Radical Road Trip

Radical Antiquarians on Tour
The Antiquarians’ Road Trip
Plus ca change

Look! There’s Mr Jingle and Mr Pickwick in Stamford,
A town astride the Great North Road,
All tortuous turnpikes and honey stone,
Coaching inns and listed buildings:

And beyond Stamford, heading east?
There’s John Clare revenants walking the roadside,
And channels and rivulets and watercourses,
With high embankments above the roads,
And a cloud filled sky that meets the fields
In a cumulonimbus towering clasp
Across a dark shadowed numinous dreamscape;

But there, leaping out of the flat lands’ fastness,
The vaporous tower of Ely cathedral,
And all around, the oozing of the fens:
Tick Fen; Langwood Fen, Great Fen, ChatterisFen,
Ouse Fen, Mildenhall Fen, Burnt Fen …
And all around, the waters of rivers and dykes,

And a boatyard down below the cathedral,
Constant trains rattling across the freight line rails,
As twilight softness gathers around the streets,
And swifts soar high above the Maltings,
And high above the roof of Oliver Cromwell’s house,
Just as their seventeenth century ancestors did,
When Cromwell strode forth with his righteous bible,
Imagining a New Model Army
That would vanquish Charles Stuart’s Royalists,
While swifts screeched and eavesdropped high above,
And a parliament of rooks observed and noted.

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East India Company Walk

The information boards at Chalford intrigue,
Because of the lack of information:
At Chalford Vale and along the canal,
We are told about the local links
With the East India Company,
But we are not told about the practice
Of the East India Company;
The information boards are products of their time …
Times change and context is needed.

We start this contextualisation
Revealing a hidden colonial history
Within this leafy Cotswold landscape,
With a heat-wave peripatetic.

We start at Seville’s Mill in Chalford,
‘Today I would like to acknowledge
The Tory new mantra for History:
‘Retain and explain’,
Coupled with their ‘Culture Wars’ assertions:
‘You can’t change and airbrush history’,
And ‘The British Empire was a Good Thing’,
By letting the ‘Past Speak for Itself’,
From the pages of Jack P. Greene’s erudite tome,
Evaluating Empire and Confronting Colonialism
in Eighteenth-Century Britain’:

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Stroud and Abolition Aftermath

Stroud and Abolition after 1834
(Derived from a reading of Slave Empire
How Slavery Built Modern Britain
Padraic X. Scanlon)

I’m sure you know the arch near Archway School in Stroud:


Four year later, as the author tells us:
‘On 1 August 1838, more than 800,000 people were finally free.
But their freedom was circumscribed’.

Apprenticeship not Freedom

Traineeship Training Period Studentship Novitiate Initiate
Probationary Period Trial Period Indentureship
Direction Discipline Guidance Lesson Preparation
Teaching Training Coaching Drilling Tutelage

Apprenticeship not Freedom

So perhaps I should say,
On 1 August 1838, more than 800,000 people were finally ‘free’.

British hypocrisy does not stop there, of course;
I’m not talking about cups of tea
Constantly sweetened with sugar from
Slaveholding Brazil, Cuba, and Louisiana,
Although we could;
But something more fundamental
In the growth of British economic power:
The global dominance of ‘King Cotton’,
The nineteenth century dominance
Of Manchester and Lancashire –
That could not have happened, of course, without
Slavery in the cotton growing southern states of the USA.

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Stroud Valley Emigration

Emigration from Stroudwater in the 1830s and 40s
(‘Documentary Fiction’)
My emigrant’s passage started in Bisley
Along a snowdropped Sunday footpath to the church;
The service had just ended –
I sauntered in through the open door,
And there to my surprise, in a glass case,
Lay a nineteenth century list of parish accounts,
With an italicised card:
‘cost to the Parish of Bisley of ‘emigrating’ 68 persons from the parish’,
Together with a bible open to the fronts-piece:
‘The Bible which was presented by the Reverend Thomas Keble who was the Vicar of Bisley when they and 66 others emigrated to Sydney, Australia in August 1837 [The Bible has been rebound].
Two other information cards lay partially hidden beneath the bible, I could pick out a few words, however:
‘hoped they might have a more prosperous life. They were equipped with clothes, transport and food to Bristol and Thomas Keble also presented each family with a Bible and a Prayer Book.’

Prologue the First: Mr Ricardo



Price One Penny each, or Five Shillings per Hundred.

The distress of the Poor at all times forms a strong claim upon our sympathy and compassion – and though in some cases it may be brought on by their own idleness and improvidence, and therefore require the application of strong measures to check its growth … like a parent who chastises his child … But in the present condition of the Poor in this Neighbourhood … we have to encounter all the difficulties of a failing trade, and our inability to substitute any other means of independent labour … their patience and resignation is urging on their more influential neighbours to make efforts to assist them.

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Tory Culture Wars

I have developed a habit of reading as I walk,
And today on my way to walking football,
I read the report on the Tory Party Conference opening;

Now I am not one to get angry as a rule,
I’m usually quite cold under the collar,
But what I read affected my play today:
I knew that I needed to re-read the piece,
And gather my thoughts in studied contemplation,
Rather than gather a pass and beat the goalkeeper.

‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.’
Did Josef Goebbels really say this?
Even if he didn’t, it’s a handy definition of propaganda.

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A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies

Bartolome De Las Casas

I came across this book again after a gap of a fifty years after reading The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. She recommended three books in The Guardian, one of which was A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome De Las Casas. She described the book thus:

The book that changed my mind
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, by Bartolomé de las Casas. ‘If you want to know anything about the Caribbean, start here. It’s written by a Spanish priest who sought to spread Christianity to the natives. This is an account of the hideous crimes and barbarism he witnessed perpetrated by the Spanish on the indigenous Taino people. A horrifying account and yes, a game changer; witness testimony of how a region was Christianised. Should be compulsory reading.’

Here are a few horrifying selections chosen by me.
A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies
Bartolome De Las Casas
(Priestly Eye Witness Accounts)

‘ … atrocities which go under the name of “conquests”: excesses which, if no move is made to stop them, will be committed time and again, and which (given that the indigenous peoples of the region are naturally so docile) are of themselves iniquitous, tyrannical, contrary to natural, canon, and civil law, and are deemed wicked and are condemned and proscribed by all such legal codes. I therefore concluded that it would be a criminal neglect of my duty to remain silent about the enormous loss of life as well as the infinite number of human souls despatched to Hell in the course of such “conquests”, and so resolved to publish an account of a few such outrages (and they can only be a few out of the countless number of such incidents that I could relate) …’

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