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robertogreco : britain   12

Metafoundry 68: Specific Diseconomy
"ON LONDON: Not surprisingly, I’ve been asked a number of times to reflect on my experience in London. There were the minor details, like how signing for a credit card now feels like the past to me, chip-and-PIN like the present, and contactless still feels like the future (and I’m sad that the utility of contactless is severely compromised in the US because tips aren’t normally included in bills). Between the Brexit referendum fallout, the snap election, the Manchester and London Bridge attacks, and the Grenfell fire, it felt like an eventful and consequential six months in the UK. But what was most striking to me about living in London was how steeped the city is in colonialism and empire.

Most of my days in London were spent on a north-south axis that ran from Somerset House on the bank of the Thames (where I was working with design consultancy Superflux and with collaborators at King's College London), through Holborn where my gym was located, to University College London (established 1826, ending the four-hundred-year duopoly in English higher education held by Oxford and Cambridge, and to which King's was established in response), and the British Library. A friend of mine laughed at this, noting that my stomping grounds would be instantly recognizable to Victorians.

The walk from my gym to Somerset House (built at the end of the 18th century, and the administrative centre of England and its empire during the 19th century) took me past India House, opened in 1930 to house the administration for the subcontinent. It’s decorated with crests for different regions, and I found the one for the North West Frontier Province, where my parents were born and where my father lived until Partition, when his family relocated from newly-formed Pakistan to newly-reconfigured India, as part of what is likely to have been the largest migration in human history. Between my family history and my own life in Canada and the US, I describe myself as a British colonial four times over, which no doubt shaped my perspective. As well as the gorgeous administrative buildings, the Victorian public engineering that Britons take justifiable pride in was paid for out of the coffers of Empire. Bazalgette’s pioneering sewer system for London (built between 1859 and 1865) was an enormous public good paid for with public funds, because of the success of the imperial project, although it was almost more depressing to learn that it's since been privatized as Thames Water. Nearly half of Brits are proud of colonialism and think it was a good thing, and it inarguably was, if you’re British. Estimates by historians suggest that India accounted for about a quarter of the world’s economic output before 1700; a few years after Independence, it had dropped to less than 5%. Even the much-vaunted Indian railroads were primarily a moneymaking scheme for British companies, who maintained ownership and kept the profits, while Indian taxes backed the returns guaranteed to British investors.

I’m most familiar with India, because of my family history, but by far the most telling indicator of how colonialism transferred wealth away from local populations to England is to look at the list of former colonies: with only a few exceptions, the former colonies that are wealthy (like Canada, the US, Australia, and New Zealand) are the ones where the original inhabitants and societies were largely wiped out and supplanted by Europeans. The rest of the former Empire, the places where descendents of the original residents still comprise the bulk of the population, are desperately poor. Even if you don’t look at any other metric, this is still prima facie evidence for colonialism as an unprecedented transfer of wealth.

[I don’t think I go a day without thinking about how my family moved from one type of colony to the other, how that means that I grew up with all of the benefits of being on the right side of Empire, and that my society is built on a hill of skulls.]

I worked out of the Science Reading Room at the British Library, across the hall from the Asian collection. There was a large sign that read, “Learn more about your ancestors in India!” I was halfway through the small text before I realised, tipped off by the references to baptismal and pension records, that they didn’t mean my ancestors. On the Tube, I’d see ads for Las Vegas, ‘where your accent is an aphrodisiac’ (which is utterly absurd until you realize that it's a vestige of imperial propaganda); for the Crown Jewels, ‘Every stone tells a story’ (Prime Minister David Cameron refused requests to return the Koh i Noor diamond to India, on the grounds that if the UK ‘says yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty’); for Fever Tree tonic water, ‘We go to the ends of the earth’ to find the quinine (tonic water was created in the early 19th century to make the antimalarial palatable to British officials stationed in Africa and India). In front of the Tate Britain, a bollard at the edge of the Thames indicates where ships would tie up to transport prisoners to Australia from Milbank Prison, which was torn down to build the museum. Outside London, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry has an entire floor devoted to ‘Cottonopolis’ and how the industrial production of the region was the source of much of England’s wealth, in which there is literally one sentence about slavery and no mention of the destruction of the Bengali textile industry (nor the larger deindustrialization of India). I posted an excerpt about the word ‘pukka’ from a book about stepwells in India on my Instagram feed, and a stranger demanded to know where Jamie Oliver got the word from if it was Hindi. [While many of my examples are from India, other parts of the world have their own stories.]

If you've followed the links, you'll see that almost all of my citations are UK news outlets; it's not that there aren't lots of people in the UK who understand the full impact of colonialism. It's just that it's hard for me to understand how, if you've ever seen a list of famines in India under British rule, you could ever believe that colonialism was a good thing, or that it should be reflected in ads to sell me tonic water."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:dc6ff8124465

"[M]y society is built on a hill of skulls" is the most visceral expression of this particular truth that I've ever heard. https://twitter.com/debcha/status/911689430347415558 "
https://twitter.com/jkriss/status/911691879799865344

"Of course, my joke cortex goes straight for this: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/things-this-city-was-built-on-besides-rock-n-roll "
https://twitter.com/jkriss/status/911695089134481408 ]" ]
debchachra  2017  london  colonialism  capitalism  india  uk  history  society  inequality  imperialism  england  canada  britain  britishempire  globalization  europe  globalsouth 
september 2017 by robertogreco
When Did Americans Lose Their British Accents? | Mental Floss
"There are many, many evolving regional British and American accents, so the terms “British accent” and “American accent” are gross oversimplifications. What a lot of Americans think of as the typical "British accent” is what's called standardized Received Pronunciation (RP), also known as Public School English or BBC English. What most people think of as an "American accent," or most Americans think of as "no accent," is the General American (GenAm) accent, sometimes called a "newscaster accent" or "Network English." Because this is a blog post and not a book, we'll focus on these two general sounds for now and leave the regional accents for another time.

English colonists established their first permanent settlement in the New World at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, sounding very much like their countrymen back home. By the time we had recordings of both Americans and Brits some three centuries later (the first audio recording of a human voice was made in 1860), the sounds of English as spoken in the Old World and New World were very different. We're looking at a silent gap of some 300 years, so we can't say exactly when Americans first started to sound noticeably different from the British.

As for the "why," though, one big factor in the divergence of the accents is rhotacism. The General American accent is rhotic and speakers pronounce the r in words such as hard. The BBC-type British accent is non-rhotic, and speakers don't pronounce the r, leaving hard sounding more like hahd. Before and during the American Revolution, the English, both in England and in the colonies, mostly spoke with a rhotic accent. We don't know much more about said accent, though. Various claims about the accents of the Appalachian Mountains, the Outer Banks, the Tidewater region and Virginia's Tangier Island sounding like an uncorrupted Elizabethan-era English accent have been busted as myths by linguists.

TALK THIS WAY

Around the turn of the 18th 19th century, not long after the revolution, non-rhotic speech took off in southern England, especially among the upper and upper-middle classes. It was a signifier of class and status. This posh accent was standardized as Received Pronunciation and taught widely by pronunciation tutors to people who wanted to learn to speak fashionably. Because the Received Pronunciation accent was regionally "neutral" and easy to understand, it spread across England and the empire through the armed forces, the civil service and, later, the BBC.

Across the pond, many former colonists also adopted and imitated Received Pronunciation to show off their status. This happened especially in the port cities that still had close trading ties with England — Boston, Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah. From the Southeastern coast, the RP sound spread through much of the South along with plantation culture and wealth.

After industrialization and the Civil War and well into the 20th century, political and economic power largely passed from the port cities and cotton regions to the manufacturing hubs of the Mid Atlantic and Midwest — New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, etc. The British elite had much less cultural and linguistic influence in these places, which were mostly populated by the Scots-Irish and other settlers from Northern Britain, and rhotic English was still spoken there. As industrialists in these cities became the self-made economic and political elites of the Industrial Era, Received Pronunciation lost its status and fizzled out in the U.S. The prevalent accent in the Rust Belt, though, got dubbed General American and spread across the states just as RP had in Britain.

Of course, with the speed that language changes, a General American accent is now hard to find in much of this region, with New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Chicago developing their own unique accents, and GenAm now considered generally confined to a small section of the Midwest.

As mentioned above, there are regional exceptions to both these general American and British sounds. Some of the accents of southeastern England, plus the accents of Scotland and Ireland, are rhotic. Some areas of the American Southeast, plus Boston, are non-rhotic."
us  uk  england  britain  history  language  accents  2016  english  networkenglish  bbcenglish  receivedpronunciation 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Black Books- The Story of Britain's First Black Bookshop on Vimeo
"This film delves into the radical history of Britain's first black bookshop which was founded by John La Rose and Sarah White in 1966. As well as creating a much needed space for black communities to access and publish their own literature, it helped support important campaigns such as the Caribbean Artists Movement, the Black Parents Movement as well as playing a pivotal role in the historic Black Peoples Day of Action.

Decades on, 'New Beacon Books' is still a functioning bookshop but in a world of Amazon and Kindles can it really survive forever?"
britain  uk  2014  documentary  booksellers  bookshops  1966  johnlarose  sarahwhite  activism  politics  lcproject  publishing  openstudioproject  optimism  1960s  change  arwaaburawa  bookstores 
may 2015 by robertogreco
NINE WORLDS GEEKFEST
"As magic is easily seen as an allegory for money - magic means prestige, social capital, access to an entire *literal* world, as well as transport, enjoyment, learning - the use of the the same room in the Ministry of Magic as the setting for muggle-born hearings in OoTP clearly correlates to the hearings and judgments and approvals for benefits (the receipt of which often made the difference between ones’ ability to continue to be a part of society) in Muggle Britain. 

TL;DR - Voldemorts’ rise, and the accompanying social conservatism in the wizarding world - class hatred, allusions to racism, recession, a small but powerful government - actually tallies really well with what actually happened in Muggle Britain in the nineties."
jkrowling  uk  1990s  britain  class  economics  politics  via:tealtan  harrypotter  2015 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Blog - Wolff Olins Blog - A new flag for Britain
"We approached the challenge in a few ways:

Weather responsive flag
Similar to the physical version that flaps in the wind, our new flag responds to the British weather.

[image]

Patchwork flag
The old flag was designed as a two-colour solution because of reproduction constraints. What if we use different colours and materials to create a flag that represents the different people and communities that make up Britain? Plastic, gold and new threads are woven into the design. Some of the colours have been taken from the Royal Standard.

[image]

Designer flag
The UK is full of brilliant designers. Let’s collaborate with Peter Saville or Paul Smith to design an iconic flag.

[image]

Please note, these have not been designed by Peter or Paul—they are nasty ripoffs.

3D flag
Who needs a flag anyway? The Romans had a golden eagle on a pole and they ran the world for 500 years. What about a 3D flag based on the angles proposed in the original Union Jack? Imagine our victorious athletes holding aloft Britain’s orb.

[image]

Internet flag
What about all those little flags that are flown across the internet? We need a flag that has been optimised for a new digital context. Our animated gif flag symbolises Britain as the meeting place for people from anywhere in the digital and physical realm.

[image]

Cool flag
And what about a flag that is just cool.
Pink = Northern Ireland
Green= Wales
Red= England

[image]

Serious flag
Okay… so we’ve had some fun with this brief. But seriously… the original flag is mega cool and it also appears in the corner of loads of other countries flags (like Australia). And it’s a really great brand – blue, red and white triangles have become a defining graphic language of Britain. So with that in mind we propose this flag.

[image]

It’s a simplified version of the original that removes the crosses and keeps the iconic elements - a central focus, angles and colours. It’s easier to draw and it looks great.

As much as we’d love to see one of these little beauties flying out in the world – Scotland, as you cast your vote today just remember what affect your vote could have on that lovely Union Jack."
2014  flags  wolffolins  via:lizette  britain  uk  scotland  weather  symbols  symbolism  evolvinglogos  design  identity  logos 
october 2014 by robertogreco
What do the Olympics tell us about ourselves? | Snowblog
"This does not look like a dying gasp, but like a call for the liberation of minds caught in a belief that life is fueled by derivative trading, and that fortunes flow from super software alone rather than from the vital accompaniment of the hard graft of practical application, manufacture, and construction. This is what this Olympic Games tells us. As the political classes obsess about keeping power without risking too much change, and the banking classes wriggle between, risk, ridicule, and riches, could we not pull in a new direction? Could we not gather in the slipstream of athletic prowess and call up the best in each of us, for all? How can we allow such poverty and waste, when we have proved we can do so much?"
Jon_Snow  2012  Olympics  politics  Britain  UK  future  via:Preoccupations 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The Country and the City - Wikipedia
"Coming from the Welsh border, a village in the Black Mountains, Raymond Williams found that the images of rural life taught at Cambridge did not match what he had seen. As an academic at Cambridge, he studied and examined the contradiction, along with the contrasting idea of the city, which in the U.K. has never been separate from the countryside. Rural life without cities had existed in other parts of the world, but not for a very long time in Britain."
history  urbanism  communitites  knowablecommunities  community  classconflict  class  contrast  uk  britain  1973  culture  cities  urban  rural  raymondwilliams  via:litherland 
may 2012 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Roads to Power: Britain Invents the Infrastructure State (9780674057593): Jo Guldi: Books
"In debates between centralist and localist approaches, Britons posited two visions of community: one centralized, expert-driven, and technological, and the other local, informal, and libertarian. These two visions lie at the heart of today’s debates over infrastructure, development, and communication."
books  toread  joguldi  power  libertarianism  informal  technology  roads  uk  britain  history  highways  infrastructure  development  communication  centralism  localism  experts  transport  trade  commerce  2011 
may 2011 by robertogreco
A Taste of Home in Foil Packets and Powder - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com
"Troops from nearly 50 lands dine on combat meals in Afghanistan — each reminding them of where they’d rather be."

[This links to images of meals from 15 different countries. The article is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/weekinreview/05gilbertson.html via: http://charliefinn.tumblr.com/post/1070455364/a-taste-of-home-in-foil-packets-and-powder ]
food  afghanistan  rations  military  us  australia  britain  canada  denmark  germany  italy  lithuania  poland  spain  sweden  norway  ukraine  comparison  2010  classideas  españa 
september 2010 by robertogreco

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