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Author Topic: Fun with Imperialism  (Read 3174 times)
The Grand Duchess
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« on: March 18, 2007, 10:16:10 pm »

When I'm not being silly here, I'm doing social science.  One of the things we study is how the Western world got to be the way it is now.  A lot of what we see as modern life is the sometimes dubious gift of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  How does this relate to steampunk?  Because if one is interested in the dystopian side of the 19th century, it helps if you understand the major trade goods of those times.  Because of them the British built a Raj, the Belgians cut off hands,   and China became a country full of drug addicts and revolutionary impulses.


Sidney Mintz - Sweetness and Power; The Place of Sugar in Modern History. 

It's about how the passion for sugar helped to create imperialism as we came to know it.


Adam Hochshild - King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. 

If you think the Holocaust was a new idea, you might want to read this.  Millions of people died in the Belgian Congo so that people could have rubber for everything from tires to toys. It's an amazing and horrifying story that makes Lovecraft sound like Winnie the Pooh.

Thomas Pakenham - The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. 

One of my favorites.  The only real 'hero' in the book is the explorer who founded Brazzaville; even the African chieftains are villains.  It helps to explain why Africa is the way it is now.  If you are thinking of making an RPG set in Africa, you might want to read this one- it explains how imperial conquest worked.

Diana Preston - The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners that Shook the World in the Summer of 1900.

 A good way to understand the Opium Wars and how they led to the inevitable explosion that was the Chinese Revolution.

W Travis Hanes and Frank Sanello - The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another. 

Opium smoking wasn't quaint- it was a practice pretty much forced on Asia as a way of keeping social control.  This books explains why slavery of any kind is just as corrupting to the master as it is to the slave.

Lawrence James - Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India. 

What was the British Raj? Why was it so successful? Why did it end?  Perfect for steampunks who want to set a story in an Indian setting.

All of these books are sold through Amazon and other sources.  Please feel free to add items to what I hope will become a list of steampunk historical resources.  After all, if we are going to talk about the 19th century, we should probably have a working understanding of it.

More books-

Max Weber- The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
Weber was one of the founders of modern sociology, which was in the 19th century.  In this book he explains why Protestantism  and capitalism go together like bacon and eggs.  I won't go into detail because we aren't supposed to discuss religion here, but it's an intriguing thesis.

William A. Taylor, editor - Inventing Times Square: Commerce and Culture at the Crossroads of the World.

Several chapters touch on vaudeville, 19th century prostitution, and other subjects, that help explain how amusement districts come into being and serve the needs of conflicting populations. Times Square was in many ways the epitome of steampunk imperialism- everything was brought to it, from all over the world, and turned into entertainment for the masses.

 EP Thompson - The Making of the English Working Class. Seminal study on how the English went from being farmers to factory workers.

Bronislaw Malinowski - The Sexual Life of Savages.  A bit after Steampunk, but worth reading to understand the mentality of earlier anthropology studies.

Edward Said - Orientalism.  Thoughtful, controversial, maddening. An Arab takes on the visions the Christian West has made of the the Arab/Muslim world. Key for anyone planning on doing an RPG set in the Near and Middle East.

Jan Morris - Heaven's Command: The Imperial Progress.  It looks like another brilliant book by a brilliant writer.  This one is on the rise of the British Empire.  It looks like a must-read. Thanks for recommending it, Ottens!

Lincoln Steffens - The Shame of the Cities.  Written in 1904, this book was part of the whole muckraking movement.  It exposed the corruption of municipal governments.

John F. Kasson - Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century.  A wonderful book on the place of Coney Island in popular culture- it also talks about how the amusement parks there took the strain off of city-dwellers.

John F. Kasson - Rudeness and Civility: Manners in Nineteenth Century America. Kasson persuasively argues that modern manners were a product of the 19th century and the anxieties people had over changes in class, the family, and urban life.


« Last Edit: March 31, 2007, 06:03:15 pm by The Grand Duchess » Logged

A true alternative subculture is one that not only questions the social status quo but poses viable solutions to some of the perceived underlying problems. Difference from the norm is not the same as superiority to the mainstream unless it can be  argued that the difference is positing a better way.
Caffeinated Gent
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2007, 10:31:40 pm »

On a lighter note, I had a great-grandmother in Malaysia who absolutely loved the British presence.

Her idea being that the British presence was great, simply because whenever something went wrong, you could blame the British!
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2007, 10:43:54 pm »

On a lighter note, I had a great-grandmother in Malaysia who absolutely loved the British presence.

Her idea being that the British presence was great, simply because whenever something went wrong, you could blame the British!
*snerk*
Sound like all the African-Americans (myself included) who are sometimes happy that slavery happened- it gives us something to hold over certain people's heads. Just as my very Celtic boyfriend sometimes takes a perverse joy in the control of Ireland by the English. Ah, the joys of schadenfreude.

I think you'll enjoy 'Scramble', then.  There's plenty of blame to go around.  It's one of my favorite books.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2007, 11:09:45 pm by The Grand Duchess » Logged
Lazaras
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2007, 10:48:14 pm »

This era makes one pause and wonder weather warmongering and exploitation of fellow men is a human trait, or merely a European one that they exported to the rest of the globe.
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« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2007, 10:56:28 pm »

On a lighter note, I had a great-grandmother in Malaysia who absolutely loved the British presence.

Her idea being that the British presence was great, simply because whenever something went wrong, you could blame the British!
*snerk*
Sound like all the African-Americans (myself included) who are sometimes happy that slavery happened- it gives us something to hold over certain people's heads. Just as my very Celtic boyfriend sometimes takes a perverse joy in the control of Ireland by the English. Ah, the joys of schadenfreude.

I think you'll enjoy 'Scrambe', then.  There's plenty of blame to go around.  It's one of my favorite books.

I like to think that the British invented the joy of complaining, and then exported it to the rest of the world.
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2007, 11:13:00 pm »

This era makes one pause and wonder weather warmongering and exploitation of fellow men is a human trait, or merely a European one that they exported to the rest of the globe.

The Mayans and Aztecs would find that an interesting idea.  Of course, they might ask you to play on a ball-court while you were debating it, or wear your skin afterwards.  And then there's the Mongols and the Zulus.  But I would say that the Europeans probably took what was a central human idea and raised it (or lowered it) to the level of a masterpiece.  Mark Twain would have concurred. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Leopold's_Soliloquy
« Last Edit: March 18, 2007, 11:16:11 pm by The Grand Duchess » Logged
Lazaras
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« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2007, 11:16:53 pm »

Point taken. Then again I'd rather not play ball with the Mayans as if you won you were the sacrifice(not sure what happened to the losers). I dunno, what were the Russians doing about this time?
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2007, 11:40:43 pm »

The 'losers' were allowed to live.  That was the Mayan team.

What were the Russians doing? Capturing and selling slaves, not washing, and raiding their neighbors.  That is, when they weren't being overrun by groups like the Huns.  Some of them were Vikings, who were thought by western Europeans to be demons from Hell.
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Lazaras
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2007, 11:50:36 pm »

And the eastern roman empire fell because of Venician Greed....then again that is a bit before the victorian age.
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2007, 04:39:03 am »

Yeah, but it all led into it.

I would love to take a Victorian-style Grand Tour of Europe, and visit Western Civilization's Greatest Hits of Depravity and Immigration.  I'd want to start with London, and then spend an inordinate time in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels.
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2007, 11:48:07 pm »

Fun with Imperialism? Need I say I am in favour of this notion?  Wink

I would love to take a Victorian-style Grand Tour of Europe, and visit Western Civilization's Greatest Hits of Depravity and Immigration.  I'd want to start with London, and then spend an inordinate time in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels.


What one easily forgets is how civilisation rapidly dropped off as one travelled east:

Quote
He was the Indiana Jones of his day, dodging murderers to pull off astounding architectural coups. Jonathan Glancey on the life and fast times of James 'Athenian' Stuart 

...

What made Stuart so influential was not his own work, but his travels through Greece in 1751 with his friend Nicholas Revett. On their return, they published The Antiquities of Athens. The book was a sensation. Here was the testimony of two men who had actually been to Greece, considered the wellspring of civilised architecture. Stuart was among the first western Europeans to see it, measure it and draw it accurately. This was a much greater achievement than it might seem today, when we can jump on a cheap flight to Athens and gawp, with crowds of tourists, at the ruins of the Acropolis.

An outpost of the Ottoman empire, Greece was then known, darkly and distantly, for its murderous brigands. When Stuart returned from his daring travels (on one occasion, an obliging landlord pulled down a house so that he and Revett could get a better view of the Tower of the Winds; on another, Stuart narrowly escaped murder by a party of Turks on his way to Constantinople), he was commissioned to design a Greek temple.
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Steampunk Collective thread
Lasairfion
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« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2007, 12:05:52 am »

I think we give less credit to old civilisations than they are due. Perhaps the joke that Stonehenge is an old computer isn't so far wrong. The Mayans and other American Indian civilisations had many advanced techniques like concrete and hardened copper tools. Batteries (or at least Leyden Jars) were found in Baghdad from around about 250BC in Jars that dated from 2,500BC.

Perhaps we are merely caught in a cycle where admittedly progress might be made in different directions, but often many things are merely lost and then found again in the typically repeating Historic Cycle. Now we have silicon chips. Perhaps those didn't exist before. but concrete did, and we didn't rediscover that until the 1960s.

Thus perhaps in order to say where have we come from, and where are we going, from a civilisation point of view, takes looking at a much larger picture, over a longer time period, and with a more open mind to technology that may have existed back then, that we merely do not have lasting evidence of, or perhaps do not understand the remaining evidence.
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Caffeinated Gent
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« Reply #12 on: March 21, 2007, 11:05:00 pm »

(non-serious:)
Stonehenge!
Where the demons dwell!
Where the banshees live and they do live well!
Stonehenge!
Where a man is a man!
And the children dance!
To the pipes of Pa-a-an!
And you my love, won't you take my hand?
We'll go back in time, to that mystic land!
Where the dew-drops cry
And the cats meow
I will take you there
I will show you how

And oh how they danced, the little children of Stonehenge
(end non-serious post portion)

The best part of Victorian archaeology is that if you found something, you got to bring it home!
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Chuzzlewit
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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2007, 12:24:05 am »

Thanks for the splendid list of sources there. I know the Hochshild well and I'll look at the others. Any more titles you can recommend please let us all know.
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2007, 03:51:47 am »

 thanks.  I have a few more- I'll add them.  Please let me know what you think.
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MrFats
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« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2007, 04:43:56 am »

The 'losers' were allowed to live.  That was the Mayan team.

What were the Russians doing? Capturing and selling slaves, not washing, and raiding their neighbors.  That is, when they weren't being overrun by groups like the Huns.  Some of them were Vikings, who were thought by western Europeans to be demons from Hell.

Indeed, Duchess, my people (Mayans) were a violent lot. Not to say others weren't, but the Maya stepped that up a bit.
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Lazaras
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« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2007, 04:46:24 am »

So you're a decedent of the Mayans? Cool!
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Ottens
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« Reply #17 on: March 22, 2007, 02:57:20 pm »

I'm currently reading the first book, Heaven's Command, in James/Jan Morris' "Pax Britannica" series.  An excellent read!!  May I suggest this work to anyone interested in the history of the British Empire?
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2007, 06:03:48 pm »

I just added a few more items to the bookshelf- enjoy.
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« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2007, 09:41:11 pm »

Just randomly, I recall a radio show making fun of british impeiral archeaology. It went like this...
BRITISH EXPLORER: Oh, hello!
NATIVE CHEIF: Hello.
EXPLORER: I say, what is this extraordinary thing?
PRIEST: It is Great Thing, passed down by many generations.
Explorer: Well, in this case...
*BOOM!*
Explorer: It is much better off in british hands, Tally ho!
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The Grand Duchess
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« Reply #20 on: April 05, 2007, 11:30:59 pm »

In the US now, professional archaeologists will sometimes have only a few weeks to work on something like an Indian burial ground before the whole thing gets sealed up to make a highway. It can be pretty quick and dirty.

On the other hand, one of the ways archaeologists find things is to look at the stones making up people's houses.  A lot of Incan temples were torn down to make dwellings-usually by local Incan desecndants who saw the old temples as useless piles of rocks.
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