WWII (Japan & Hong Kong) #1

You know how I mentioned Hong Kong in the last post? Well, Hong Kong has its own history as well.

Zip back to the Opium Wars: China is defeated and humiliated, forced to concede Hong Kong to Britain. But here’s the thing: Hong Kong is nothing at this point. They get some salt from it and not much more. The place that would one day host one of the most dense populations in the world was more sparsely populated than toast with a teaspoon of Nutella on it.

Then why did Britain even want it? The thing about Hong Kong is that it was nicely situated, not too far from Macau and other European trading ports. And the British didn’t have their own trading port like the Portuguese, so they saw an opportunity to make money with a bit of investment, and they took it.

Zipping back to WWII times, Hong Kong is very profitable, with a population of about 1,500,000 people. However, what it also is is very far away. And with Britain’s forces spread thin fighting Germany, there is almost nothing to spare for Hong Kong.

Mostly Canadian troops end up there to defend Hong Kong. From what? Imperial Japan, that has been gobbling up land like a child with a full, mostly unprotected cake. The nations surrounding Japan are no match for it; China has already been taking a severe beating since the thirties, and Korea has been under Japan’s thumb since 1910.

So, 1942, Japan is bearing down on Hong Kong. The defenders are no match for the superior numbers of Japan, and they are overwhelmed. Raping, killing, and looting is going on unchecked, as is characteristic of Imperial Japan. The attack started around the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the bombing in Darwin, Australia.

And it lasts until Christmas day, when finally, the British government surrenders Hong Kong to Japan in order to stop the widespread killing and raping. This day is known as Black Christmas.

Hong Kong stays in Japanese hands until the end of the war. By the end, through mistreatment, fleeing Chinese, and general starvation, the population in Hong Kong is 500,000 roughly.

Hong Kong’s future, however, is bright after the war, and especially after the Communists win control of China, but that’s another story.

Slavery #2

So, you’ve heard of Macau. Oh, you haven’t? Quick explanation, then.

You’ve heard of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a British colony taken from China. This was at the end of the second Opium Wars, when China got its butt kicked and Britain took whatever the hell it wanted.

Well, Britain was good friends with Portugal (and still is; longest alliance in history or something like that). Portugal had set up a port called Macau hundreds of years before the Opium Wars; they paid China a certain amount of silver in order to have that port.

As you can probably guess, when Britain was taking what it wanted, Portugal decided that would be a good moment to demand Macau be its colony, since China couldn’t really stop them (yes, the Europeans were very much jerks towards China).

However, the slavery related to Macau takes place long before this land grab.

It’s the 1500s. Slavery is commonplace, and not just for Africans or indigenous folks. The Portuguese kept slaves of both African origin and Moorish (that being the Muslims who used to live in Iberia aka Spain and Portugal and who lived along North Africa as well) origin.

Both types of slaves were considered valuable. But can you guess what ethnicity was most valuable?

Back to Macau. Loads of Chinese people lived in and near Macau, and Portugal was big time into slavery. So, what do the merchants get into? Buying or kidnapping young Chinese boys to sell back in Portugal.

This went on until 1595, when the king outlawed slavery of Chinese persons of either sex. Mind you, other slavery was still fine; it would take a long time until slavery in general was outlawed in Portugal.

Macau went on to become a major source of coolie labor in the 19th century, which was essentially slavery, but considered indentured servitude.

Of course, there’s far more to Macau’s history than slavery, but like many, many countries, the dark smudge of slavery still lives in its shadow.

Colonialism (Canada) #1

So, surprise, Canada was not always a united country (or even a united colony). You know how America was, at first, thirteen colonies? Well, Canada was similar.

About 1837, and some time earlier, Canada was made up of Upper Canada and Lower Canada (which, by the way, did not cover most of modern day Canada). These were two separate colonies; interestingly, Upper Canada was south of Lower Canada; leave it to British people to confuse future young Canadians learning the history of their country.

Now, speaking of 1837, let’s jump back to a few years before.

In both Upper Canada and Lower Canada, tensions are brewing. The government isn’t very representative of the population; the economy isn’t that great. Interestingly, some of the reasons the Canadians aren’t happy are some of the same reasons the Americans weren’t happy decades before.

So what do the Canadians do?

They write a letter: 92 Resolutions, which they then send to the British government.

The 92 Resolutions end up being ignored for about three years. After that, the British government was basically like ‘Lol, no.’

And rebellion broke out in both colonies. It was crushed by the British, but the British had learned something from the Revolutionary War; they sent a guy called John Lambton (Lord Durham) to check out what had caused the problem.

While he did make good points on a few things, one of his big conclusions was that Lower Canada was too French. Therefore, it was decided that the colonies would become a union so that the Frenchness would be diluted.

Some fun names they considered for Canada:

  • Borealia (meaning North, opposite of Australia, meaning South)
  • New Albion (Albion being the old Latin name for England)
  • Albionoria (see above)
  • Efisga (an acronym from English, French, Irish, Scottish, German, Aboriginal)
  • Victorialand (for the then current queen Victoria)
  • Tuponia ( based on The United Provinces of North America)

And there were others, but you get the idea. The names were mostly bad, and they ended up just going with Canada.

So that’s the story of Canada’s big rebellion and unification. It’s definitely one of the more interesting parts of an otherwise kind of boring history.

Slavery #1

Slavery is an ancient presence that has not even gone away to this day. There are Biblical records of slavery, and we know the Romans and Ancient Greeks had slaves, and scores of them. The Vikings took slaves, frequently from the British Isles, and the Portuguese had slaves from more than one continent.

In this post, however, the focus is on Irish slaves, around the 1600’s.

You’re probably wondering how the Irish ended up in slavery so late in history, when Europeans didn’t typically enslave other Europeans; you’d be quite right thinking of that. Most slavery at this point was invested in indigenous peoples of the places colonized and African people.

What was special about the Irish at this time was that they were a conquered people. The Kingdoms of England and Scotland were united at this point. Ireland, however, was owned by the England (something they considered a God-given right) and not given an equal voice due to being Catholic.

In 1641, a rebellion by the Irish broke out. It led to a civil war in England, and was known as the Eleven Years’ War. In 1649, when the English Civil War was over, a man named Oliver Cromwell took a force to Ireland.

Oliver Cromwell was an unforgiving man. In Ireland, the soldiers considered the Irish as human as apes, and acted accordingly. Interestingly, this view of the Irish as not fully human carried over when these same soldiers went to America and encountered the indigenous peoples.

The Irish were slaughtered, but more than that, many of the stubborn rebels were sent to the Caribbean as slaves to work alongside African slaves.

The numbers have been disputed, but in 1641, the population of Ireland was 1,466,000, and by 1652, 616,000. A large chunk of the numbers came from hardship and plague, but a huge number were killed or shipped out to the Caribbean. Atrocities were committed in Ireland that would someday be committed in America, because Ireland set the precedent for dealing with natives who wouldn’t do what the conqueror wanted.

At the end of the war, more were shipped out; between 1651-1660, a number between 80,000 and 130,000 Irish were shipped out to the Caribbean.

And these slaves were like free candy for plantation owners; they cost considerably less than African slaves, mostly because they didn’t survive the environment as well. Plantation owners also found interbreeding them useful, because ‘mulatto’ or biracial slaves sold for even more than either of them.

Pretty much, Ireland’s always had the short end of the stick when it comes to almost anything. It’s no wonder that their attitude seems to be ‘It may be good today, but it’ll be worse by tomorrow.’

Civil War (USA) #1

Cherokee_Confederates_Reunion

Just to start with, the Civil War probably is a bit of a misnomer; a civil war is typically when two or more powers are fighting for control in a country. But America loves misnomers, honestly, so I’m going to leave that one alone.

As you all probably know, the Civil War was between the Confederate States of America (henceforth referred to as CSA) and ‘normal America’ aka the Union or the North, henceforth referred to as the Union.

What you probably don’t know is that there was a third party involved. No, not Mexico or Britain. This third party could be considered even more American than either side.

Back up a minute. Back when the Old South was settled, it wasn’t settled very thickly. Its little towns generally couldn’t compare to the North’s cities; centers such as there were in the North were few and far in between.

In the North, room had to be paved by not only clearing trees, but clearing Native Americans out. They were pushed further and further into other Native Americans’ territory, forcing fighting among groups that were already taking massive hits from disease.

But in the South, there was a lot of room for much longer than in the North.  In the colonial times and a bit after, there were five Native American nations known as the Five Civilized Tribes by the Americans.

  • Cherokee
  • Chickasaw
  • Choctaw
  • Creek
  • Seminole

They were called such because they adopted a lot of European/Western ways, which, in the Americans’ eyes, made them civilized compared to other Native Americans. Interestingly, this was brought about mainly by George Washington, because he believed, unlike many Americans of the time, that Native Americans were equal. He believed it was their society that was inferior, which was progressive for the time, however backwards that is nowadays.

Anyway, so after these nations adopted Western ways, the appetite for more land seized America, as it often did during America’s history. This was because of a thing called Manifest Destiny, which basically said ‘We deserve the land because we’re special and God said so.’

So, most of these nations were forced out, moved to this place called Indian Territory (which would one day be the state Oklahoma). It was a horrific move, especially for the Cherokee; many died on the long forced march, and it is an episode in American history known as the Trail of Tears (All ordered by President Andrew Jackson, a guy with more prejudice against Native Americans than there are scales on a fish).

What does all this have to do with the Civil War?

The Confederacy was looking for an ally, any ally they could get their hands on, and the Native Americans in Indian Territory were perfect candidates.

A few of the Native American tribes owned slaves, and thus were in the same boat as the CSA economically. More importantly to most of the Native Americans in Indian Territory, the treaties offered by the CSA promised national sovereignty, possible, equal citizenship, a delegate in the House of Representatives, as well as goods such as livestock and rations, far more than they had ever received from the Union.

It was part of the Cherokee, the Choctaw, the Catawba, the Creek, and the Seminole that fought on the Confederate side. Other Native Americans fought on the Union side, or avoided it altogether.

But what the alliance brought the CSA was a winning streak; when the CSA was losing battles, the Native American forces were doing quite well for themselves in Indian Territory.

They captured forts, they fought Union Native American and Anglo-American forces, and quite frankly, if the CSA had been able to hold up their end, they might well have won.

Instead, all Native Americans in Indian Territory were stripped of the protections and promises that had been made when they had been forced there. This was a huge blow, and a lot of it led to the current situation we have today.