Monthly Archives: October 2009

Tok Pisin with Isuzu Lu: Banana long Maket

Isuzu Lu: Banana long Maket

Isuzu Lu: Banana long Maket

Lu: Inap tenpela yia nau mama bilong mi yet i bin karim ol banana long maket … Nau tasol mi baim dispela strongpela Isuzu na mama i amamas tumas ….

Lou: For ten years now my own mother has carried bananas to market … Only now I bought this sturdy Isuzu and mama is very happy …

Bird: Mi amamas tumas tu / I’m very happy too

Mama (with pipe): Kam yu putim hia … / Come put it here …

Sitting lady: Nating bai mi tokim pikinini bilong mi long baim wanpela tu … / I think I’ll tell my kid to buy one too …

Standing lady: Mi, tu / Me, too

This is a scan from a faded old photocopy of a cartoon ad by Bob Browne for New Guinea Motors in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 1976. According to the Foreword in Isuzu Lu Book 5, Browne’s Isuzu Lu ads paved the way for locally created cartoon strips in PNG newspapers. The Phantom was among the most popular strips in 1976.

Leave a comment

Filed under labor, language, Papua New Guinea

Tok Pisin with Isuzu Lu: Holide long NYC

Isuzu Lu: Holide long NYC

Isuzu Lu: Holide long NYC

Lu: Mi raun wantaim sampela ol wantok … Mipela lusim pinis Papua New Guinea na kamap holide long America … Man, mi lukim olgeta samting hia na mi airaun nogut tru … Lukim ka hia … Oiyo, em i no liklik … Tasol bensin em i save usim, em i no likliki tu … Long dispela samting yu no ken winim Isuzu!!

Lou: I’m traveling with some friends … We have left Papua New Guinea and arrived on holiday in America … Man, I see all the things here and I’m overwhelmed … Look at this car … Wow, it’s not little … but the gasoline it uses, that’s no little bit either … For that you can’t beat Isuzu!!

Photographer: Mi snepim ol netif ia / I’m snapping (photos of) the natives

Man pointing up: Olaman! Ol haus i pinis we? / Oh man! Where do the buildings end? (= How high do they go?)

Man with cigarette: Hey misis, Yu gat masis? / Hey lady, you got a match?

Lady: My God. He’s smoking the New York Times …

This is a scan from a faded old photocopy of a cartoon ad by Bob Browne for New Guinea Motors in the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, 1976. According to the Foreword in Isuzu Lu Book 5, Browne’s Isuzu Lu ads paved the way for locally created cartoon strips in PNG newspapers. The Phantom was among the most popular strips in 1976.

1 Comment

Filed under language, Papua New Guinea, travel, U.S.

Ottoman Effects on European Nationalism

In the September 2009 issue of Journal of World History Sean Foley discusses various aspects of Muslims and Social Change in the Atlantic Basin (Project MUSE subscription required). Here’s a bit of the most interesting section to me, The Emergence of European Nationalism (pp. 385-391):

Ottoman power also drove important political change in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, contributing to the rise of nation-states and new national identities in two key ways. First, the Ottoman Empire’s presence in European politics allowed leaders from England to the Balkans to use alliances with Istanbul to counter the policies of larger and more powerful Christian European rivals. Second, Muslim mariners attacked European coastal areas and seized more than a million Europeans. These attacks decimated coastal regions, undermined the authority of some governments, redefined national identities, and compelled some governments to extend unprecedented rights and guarantees to their subjects—rights that became cornerstones of the Euro-Atlantic legal tradition today.

One saw this two-track process unfold across Europe from the sixteenth century until the mid eighteenth century. While one might question Stephen Fischer-Galati’s contention that the Ottoman threat guaranteed the survival of the Protestant Reformation, there is no doubt that the simultaneous challenges of the Ottoman Empire and of the Protestant Reformation taxed the resources and complicated the strategic calculations of Catholic leaders. On multiple occasions—including periods when Ottoman armies appeared to threaten Europe—Protestant states in Germany refused to contribute soldiers to participate in military operations against the Ottoman armies or discuss funding wars against the Ottomans with Catholic Habsburg officials before all internal religious issues had been resolved. For all of their power and wealth, Catholic leaders—Charles V of Spain and Ferdinand I of Austria—had little choice but to negotiate directly with smaller German states and respect their religious views, no matter how objectionable they appeared to be to Catholic audiences. This was a major blow to states that saw themselves as absolute monarchies beholden to no one except God.

Nor were Catholic resources stretched only in Germany. In its many protracted conflicts with the Netherlands, France, and England, Spain always had to allow for the fact of military alliances with the Ottoman Empire, which could strike Spanish possessions far removed from Western Europe. Dutch Calvinists used Ottoman markets to circumvent a Spanish embargo on Dutch trade with Iberia—an embargo meant to punish Holland for seeking independence from the Spanish crown. Thanks in part to Ottoman markets and military assistance, the Dutch won their independence in 1609. Protestant England and Catholic France also used Ottoman power as a vehicle to assert their national identity and interests against Spain’s power in Europe. In one instance, Spain was compelled to release France’s king, Francis I, shortly after Spanish armies seized him and defeated the French army at Pavia in 1525: the Ottoman Empire had signaled its desire for the immediate release of the French king. Subsequently, Francis admitted to a Venetian diplomat that he saw the Ottoman Empire as the only force capable of “guaranteeing the combined existence of the states of Europe” against Spanish power.

Importantly, the Ottoman ability to strike at Spanish possessions far removed from Eastern Europe reflected its large army and formidable formal and informal naval power. Fulfilling the prediction of the fourteenth-century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun that North African mariners would “attack the Christians and conquer the lands of the European Christians,” Moroccans, Tunisians, and Algerians seized Christians and wreaked havoc on Europe’s maritime commerce and coastal communities from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to Iceland. Cornwall, Devon, and other English communities lost a fifth of their shipping and thousands of sailors in the first third of the seventeenth century alone. Yet, the impact of Muslim mariners on Italy was far greater. Robert David notes in Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, that large stretches of Italy’s once populous coastline were uninhabitable—“continually infested with Turks” throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Fishing and farming (even ten to twenty miles inland) remained dangerous pursuits well into the eighteenth century along much of the Italian coast, especially in Sicily and other areas close to North Africa….

Equally important, European captives, Muslim attacks, and the publicity tied to them sparked new national consciousnesses, national missions, and ultimately social change in England and later France. In both, this process cemented the principle that only non-Europeans should be enslaved, and as such they glorified “free” labor and efforts to combat Muslim slavery….

The Islamic element of English national consciousness evidenced in Henry V grew still stronger in the seventeenth century, as Muslim maritime attacks challenged the cornerstone of the island nation’s national mythology: the ocean was the source of English economic, military, and political vitality. As Linda Colley observes in Captives, the Stuart kings’ failure to stop Muslim attacks and enslavement of Englishmen was an important factor that robbed them of legitimacy and helped “to provoke the civil wars that tore England and its adjacent countries apart after 1642.” Subsequent governments sought to avoid the Stuarts’ fate by strengthening the English navy, paying Muslim mariners not to attack English ships, and publicly emphasizing the government’s full commitment to preventing the enslavement of Englishmen on the high seas. By the eighteenth century, this national mission and the government’s commitment to it had become institutionalized, as evidenced in the words of James Thomson’s poem “Rule, Britannia”: “Rule, Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never will be slaves.”


Filed under Europe, Mediterranean, nationalism, religion, slavery, Turkey

Salonica: National vs. Personal Histories

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 10-11:

I found Joseph Nehama’s magisterial Histoire des Israélites de Salonique, and began to see what an extraordinary story it had been. The arrival of the Iberian Jews after their expulsion from Spain, Salonica’s emergence as a renowned centre of rabbinical learning, the disruption caused by the most famous False Messiah of the seventeenth century, Sabbetai Zevi, and the persistent faith of his followers, who followed him even after his conversion to Islam, formed part of a fascinating and little-known history unparalleled in Europe. Enjoying the favour of the sultans, the Jews, as the Ottoman traveller Eviiya Chelebi noted, called the city “our Salonica”—a place where, in addition to Turkish, Greek and Bulgarian, most of the inhabitants “know the Jewish tongue because day and night they are in contact with, and conduct business with Jews.”

Yet as I supplemented my knowledge of the Greek metropolis with books and articles on its Jewish past, and tried to reconcile what I knew of the home of Saint Dimitrios—”the Orthodox city”—with the Sefardic “Mother of Israel,” it seemed to me that these two histories—the Greek and the Jewish—did not so much complement one another as pass each other by. I had noticed how seldom standard Greek accounts of the city referred to the Jews. An official tome from 1962 which had been published to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of its capture from the Turks contained almost no mention of them at all; the subject had been regarded as taboo by the politicians masterminding the celebrations. This reticence reflected what the author Elias Petropoulos excoriated as “the ideology of the barbarian neo-Greek bourgeoisie,” for whom the city “has always been Greek.” But at the same time, most Jewish scholars were just as exclusive as their Greek counterparts: their imagined city was as empty of Christians as the other was of Jews.

As for the Muslims, who had ruled Salonica from 1430 to 1912, they were more or less absent from both. Centuries of European antipathy to the Ottomans had left their mark. Their presence on the wrong side of the Dardanelles had for so long been seen as an accident, misfortune or tragedy that in an act of belated historical wishful thinking they had been expunged from the record of European history. Turkish scholars and writers, and professional Ottomanists, had not done much to rectify things. It suited everyone, it seemed, to ignore the fact that there had once existed in this corner of Europe an Ottoman and an Islamic city atop the Greek and Jewish ones.

How striking then it is that memoirs often describe the place very differently from such scholarly or official accounts and depict a society of almost kaleidoscopic interaction. Leon Sciaky’s evocative Farewell to Salonica,the autobiography of a Jewish boy growing up under Abdul Hamid, begins with the sound of the muezzin’s cry at dusk. In Sciaky’s city, Albanian householders protected their Bulgarian grocer from the fury of the Ottoman gendarmerie, while well-to-do Muslim parents employed Christian wet-nurses for their children and Greek gardeners for their fruit trees. Outside the Yalman family home the well was used by “the Turks, Greeks, Bulgarians, Jews, Serbs, Vlachs, and Albanians of the neighbourhood.” And in Nikos Kokantzis’s moving novella Gioconda, a Greek teenage boy falls in love with the Jewish girl next door in the midst of the Nazi occupation; at the moment of deportation, her parents trust his with their most precious belongings.

Have scholars, then, simply been blinkered by nationalism and the narrowed sympathies of ethnic politics? If they have the fault is not theirs alone. The basic problem—common to historians and their public alike—has been the attribution of sharply opposing, even contradictory, meanings to the same key events. Both have seen history as a zero-sum game, in which opportunities for some came through the sufferings of others, and one group’s loss was another’s gain: 1430—when the Byzantine city fell to Sultan Murad II—was a catastrophe for the Christians but a triumph for the Turks. Nearly five centuries later, the Greek-victory in 1912 reversed the equation. The Jews, having settled there at the invitation of the Ottoman sultans, identified their interests with those of the empire, something the Greeks found hard to forgive.

It follows that the real challenge is not merely to tell the story of this remarkable place as one of cultural and religious co-existence—in the early twenty-first century such long-forgotten stories are eagerly awaited and sought out—but to see the experiences of Christians, Jews and Muslims within the terms of a single encompassing historical narrative. National histories generally have clearly defined heroes and villains, but what would a history look like where these roles were blurred and confused? Can one shape an account of this city’s past which manages to reconcile the continuities in its shape and fabric with the radical discontinuities—the deportations, evictions, forced resettlements and genocide—which it has also experienced? Nearly a century ago, a local historian attempted this: at a rime when Salonica’s ultimate fate was uncertain, the city struck him as a “museum of idioms, of disparate cultures and religions.” Since then what he called its “hybrid spirit” has been severely battered by two world wars and everything they brought with them. I think it is worth trying again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Balkans, Greece, migration, nationalism, religion, scholarship, Turkey

Wordcatcher Tales: Datsu-A Nyuu-Ou vs. Datsu-Bei Nyuu-A

One of the frequent catch-phrases in Japanese foreign policy discussions these days is 脱米入亜 datsu-Bei nyuu-A ‘leave America join Asia’, one of many trial balloons floated by the new DPJ-led government. This phrase (r)evokes an older formulation attributed to one of the most avid Westernizers of the Meiji era, Fukuzawa Yukichi, who must hold the world record in Sinographic neologism. (One of the neologisms sometimes attributed to him is minshuushugi [people-master-ism] ‘democracy’.) His policy prescription for Japan in the late 19th century was 脱亜入欧 datsu-A nyuu-Ou ‘leave Asia join Europe’.

How feasible for Japan is 脱米入亜 datsu-Bei nyuu-A ‘leave America join Asia’? Kyushu-based blogger Ampontan is translating and hosting a series of columns by Shimojo Masao, one of Japan’s top specialists on Korea (whose second language is Korean), who weighs in on the issue. Here is Ampontan’s translation of Shimojo’s first column, in its entirety.

The Preconditions for an East Asian Entity

There has been a change of government in Japan for the first time in half a century, and a Democratic Party of Japan administration has taken power under the leadership of Hatoyama Yukio. Among his policy initiatives, the concept of an East Asian entity or community similar to the European Union is receiving widespread attention. The alliance with the United States has been the cornerstone of international relations for Japan since the Liberal Democratic Party came to power. People are discussing whether the change of government might mean Japan has chosen to turn away from the U.S. and place a greater emphasis on Asia.

A full understanding of the distinctive historical characteristics of East Asia is required before embarking on such a course, however. While Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and China on the continent are close geographically, the history of their social systems is different. They have less in common than the members of the European Union, which had shared Christian beliefs and intermarriage of the ruling classes.

In Japan’s case, a social system that incorporated regional authority was formed after the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate in the 12th century, and the foundation of a market economy was created. That is why Japan, with a system closely resembling capitalism, was quickly receptive to Western civilization after the Opium War of 1840.

In contrast, a system of centralized authority was maintained in China and on the Korean Peninsula despite the arrival of modernization. For many years, they had what amounted to planned economies. The history of Japan vis-à-vis China and the Korean Peninsula is that of relationships similar to the one between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The achievement of an East Asian entity depends on whether Prime Minister Hatoyama is possessed of the awareness of those historical differences and the insight to perceive what is necessary to overcome them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, China, Europe, Japan, Korea, U.S.

American Independence & Chinese Silver Imports

The June 2009 issue of Journal of World History has an enlightening bit of historical revisionism by Alejandra Irigoin entitled The End of a Silver Era: The Consequences of the Breakdown of the Spanish Peso Standard in China and the United States, 1780s–1850s (Project MUSE subscription required). Here are her conclusions (pp. 238-239).

This article argues for revision of traditional views of the global silver trade with China in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Section I shows that the existing historiography tends to ignore that silver imports into China continued for longer than normally acknowledged and at increased levels up to the 1820s. New evidence shows that the structure of the silver trade changed substantially when US merchants became central intermediaries between Spanish American silver “producers” and Chinese “consumers,” when Chinese imports of silver consisted increasingly of Spanish American coins, the so-called pillar and bust dollars.

Section II explores the role of Americans as intermediaries who increased trade with Spanish America in order to obtain silver coins needed to trade with China. The timing of the flow of silver out of China to pay for opium purchases is challenged, as is opium as a cause for the desilverization of China. This article also questions received wisdom that reduction in the supply of silver owing to Spanish American independence was the root cause of silver scarcity in China in the early nineteenth century. This received wisdom ignores a fundamental fact: Spanish America itself was a significant reservoir of silver coins in the world. Thus, (relatively minor) interruptions in the production of silver—at different points in time and in distinct places—in South America during Independence were unlikely to account for supply shortages in China, and continued exports of silver into the United States confirm this view. Hence, the fall in Chinese silver imports must be a function of demand-side forces in addition to supply-side problems.

Spanish American independence presented a different problem to the global economy. The Spanish Empire broke up into a multitude of distinct states in the wake of independence, each fiscally and monetarily autonomous. In other words, the largest monetary union of the premodern world had collapsed. The resulting fragmentation of coinage and seigniorage across postindependent Spanish America terminated a silver standard that had organized international trade throughout the early modern world, East and West and in between. New republican governments, especially in regions with silver endowments, took over mint houses in the service of local and regional interests. Coins minted in various mint houses began to diverge in quality and fineness, whereupon the universal standard of the Spanish silver peso was definitively lost.

Section IV advances the central argument of this paper, namely that Chinese demand for silver, at least since the late eighteenth century, involved demand for a certified and reliable means of payment, as opposed to silver in some generic sense. “Good” colonial Spanish American coins traded at a premium over the sycee [ingot] equivalent, clearly confirming this point. Fragmentation of the Spanish monetary standard after independence had a devastating influence on Chinese demand. The impact of Spanish American independence on China’s economy operated through deterioration of coin quality, not through quantities of silver per se. By contrast, the United States used Spanish dollars as legal tender under the control of central monetary authorities, thereby succeeding in keeping new peso coins in circulation for a decade or more.

The end of the silver standard following independence in Spanish America during the 1810s and the 1820s had major consequences for development of the global economy before the gold standard. On one hand, termination of the silver era contributed to the poor economic performance of the Chinese economy. A lack of high-quality, reliable Spanish pesos between the 1820s and the 1850s, rather than insufficient silver mining, largely explains the fall in Chinese silver imports. Hence, I argue that the Chinese silver trade in these decades was demand-side rather than supply-side (mining) driven. Consequences for the internal market in China were manifold, including increased transaction costs, fragmentation of markets, and credit shortages. On the other hand, the United States reacted differently—and with a different timing—to termination of the silver standard. Immediate detrimental effects were weathered by workings of a well-integrated banking system, a quasi–monetary authority, and assay by the mint. Ultimately, this article poses an important comparative question for economic historians: in light of the US response, why did the Chinese empire never monopolize seigniorage, and why did it fail to provide reliable control of its currency system in the face of high costs for the domestic Chinese economy? Answers fall well beyond the scope of this article, of course, but the question should at least be framed in a global context.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, economics, Latin America, opium, Spain, U.S.