My Talks - British Empire 1815-1914

British Empire
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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 but 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 home of his aunt, Geogiana Burne-Jones, but then to a more permanent home across the village green (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. This talk uses Kipling's work to reflect his time both in Rottingdean and South Africa between 1897 and 1902. For more on Kipling click here
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.
Wolseley  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 which draws on many of the letters he wrote to his wife, Louisa. For more on Wolsely click here
Cecil Rhodes
It 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-Saxon influence". Rhodes ideas were well received in Britain which in the 1890s was embracing 'New Imperialism'. In the short period of five  and a half years between July 1890 and January 1896 Rhodes  established the International Diamond Syndicate that fixed prices and  controlled the world's supply. As well as his fortune in diamonds, Rhodes built a second fortune in gold. Having established the British South Africa Company, it occupied Mashonaland, waged war against the Portuguese and destroyed  Matabele military power. 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 had 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. This talk explains Rhodes'  rise to power in South Africa, his attempt to overthrow the Boer leader, Kruger, and his role in the Boer War. Rhodes was a giant of the  Empire and although his views are now distasteful, he  was regarded as a  great Imperialist at the end of the c19th. For more on Rhodes click here
Cecil Rhodes
It was Lord Kitchener, here, who introduced the burning of farms and the internment of Boer families.
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-Saxon race? Salisbury, Chamberlain, Rhodes and Milner all wanted different things 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  and dealt with in this talk.
For a whole section on the Boer War, click here
Olaf Caroe
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 of the ‘independence talks’ and in the end, despite what Caroe considered was his 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. This talk traces Caroe's life from his time as a junior civil servant in India in the 1920s to his time in retirement in Steyning when he became one of the county's experts on 'The Great Game'.


Ranjitsinhji - the Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar
Ranji was one of cricket’s most important figures. He became the first non-white to play for England in 1896 and became a cricketing celebrity. He discovered early in his career how important it was to court friendships in high places and the need to entertain lavishly and be generous. This extravagant lifestyle won him many friends but was unsustainable in the long term although his inability to pay for his hospitality eventually  turned friends against him. Ranji’s success at cricket and his extravagant lifestyle though were to enable him to build up the support he needed from the British to become Jam Saheb or ruler of his native state of Nawanagar. At a very early age, Ranji had become a provisional heir to the gaddi or throne of Nawanagar. The rest of his life then became a preparation for the time when he could claim the throne. With the support of the British, Ranji eventually became Jam Saheb of Nawanagar and assumed the responsibility of ruling a Princely state. Ranji however used his new power and funds to support his life as an English gentleman, a life that he had come to enjoy. New palaces were built and new homes bought in England and Ireland. Despite his responsibilities for his people, Ranji preferred the lifestyle of an English lord in Ireland. This talk examines the role that Ranji played as an independent prince in India, his relationship with the British and how he saw himself.
Non-British Empire Talks
North Laine c1850
The Historical Development of North Laine, Brighton
Ruff's print of North Laine c1850, right, shows the area as a mix of residential, industrial and commercial buildings. It had become  Brighton's industrial suburb and would remain so until  industry and residential accommodation began to move out of the centre to new larger premises on the edges of the town from the 1920s. Seen in Ruff's image are St Peter's Church, Brighton Station, Evershed's soapworks to the east of the station, Butts & Sons timber yards in Trafalgar Lane and the Regent  Iron and Brass Foundry in Foundry St.
Not visible are the numerous other commercial and industrial premises which included many slaughter houses, malthouses, breweries, stables, ginger beer and mineral factories, bone mills etc. The area is Brighjon’s industrial and commercial centre. It is where water is used to make beer, ginger beer and mineral water. Where animals brought into Brighton either by train or on foot are slaughtered in the many slaughter houses and processed in to meat, fertiliser, leather, candles. This talk traces the development from 1765 up to the present, focusing on the c19th development of the area as Brighton's industrial suburb but also dealing with the threats to the area in the 1970s and 1980s when there were Council plans to demolish much of North Laine.
The Drill Hall for the Artillery Volunteers
The Buildings and People of North Laine
In 1977 North Laine became a Conservation Area because much of the original mid c19th townscape remained intact, and the area was a good example of what a mixed use industrial, commercial and residential Victorian area looked like. Many of the historical buildings of the mid to late c19th remain, including warehouses, drill halls,  breweries, slipper baths, chapels, and although mid Victorian slum areas have been cleared the street layout is still there to be seen. North Laine has always been a residential community above all else, and in this talk I will talk about people like Denis Hobden, Peggy Ramsay, William Moon, Tom Sayers, James Hannington, Anita Roddick, William Shelton, Violet Kaye and William Kebbell.
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