English vote:

As a schoolboy in Edinburgh, I was taught that, long before the union with England, Scotland had been a cosmopolitan country. The ports on the east coast showed the influence of trade with the Netherlands and the Hanseatic League. The Scots language demonstrated continental influences. The citizens of Edinburgh would shout “gardyloo”, supposedly from the French “gare de l’eau”, before throwing their slops into the streets from the windows of the tall tenements of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Even then, this example of early Scots sophistication did not convince. And the claim that their vote to stay in the EU — all districts of Scotland voted Remain in the referendum, and 62 per cent of the nation’s voters as a whole voted to stay in the EU — is the product of a broad-minded outlook not seen south of the border also misses a crucial point.
The reality is that the discontent with established politics that erupted in the Leave vote elsewhere in the country has found expression in other ways. As one student of Scottish politics, explaining the UK Independence party’s lack of traction north of the border, put it to me two years ago: “People in Scotland who are disgruntled and suspicious of foreigners [the English] already have a party they can vote for.”

The fracturing of the opposition Labour party’s traditional support in depressed areas of the north of England, which was decisive in securing an Out vote, paralleled the collapse of Labour’s vote in the west of Scotland in favour of the Scottish National party in the general election of 2015.

The great achievement of the SNP, now in government in Holyrood and with MPs in Westminster, has been to be a party of protest and a party of government at the same time. This is an achievement Brexiters will find hard to emulate.

H/T to both Colby Cosh and Tim Harford for the link.

June 12, 2016

Cossacks – Cavalry – Wolves I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 11 Jun 2016

Indy sits in the Chair of Wisdom again and this week we talk about Cavalry on the Eastern Front, Cossacks and wolves.

May 7, 2016

QotD: The Borderers (aka the “Scots-Irish”)

Filed under: Britain, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Borderers are usually called “the Scots-Irish”, but Fischer dislikes the term because they are neither Scots (as we usually think of Scots) nor Irish (as we usually think of Irish). Instead, they’re a bunch of people who lived on (both sides of) the Scottish-English border in the late 1600s.

None of this makes sense without realizing that the Scottish-English border was terrible. Every couple of years the King of England would invade Scotland or vice versa; “from the year 1040 to 1745, every English monarch but three suffered a Scottish invasion, or became an invader in his turn”. These “invasions” generally involved burning down all the border towns and killing a bunch of people there. Eventually the two sides started getting pissed with each other and would also torture-murder all of the enemy’s citizens they could get their hands on, ie any who were close enough to the border to reach before the enemy could send in their armies. As if this weren’t bad enough, outlaws quickly learned they could plunder one side of the border, then escape to the other before anyone brought them to justice, so the whole area basically became one giant cesspool of robbery and murder.

In response to these pressures, the border people militarized and stayed feudal long past the point where the rest of the island had started modernizing. Life consisted of farming the lands of whichever brutal warlord had the top hand today, followed by being called to fight for him on short notice, followed by a grisly death. The border people dealt with it as best they could, and developed a culture marked by extreme levels of clannishness, xenophobia, drunkenness, stubbornness, and violence.

By the end of the 1600s, the Scottish and English royal bloodlines had intermingled and the two countries were drifting closer and closer to Union. The English kings finally got some breathing room and noticed – holy frick, everything about the border is terrible. They decided to make the region economically productive, which meant “squeeze every cent out of the poor Borderers, in the hopes of either getting lots of money from them or else forcing them to go elsewhere and become somebody else’s problem”. Sometimes absentee landlords would just evict everyone who lived in an entire region, en masse, replacing them with people they expected to be easier to control.

Many of the Borderers fled to Ulster in Ireland, which England was working on colonizing as a Protestant bulwark against the Irish Catholics, and where the Crown welcomed violent warlike people as a useful addition to their Irish-Catholic-fighting project. But Ulster had some of the same problems as the Border, and also the Ulsterites started worrying that the Borderer cure was worse than the Irish Catholic disease. So the Borderers started getting kicked out of Ulster too, one thing led to another, and eventually 250,000 of these people ended up in America.

250,000 people is a lot of Borderers. By contrast, the great Puritan emigration wave was only 20,000 or so people; even the mighty colony of Virginia only had about 50,000 original settlers. So these people showed up on the door of the American colonies, and the American colonies collectively took one look at them and said “nope”.

Except, of course, the Quakers. The Quakers talked among themselves and decided that these people were also Children Of God, and so they should demonstrate Brotherly Love by taking them in. They tried that for a couple of years, and then they questioned their life choices and also said “nope”, and they told the Borderers that Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley were actually kind of full right now but there was lots of unoccupied land in Western Pennsylvania, and the Appalachian Mountains were very pretty at this time of year, so why didn’t they head out that way as fast as it was physically possible to go?

At the time, the Appalachians were kind of the booby prize of American colonization: hard to farm, hard to travel through, and exposed to hostile Indians. The Borderers fell in love with them. They came from a pretty marginal and unproductive territory themselves, and the Appalachians were far away from everybody and full of fun Indians to fight. Soon the Appalachian strategy became the accepted response to Borderer immigration and was taken up from Pennsylvania in the north to the Carolinas in the South (a few New Englanders hit on a similar idea and sent their own Borderers to colonize the mountains of New Hampshire).

So the Borderers all went to Appalachia and established their own little rural clans there and nothing at all went wrong except for the entire rest of American history.

Scott Alexander, “Book Review: Albion’s Seed“, Slate Star Codex, 2016-04-27.

February 27, 2016

In Scotland, singing a song can get you sent to jail

Filed under: Britain, Liberty, Religion, Soccer — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Spiked, Kevin Rooney tells the tale of a young soccer fan who faces jail time for joining hundreds of other fans in singing a song:

Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.

So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.

Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’

Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise — the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.

H/T to Natalie Solent for the link.

November 18, 2015

Adam Smith – The Inventor of Market Economy I THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

Published on 22 Feb 2015

Adam Smith was one of the first men who explored economic connections in England and made clear, in a time when Mercantilism reigned, that the demands of the market should determine the economy and not the state. In his books Smith was a strong advocator of the free market economy. Today we give you the biography of the man behind the classic economic liberalism and how his ideas would change the world forever.

November 2, 2015

A different view of Macbeth

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Anthony King looks at Macbeth as a PTSD sufferer:

Although the descriptions are graphic, Shakespeare’s play itself includes few on-stage battle scenes. Only at the very end does Macbeth actually fight on stage, a last stand in which he kills the young Siward (his last victim) and is in turn killed by MacDuff. For the rest of the play, all of Macbeth’s violence is set off stage, described but never seen. The audience imagines his violence — they do not witness it.

Justin Kurzel’s striking new adaptation of Macbeth, released on October 2, 2015 to critical acclaim and starring Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender, represents a cinematographic inversion of the original. In his film, battle predominates. The film begins with an extended combat sequence. Macbeth and his army are gathered on a bleak moor as they prepare for battle against Macdonaldwald’s army, unseen in the dense fog. The camera pans across the black-striped war-painted faces until, initiated by Macbeth, the host issues a war cry and plunges toward their enemies, who appear spectrally in the distance through the murk. In ultra-slow motion, the two armies clash and brutal fighting follows. Most notably, one of Macbeth’s boy soldiers, on whom the camera dwells tellingly before the battle, has his throat cut during the fighting and bleeds out darkly on screen. Eventually, Macbeth charges Macdonaldwald and slashes him to the ground. The scene is followed by a long sequence in which the dead are gathered and prepared for cremation, including the boy soldier, whose image haunts the rest of the film.

Macbeth’s apparently fearless heroism and remorseless violence is on display throughout these sequences. Yet the sequences highlight an aspect of Macbeth’s character normally absent from adaptations of the play and presumably from the original play, but highly relevant to a 21st-century audience. Macbeth is a combat veteran and, despite his courage, he is plainly severely traumatized by his war experiences. Kurzel and Fassbender construct him as a victim of PTSD, and he displays the classic symptoms of this perturbing condition.

September 7, 2015

New Lanark

Filed under: Britain, Economics, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Register, Bill Ray takes a geek’s-eye-view of the town of New Lanark, a key place in the early industrial revolution:

Nestled in the Clyde Valley the village owes its existence to the falls that were harnessed to refine raw cotton sent in from the colonies: a picture-postcard image from a time when Britain was the factory of the world.

But for all its industrial heritage New Lanark is a long way from being a typical “dark satanic” mill, as it marks the end of that time and the dawning of a better age.

Visit the village today and you can see the big machines that kept the empire running. Enormous water wheels; later supplemented by steam engines, connected by belts and ropes to machines which turned raw cotton into usable thread and fabric. However, it’s not industrial history that is celebrated at New Lanark, rather a social revolution, and one driven by one man whose ideas created the working life as we understand it today.

The man was Robert Owen, who, in 1799, bought New Lanark and immediately embarked on his “grand social experiment”. His radical ideas, such as refusing to employ children, providing medical insurance, and educating the workforce, were ridiculed by his competitors who couldn’t see the value in teaching children, let alone adults. But Owen believed that industry should serve the betterment of all men, not just those who owned the factories.

It worked too, rather to the surprise of his peers. New Lanark was a successful mill and profits rose steadily under the beneficent command of Owen. It could be argued, perhaps, that New Lanark would have been even more profitable without the social agenda, but every afternoon at five we should all be grateful for his reforms that made our working lives what they are:

    “Eight hours daily labour is enough for any human being, and under proper arrangements sufficient to afford an ample supply of food, raiment and shelter, or the necessaries and comforts of life, and for the remainder of his time, every person is entitled to education, recreation and sleep”

Not that the workers at New Lanark did quite as well as we do; their working day ran ten and a half hours, but once mealtimes had been deducted it was approaching eight and certainly much better than the conditions in other mills around the country.

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