Monthly Archives: November 2009

One Child’s Language: at 42 months

Intellectual notes: Of all the Sesame Street characters, Rachel used to resemble sweet, innocent, and imaginative Elmo the most. But now she’s turning into the Count, whose greatest joy in life is to find something to count. She counts steps, parking meters, people on the bus, bites of food, and sips of water. She can now count past 100 without prompting, can count backwards from 10 to 0, and can add and subtract one number at a time so long as she’s dealing with numbers not much over ten. And, finally, she no longer misses 16 on her way to 20.

She is raptly attentive during Sesame Street, and we’ve just started watching the Sunday evening Disney hour with her. She asks a lot of questions. She likes cartoons but has not yet been exposed to Saturday morning TV. So her very active imagination has not turned to violence yet. Instead, she organizes a lot of weddings, birthday parties, travels, picnics, and classroom activities.

Language notes: Rachel is picking up more and more local English at school. One of the most noticeable lately is mines, as in Yours, Mines, and Ours. (That forces an exception to follow the same rule that adds s to the other forms.)

She has finally begun to use Please, Thank you, Excuse me, and Sorry fairly regularly. And she’ll wave good-bye to kids she knows. Her conversational habits are not always polite though. She wants to dominate every conversation around the house, and isn’t happy to yield the floor to either of us. She is very, very verbal, providing a running commentary on everything she does. When she’s tired, the running commentary turns into a babbling stream of consciousness.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.

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One Child’s Language: at 40 months

Physical development: Rachel’s handwriting is much smoother now. She doesn’t have to have little dots to mark the angle-points in A, M, Y and other letters. She has even got S and C down pretty well. She can also write quite small and has done a few exercises at school writing numbers. She jumps well with two feet and can stand on one foot. She likes to show how fast she can run. She is quite active during exercise at her school. We enrolled her in a “movement” class at the YWCA on Saturday mornings, but so far the only thing she has participated in is a balance-beam exercise that she enjoyed at preschool. She doesn’t like receiving a lot of attention from strangers. We doubt she’ll go into show business.

Intellectual notes: She still loves to count and do very simple addition and subtraction. In fact, she has discovered the Associative Principle: “Look, 2 and 2 and 1 make 5; and 3 and 2 make 5, too!” She was counting with her fingers in the stroller one day and announced “2 and 2 and 2 and 2 and 2 make 10!” She knows that 100 is a lot, and can count that high if you prompt her for the even multiples of ten. She no longer misses fifteen now that she knows fif is a funny way to say five, but she usually skips sixteen for some reason.

She also loves guessing and telling. “You don’t know how old Panda is?” [Just say “No!”] “I’ll tell you. He’s two.” “Do you know what we can use? … Think! Think!” She likes to involve us in long imaginary games in which everyone’s role is subject to redefinition whenever the fancy strikes her. She also does a lot of reasoning. This is the bicentennial of Chinese emigration to Hawaii. When Rachel asked why so many Chinese came here, Mama told her that many Chinese wanted to leave China. She said, “Yeah, they wanted to find a cleaner place, and Honolulu was clean enough.”

Language notes: Rachel returned from her Christmas visit having finally switched from referring to herself as Rachel to using I, me, my appropriately. She has also switched to an overcorrected pronunciation of the so that it always rhymes with thee. One of her teachers must have stigmatized the local pronunciation, da. (She has acquired the local auwe in place of ouch.) Her pronunciation of consonant clusters (st, str, sp, spr, etc.) seems to have slipped a bit while she concentrates on new grammatical constructions, especially comparatives (good, gooder, goodest, bad, badder, baddest), even complicated syntax like: “When I’m 100 years old, I’ll be tall enough that my head will touch the ceiling.” “Look, I can push the stroller as straight as you can.” Around us, she is extremely verbal, providing a running commentary on her every action.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.

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Lind on Patrician Do-gooder-ism vs. Populist Producerism

Old-style Democrat Michael Lind asks a timely question in a Salon essay entitled Can populism be liberal?

There remains the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, represented more in Congress than in Obama’s White House — and more in the House than in the Senate, a dully complacent millionaires’ club. Can congressional progressives compete with conservatives to channel popular outrage? Unfortunately, progressivism in the form in which it has evolved in the last generation does not resonate with populist producerism.

To begin with, most of the moral fervor of the contemporary center-left has been diverted from the issue of fair rewards for labor to the environmental movement. In theory, environmentalism ought to fit the populist narrative of defending shared goods against special interests. Indeed, clean air and water legislation and public parks and wilderness areas are broadly popular with working-class Americans, not least hunters and fishers. But many environmentalists insist that global warming must be combated not only by low-CO2 energy technology but also by radical lifestyle changes like switching from industrial farming to small-scale organic agriculture and moving from car-based suburbs and exurbs to deliberately “densified” cities with mass transit. Whether environmentalists propose to engineer this utopian social transformation by tax incentives or coercive laws, the campaign triggers the populist nightmare of arrogant social elites trying to dictate where and how ordinary people should live.

Even if it had not been eclipsed by moralistic lifestyle environmentalism, contemporary economic progressivism would be crippled by its own priorities. New Deal liberalism was primarily about jobs and wages, with benefits as an afterthought. Post-New Deal progressivism is primarily about benefits, with jobs and wages as an afterthought. This inversion of priorities is underlined by the agenda of the Democrats since the last election — universal healthcare coverage first, jobs later.

It is only in the post-New Deal era that universal healthcare has become the Holy Grail of the American center-left, rather than, say, full employment or a living wage. Sure, Democrats from Truman to Johnson sought universal healthcare, and Medicare for the elderly was a down payment for that goal. But the main concern of the New Dealers was providing economic growth with full employment, on the theory that if the economy is growing and workers have the bargaining power to obtain their fair share of the new wealth in the form of wages, you don’t need a vastly bigger welfare state. Having forgotten the New Deal’s emphasis on high-wage work, all too many of today’s progressives seem to have internalized the right’s caricature of FDR-to-LBJ liberalism as being primarily about redistribution from the rich to the poor.

This shift in emphasis is connected with the shift in the social base of the Democratic Party from the working class to an alliance of the wealthy, parts of the professional class and the poor. And progressive redistributionism also reflects the plutocratic social structure of the big cities that are now the Democratic base. Unlike the egalitarian farmer-labor liberalism that drew on the populist values of the small town and the immigrant neighborhood, metropolitan liberalism tends to define center-left politics not as self-help on the part of citizens but rather as charity for the disadvantaged carried out by affluent altruists. Tonight the fundraiser for endangered species; tomorrow the gala charity auction for poor children.

via RealClearPolitics

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One Child’s Language: at 39 months

Social notes: Ever since Rachel moved to the bigger kids’ room at school, she has assigned herself a new role in life. She always reminds us of what a big girl she is and almost never goes into the little baby routines she was so fond of before the move: “Look how fast Rachel can run.” “Look how high Rachel can jump now.” In fact, she has changed her role-play at home from Baby to Teacher. She spends a lot of time at home comforting her stuffed animals, showing them things, putting them down on mats for naptime, waking them up again, reading to them, feeding them. She gets the funniest little serious look on her face when she is comforting them for crying. She repeats instructions from school to them, playing the teacher role to the hilt, telling them “This is a table mat activity, not a floor mat activity.”

Another way she marks her change in status is by constantly inquiring how she did things or said things when she was a little baby. “How did Rachel swim when Rachel was a little baby?” “How did Rachel talk when Rachel was one year old?” “How did Rachel say blue when Rachel was in China?” Then she will laugh and imitate our imitations of how she used to say things.

Physical development: Rachel is fascinated by writing now, and likes to take a pen or crayon and write messages on paper. She controls her scribble pretty well, doing a good imitation of a doctor’s prescription scrawl.

Intellectual notes: The biggest concept Rachel has mastered with her new rite of passage is the progress of time. Yesterday now means the previous day, or at least the other day, not just any time in the past. Tomorrow is also more immediate than it used to be. She knows about relative age and birthdays, knows most of the days of the week and the last four months of the year. She contrasts her life as a baby and her life in China with her present life. In fact, she has a renewed interest in her China past now and asks a lot more questions about her pictures from Chinese preschool.

Her other major fascination right now is numbers and arithmetic. She counts everything and knows the concept of adding one number to another. She will hold up one, two, three, four, or five fingers on each hand and ask “How much is this?” She hasn’t memorized the answers yet, but she can figure it out by counting all her fingers. She can count to twenty, but she tends to miss fifteen and sometimes sixteen.

Language notes: Rachel constantly asks “What’s that spell?” She has memorized an ABC book from the library that goes “A is for angry anteater, B is for bashful bear, ….” Her favorite road sign is the yellow BUMP sign. In fact, on the buses she often reads the yellow sign on every window “C-A-U-T-I-O-N Bump!” She looks for Chevron, Shell, and Union 76 signs; spells out STOP, WALK, EXIT, and NO PARKING signs; recognizes Safeway, MacDonalds, and Burger King logos; asks about the cover, half-title, title, and contents pages in books. She likes to take a pen and write messages which she translates as “Please take a juice can to school tomorrow” or “Let’s meet for breakfast at eight.”

Although she still never uses I, me, my in real communication, she will use them perfectly well when she is play-acting with her stuffed animals. And she now asks “How do you do” such and such rather than “How does Rachel do” such and such. But in talking to us, she still has her own special pronouns Deo or Daytoe (for Rachel) and Deo’s (for Rachel’s).

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.

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What Foreign Tourists Like in South Korea

The Chosun Ilbo has been doing a series on foreign tourism in South Korea, which has been growing. (Both Mr. & Mrs. Outlier have attended conferences there this year, and enjoyed a bit of tourism on the side.) Here are a few observations about the statistical preferences of tourists from different countries.

On favorite souvenirs:

The most popular souvenirs among Japanese visiting Korea are dried seaweed, kimchi, and ginseng or citron tea from the Namdaemun Market and superstores, according to the Seoul Station branch of Lotte Mart.

Nail clippers are the most popular item among Chinese visitors. “In China, Korean nail clippers are regarded as luxury goods,” claimed Chung Myung-jin, president of Cosmos Travel. “Chinese people like gold, so they buy dozens of gold-colored nail clippers when they come to Korea.” Gold-plated stainless chopsticks and spoons are also popular.

Southeast Asian tourists usually buy Korean beauty products, which are in vogue in their home countries. Meanwhile, Europeans prefer traditional gifts. “European tourists tend to buy souvenirs at historic sites like Gyeongju, or they buy custom-made Hanbok, or traditional Korean clothing,” said Park Eun-sun of KR Travel.

On Japanese vs. Chinese:

According to a survey of visitors in 2008 by the Korea Tourism Organization, more women visited from Japan than men, with 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent. The proportion of individual tourists (38.3 percent) was close to that of group tourists. As the two countries are close geographically and Japanese have a lot of information on Korea, many there feel it is easy to visit without tour guides or prearranged package tours….

A staffer at a beauty treatment shop in Myeong-dong, said, “Many Japanese tourists have cosmetic eyebrow tattoo procedures, manicure or laser body hair removal, which are much cheaper than in Japan.” They also like Korean food. Some 69.5 percent of Japanese tourists said Korean food is delicious. Food topped the list of souvenirs they buy with a whopping 67.1 percent. Japanese tourists stayed in Korea briefly but spent a lot of money. Each of them stayed 2.7 nights and spent $1,136 ($420 per day) on average….

Chinese tourist stayed on average 6.8 nights and spent $1,413 ($207 per day). Many visited Korea for the first time and were on package tours with group visas. Hanatour spokesman Chung Ki-yoon said, “Many Chinese tourists are on package tours of seven Southeast Asian countries.”…

Haban Tour spokesman Woo Hyun-ryang said, “The Chinese are used to huge cultural monuments like Taishan, the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, so they usually complain even Mt. Seorak is just like a hill at the back of their village.” This means they need other special programs.

Chinese tourists from different regions also had very different tastes. Those from inland urban areas like Beijing preferred Jeju Island, while those from the booming industrial centers such as Guangzhou, Chengdu, or Shenyang liked to visit Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun shopping districts in Seoul. Rich Chinese visitors enjoyed buying designer goods at Lotte or Shinsegae department stores in Myeong-dong, Seoul, or at Centum City in Busan. Food is the biggest problem for the Chinese tourists, who usually complain that Korean food is not fatty enough for them.

via The Marmot’s Hole

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One Child’s Language: at 36 months

Social notes: Rachel was very generous about taking toys to donate to her school before we left China. But she displayed almost no emotion on her last day of school, when her principal (and favorite auntie) was teary and her mama was too choked up to say anything. It was only after we got to Hong Kong and started talking about what her life in Honolulu would be like that Rachel protested, “But Rachel likes China.” She also liked travelling, because she had one or the other of us to herself all the time. Unlike us, she loves to spend time in waiting rooms and hotel lobbies.

Especially while travelling, we tend to praise her for being a “big girl.” But she is afraid to leave babyhood completely behind, so she often reminds us, “When Rachel sucks Rachel’s thumb Rachel is a little baby,” and then promptly demonstrates. She has also invented some baby talk expressions, like titidada. At other times, her conversational style is very adult, like when she says, “Mama, mama! Rachel has two questions. The first question is …. The second question is ….” She also likes to give long-winded explanations why she should or shouldn’t do something in a particular way, often word-for-word renditions of what one or the other of us has told her.

We had far better luck finding a preschool for Rachel in Honolulu than in China. Bamboo Shoots was one we just walked into one day. It was just about to convert to Montessori methods. We walked in during naptime, when the administrator was feeling relaxed and talkative, and had a good look around. We were later told that Rachel shows some of the same problems Chinese immigrant kids have when they enter American preschools: they require a lot of adult attention, and they have trouble going off and doing things on their own. She is adjusting well though. Having a year of Chinese school has helped. And she hasn’t had any trouble getting used to sandwiches for lunch, as some of the Asian immigrant kids have. Rachel seems to be only full haole (Caucasian) kid in the school (as in China).

Intellectual notes: Rachel is very, very fond of puzzles now. She is pretty quick to spot where each shape goes. After the first time or two, she has just about memorized how to put the simpler puzzles together. She is also a reading maniac. We usually make a trip to the State library’s children’s book section every week. She can spend hours listening to us read all the way through each week’s stack of books again and again. She is especially interested in transportation, which might have something to do with all the travelling we’ve done recently. She likes looking for contrasts between the “new kind of airplane” (jet) and the “old kind of airplane” (propeller craft), between city buses (with more than one door) and tour buses (with only one door), between fast ferry boats (hovercraft and hydrofoils) and slow ferry boats (like the Star Ferry in Hong Kong). In fact, she always tries to compare and contrast new things she learns about, to establish new categories or better define old ones. Her other most absorbing hobby right now is testing every water fountain she sees. She had an interest in water fountains before we went to China but had to do without them for a year. Her old fascination immediately revived as soon as we got into the Taipei airport.

Language notes: Her pronunciation keeps improving. Right now she’s working on getting her word-initial consonant clusters under control (/fr, sp, st, str, tr/ etc.) She hasn’t got /f/ separate from /s/ yet, so straight sounds like freight. She has just started to work on eliminating the /w/ she used to put on over and out, and the /n/ she used to put on the front of on and in. In other words, she has started to master the glottal stop (the abrupt onset before words starting with vowels in English; the sound in uh-uh ‘no’ that helps distinguish it from uh-huh ‘yes’). She also noticed a good while ago that Daddy pronounces why—her favorite word—with a /hw/ sound while Mama pronounces it with a plain /w/. She claims to use both pronunciations.

Rachel was just beginning to speak a good bit of Chinese by the time we left Zhongshan, but now she has just about quit speaking it. As soon as we hit Honolulu, she ceased hearing it around her so much and apparently decided there was no more use for it. In Hong Kong, we took her out to a nice playground near our hotel where she played with a couple of English-speaking kids her age. She wouldn’t say a word to them. Instead, she remarked to us, “They’re speaking English. Why?” At Bamboo Shoots, she has been slow to speak with the other kids, but it’s probably just her natural shyness. One of the teaching assistants there speaks Chinese but couldn’t extract Chinese responses from Rachel. When we would ask her if she spoke any Chinese at school, she would answer, “But it’s an English-speaking school!”

She hardly ever sings much at home now. She hasn’t learned the new school’s repertoire yet. But she is an avid and highly interactive story-telling audience. She nods as you go, asks for meanings of words she hasn’t learned yet, and asks so many questions sometimes that it’s hard to keep the story moving. She never drifts off during a story, but keeps asking for one more. She likes to participate by filling in salient words in the stories she has read many times. She also likes us to spell (“psell”) words, and always assigns us one to spell while brushing her teeth.

Her most remarkable achievement in our eyes is her discovery of what syllables are. On the way home from school one day in China, she asked why “e-le-phant” has three words but “bear” has only one. She was probably carrying over into English what her teachers had told her about Chinese characters, since each character is one syllable. We taught her the word syllable (which comes out Seminole when she says it) and now she can count off the syllables of any word you give her—fairly accurately too. Although she does tend to like to repeat the last syllable enough times to get through all the fingers on one hand.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.

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One Child’s Language: at 32 months (and abroad)

Social notes: Rachel is experimenting with social graces now. She plays with using please and thank you sometimes, and is working up to saying xiexie (‘thank you’) and zaijian (‘goodbye’) aloud in Chinese. Her strategy seems to be to listen and repeat to herself for a long time while she is mastering something new, then finally perform out loud.

She often gets very upset if we let a guest into the house without her help, or see someone off before she gets to wave goodbye. One day, Daddy came home from school in the afternoon, let himself in, and went in to find Rachel and Mama in the kitchen. Rachel immediately cried that she wanted to meet Daddy at the door. So Daddy went back outside in the stairwell, Rachel sent him down to the landing, then she walked down the steps to greet him on the landing with “Hello, how are you?” She nodded her head in response to “Fine, thank you. And you?” and then turned around and said “Well, let’s go up.” She repeated this ritual about ten times before our downstairs neighbors, Uncle Xu and Auntie Ni, came out to invite Rachel to play with them.

For quite a long time now, she has not gotten tearful when we drop her off at school, and she has a “best friend” there now. When she hears classmates’ names she can point them out, but she won’t say their names out loud to us.

Intellectual notes: In Freudian jargon, she still shows a lot of typically “anal retentive” behavior. She is compulsive about arranging and matching things. If you slip out of your shoes, she is liable to run off with them to arrange them carefully among other shoes. When she gets dressed, she is always concerned that everything should match. After eating, she will often get down and rearrange the magnetic letters and numbers on the refrigerator door. She is more concerned about matching shapes than about sequential order, so she groups 694, 25, 17, 38, VY, KX, MN, IL, CG, FR, BD, OU, and so forth.

Language notes: Rachel is speaking more and more Chinese. Her teachers say she is becoming more verbal at school. She must be saying a lot more Chinese to herself than to anyone else. She is quite aware of the tones in Chinese and experiments with them sometimes. Everyone at school tries to get her to say simple greetings to them, but they are content for now if she simply shows she heard and understood them.

Her pronunciation keeps improving. She has /s/ and /z/, /ch/ and /j/ pretty much under control. When she demonstrated that she could produce a clear /s/ one day on the way home from school, Daddy praised her and asked her when she would be able to say /k/ as well. She said “Soon.”

She still sings school songs at home and also sings a lot of English songs. She sings This Old Man up through number five or six. (On one of our excursions she got to see a beehive up close, so she no longer needs prompting for “hive”.) Her going-to-sleep ritual every night includes the same series of songs: Sleep Baby Sleep, Teddy Bear (“Dayto” Bear), Mockingbird (Hush Little Baby), and then Angels Watching Over Me (“That Guy Is Watching Over Me”). She sings along on all of them and recently recorded them on tape, singing by herself.

She knows the lowercase as well as uppercase printed letters now. (After trying to think of easy terms other than “big/little” to distinguish the two styles, we just settled on “uppercase/lowercase”—and so has Rachel.) She often utterly loses her chain of thought when her eye catches any letter or Chinese character she can read. She reads off numbers on license plates or hotel-room doors as she walks by. Sometimes she spells words from right to left.

UPDATE: This child is now a 24-year-old teacher in Boston’s Chinatown.

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The Near Eastern Crisis of 1875-78

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 167-169:

Beginning with a peasant uprising in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the troubles spread in 1876 to Bulgaria and the Danubian provinces and ended with an invasion by the Russian army the following year. The Treaty of San Stefano, which Russia imposed on the empire early in 1878, created a vast new Bulgarian state which passed just to the north of Salonica itself and cut it off from its hinterland. Even after the other Great Powers forced Russia to back down and tore up the San Stefano agreement, there was no disguising the humiliation suffered by the Porte: at the Congress of Berlin, Serbia was declared independent, an autonomous (if smaller) Bulgaria was established under Russian control, Cyprus was occupied by British troops (as the price for supporting the Turks) and the Great Powers forced the Ottoman authorities to pledge a further programme of administrative reforms.

These events deeply affected Salonica. As always in time of war, the city was in a febrile state—filled with soldiers, requisitioning agents, tax-collectors and rumours. Muslim notables criticized the diplomacy of the Porte and feared for the first time “being driven out of Europe.” The Bulgarian insurrection actually broke out just three days before the killing of the consuls in Salonica; rumours of the rising had reached the city, together with reports of outrages on Muslim villagers and of plans to drive them from their homes. At one point the authorities feared that Salonica’s Christians too would rise to prompt a Russian advance on the city itself, and the Vali warned he would quell any insurrection in the harshest manner. “I know him to be of the party in Turkey,” wrote the British consul, “who believe the Eastern Question can only be solved by the destruction, or at least the expatriation of all Christians from the European provinces of Turkey, and replacing them by Circassians and colonists from Asia.”

The spectacle of vast forced movements of populations crisscrossing the region was no fantasy. While the eyes of Europe were fixed—thanks to Gladstone’s loud condemnation of the “Bulgarian horrors”—on the Christian victims of the war, thousands of Muslim refugees from Bosnia, Bulgaria and the Russian army were headed south. Added to those who had earlier fled the Russians in the Caucasus—somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 Circassians and Nogai Tatars had arrived in the empire between 1856 and 1864—the refugee influx which accompanied the waning of Ottoman power was well and truly under way. A Commission for the Settlement of Refugees was created, and the figures provided by this organization show that more than half a million refugees crossed into the empire between 1876 and 1879 alone.

In January 1878, the Porte ordered the governor of Salonica to find lodging for fifty thousand throughout the province. The following month it was reported that “the whole country is full of Circassian families, fleeing from the Russian army and the Servians, in long lines of carts … panic-stricken, they strive to embark for Asia Minor and Syria.” While Albanian Ghegs and uprooted Nogai Tatars settled around the town, thousands more left weekly on steamers bound for Smyrna and Beirut. Many of these refugees had been settled in the Bulgarian lands only a decade earlier; now for a second time they were being uprooted because of Russian military action. Destitute, exploited by local land-owners, many—especially Circassian—men formed robber bands, and became a byword for crime in the region. Two years after the end of hostilities, there were still more than three thousand refugees, many suffering from typhus or smallpox, receiving relief in the city, and another ten thousand in the vicinity. The Mufti of Skopje estimated that a total of seventy thousand were still in need of subsistence in the Sandjak of Pristina. By 1887, so many immigrants from the lost provinces had moved to Salonica that house rents there had risen appreciably.

The political outlook for Ottoman rule in European Turkey was grim. Only Western intervention had saved the empire from defeat at the hands of the Russian army; the consequent losses in Europe were great. The powers openly discussed the future carve-up of further territories, and Austrians, Bulgarians and Greeks fixed their eyes on Salonica. As discussions began at the Congress of Berlin on the territorial settlement, one observer underlined the need for a further sweeping reform of Ottoman institutions and the creation of an “impartial authority” to govern what was left. In view of the patchy record of the past forty years’ reform efforts, few would have given the imperial system long to live. Indeed many expected its imminent collapse, especially after the youthful Sultan Abdul Hamid suspended the new constitution barely two years after it had been unveiled. But they had to wait longer than they thought. The empire had another few decades of life left, and in that time Salonica itself prospered, grew and changed its appearance more radically than ever before.

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Belated Ottoman Religious Reform

From Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, 1430-1950, by Mark Mazower (Vintage, 2006), pp. 152-153:

In 1851 Christian testimony was admitted in a local criminal court for the first time, but it was not for another decade that it was given decisive weight when contradicted by Muslim witnesses. “Are we the masters of this empire or not?” demanded some of the beys, protesting on the “part of Islamism” against the constant infringement by foreign powers of the “rights of the Turkish nation.” A visiting dervish preached that Europe was “devoted to the extermination of Muslims,” and claimed that the sultan, by giving in to their demands, had shown himself to be no more than a gavur. “Let us massacre the infidels whom the Prophet and our first Sultans conquered,” he went on, “And then we will go throughout Frenghistan [the land of the Franks] sword in hand, and all will be well with us.” When Abdul Mecid died in 1861, the view in the local coffeehouses was that he had been “too favourably disposed to Christians,” and many of Salonica’s Muslims, including highly placed functionaries, openly hoped that his successor would bring back the janissaries and revoke the reforms.

This did not happen. Instead the number of non-Muslims in the civil service rose, and in 1868 a Council of State with non-Muslim members was created. In the provinces progress was slower: as late as 1867, justice in Salonica was still loaded against non-Muslims, taxes remained inequitable and the clause relating to Christians being appointed to official positions remained a “dead letter.” Ibrahim Bey, the mufti, resisted reform of the local courts, and as he was very popular among the poorer Muslims of the city, Salonica’s governors hesitated to take him on. But the lead from the top was clear: the Porte instructed Salonica’s mollah to speak respectfully when he addressed the Greek metropolitan, and to refer politely to the “Christian” religion. “Looking at things reasonably,” wrote the British ambassador, Sir Henry Bulwer in 1864, “it is but just to observe that this government is about the most tolerant in Europe.”

The old ideology of the sultan as Defender of the Faith was now no longer appropriate for the new-look empire. It was supplanted by a new creed of Ottomanism, an allegiance to the dynasty itself that supposedly crossed religious boundaries. As the government gazette for the province declared in May 1876:

Even though for centuries among us there has not existed something we might call public opinion, on account of our different religions, nonetheless Ottomans, Christians, Jews and in a word all those bearing the name of Osmanli and living under the sceptre of His Imperial Excellency have lived as faithful subjects of all ranks, as patriots and as a single unit of nationalities, each lending a helping hand to the other as brothers, none ever daring to attack the honour, property, life or religious customs of the other, and everyone enjoying complete freedom in the exercise of his social privileges.

The new policy was underlined in religious holidays and official ceremonies. After the Ottoman fleet arrived in port, Greek priests from the city performed mass for its Christian sailors in the Beshchinar gardens, and Turkish naval officers complimented the archbishop on a “very appropriate sermon.” When the chief rabbi Raphael Ascher Covo died at the end of 1874 after twenty-six years in office, his funeral was attended by the staff of the governor, the president of the town council, the Greek archbishop, consuls and other notables: the procession was “one of the largest ever witnessed in European Turkey.” All shops were closed, Jewish firemen in the service of the North British and Mercantile Insurance companies provided the guard of honour lining the streets, and bells were rung as the bier passed the Orthodox cathedral.” A century earlier, such an occasion would have been inconceivable.

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Rise and Fall of the Nutmeg Monopoly

From The Spice Islands Voyage: The Quest for Alfred Wallace, the Man Who Shared Darwin’s Discovery of Evolution, by Tim Severin (Carroll & Graf, 1997), pp. 117-119:

The conditions of soil and climate on Banda were so perfect for nutmeg trees that most of the trees were planted naturally by the same species of Tine and very handsome fruit pigeons’ which Wallace observed. These birds had such a wide-opening beak that they could swallow an entire nutmeg fruit and pass the round seed undamaged through the gut, so that it grew where it fell. The labourers had to keep the saplings free of weeds, tend the tall kenari trees which provided essential shade for the nutmeg trees, and pick the fruit. Obligingly, in that warm equatorial climate, the nutmegs gave their crop all year long. It is calculated that, in nearly two centuries of colonial rule, Holland produced a billion guilders’ worth of these spices from their tiny Banda holdings. The income from the Banda spice monopoly so dominated Dutch foreign policy that Holland offered the island of Manhattan to the British if they would drop their claim to the minuscule islet of Run in the Bandas barely three kilometres long and one and a half kilometres wide. Even more remarkably, Run itself grew no nutmeg trees. The Dutch ripped them up in order to concentrate virtually the entire world production of nutmeg and mace on the other Bandas.

Slavery in the Dutch Indies was not abolished until 1862, so there must have been slaves on Banda when Wallace visited there in the late 1800s. Yet he says nothing about them and – astonishingly for an Owenite socialist – he voiced his strong approval of the Dutch system of monopoly plantation though he knew this opinion would raise hackles in Victorian England. State monopolies, he argued, were the only way for a colony to be viable. The mother country had to find some way of paying the huge cost of its colonial efforts, bringing education, peace and a ‘civilising influence’ to unruly native peoples, and if the state controlled a lucrative monopoly, that cost could be met. It was far better, Wallace argued, for the state to reap the profits than to allow the local economy to pass into the hands of private businesses, who would exploit the natives and give nothing in return. The only condition which Wallace put forward was that the monopoly should be of a product not essential to the natives, who must be able to live without it. In this respect, of course, nutmeg was ideal; it was a luxury, not a subsistence food.

In truth, by Wallace’s time the state’s monopoly in nutmeg was in tatters. Nutmegs were being grown illegally elsewhere in the Moluccas, and the French had established nutmeg plantations in Mauritius, using seeds smuggled in from the Spice Islands. Corruption had been so widespread among the superintending officials in Banda and Amsterdam that tight control of the nutmeg trade was a sham. The Dutch authorities abandoned the system within a decade of Wallace’s visit, and handed over ownership of Banda’s nutmeg gardens to the perkiniers, the planters who had previously held them on licence. They in their turn would go under, unable to survive in world competition. The nutmeg plantations fell into neglect and Banda began a long, slow slide into obscurity while, ironically, the impoverished planters came to be replaced by a new generation of Bandanese orang kaya who re-established the age-old trade links. Twenty years after Wallace’s visit, the wealthiest man on the islands was a Javanese Arab trader, Bin Saleh Baadilla, who traded in pearls and bird products. His warehouse contained skins of Birds of Paradise prepared by the natives of Kai, Aru and New Guinea, as well as the feathers of other exotic and coloured species from the rainforest. Where his predecessors had sent the bird-skins to decorate the fans and turbans of a few Indian and Malay potentates, Bin Saleh now had a larger and more voracious market. He shipped his bird-skins to the milliners of Europe, who at the peak of the fashion craze were said to be importing 50,000 bird-skins a year to provide decorations for ladies’ hats.

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