Tag: 20th Century History

Rubber in Liberia

 

In the first decades of the 20th century, rubber changed from a material that was a sometime useful curiosity into a vital strategic asset. This was especially true in the heavily-industrialized United States, with a massive demand for rubber in both transportation and industry.  The problem was the United States controlled no sources of rubber. Every pound came from foreign countries or colonies controlled by foreign countries.

“Empire of Rubber: Firestone’s Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia,” by Greg Mitmann tells of one US attempt to circumvent that shortfall. It relates how Firestone, a US company, with the support of the US government established and ran rubber plantations in Liberia between the 1920s and the 1980s.

Liberia an independent nation on Africa’s Slave Coast was established in 1822 by the United States. One of three independent nations in Africa in 1920, it was not a colony. It was settled by free blacks from the United States, part of an effort to solve the US’s slave issue by returning blacks to Africa. Its historic ties with the United States made it an ideal choice for “American” rubber.

Young Northern Irishman Cameron Hilditch returns to the show to swat away resurgent fantasies about 20th-century Portugese dictator Antonio Salazar.

President and First Lady Honor Korean War Fallen

 

The Korean War began 70 years ago, June 25, 1950. The coldest war in the Cold War never ended, settling into ceasefires and an armistice that never led to a peace treaty. This June 25, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump went to the Korean War Memorial.

They laid a wreath, Taps was played, then they greeted the South Korean ambassador and his wife, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and a small group of Korean War veterans. While there were no handshakes, and distance was maintained in this outdoor setting, no one was covering their face and the old warriors sat and stood shoulder-to-shoulder.

Countering Domestic Spies and Saboteurs in WWII

 

The Duke of Windsor was rumored to have been a Nazi collaborator, supposedly on their list to take Great Britain’s throne when the Nazis conquered Britain. He was not alone.

Hitler’s Secret Army: A Hidden History of Spies, Saboteurs, and Traitors in World War II, by Tim Tate reveals pro-Nazi collaboration was widespread in Britain before and during World War II. The rot of fascism pervaded England’s best and beautiful.

The existence of a British Fifth Column has long been held wartime scaremongering. Tate reexamined the issue using Home Office and Treasury Solicitor files declassified between 2000 and 2017. These records expose a widespread network of espionage, sabotage, and subversion conducted by British subjects during World War II.

Book Review: ‘Last Train’ Details Fascination with Railroads

 

Railroading was the great romantic adventure of the 19th century. By the 20th, although every boy seemed to go through a phase where railroading was mesmerizing, trains soon lost their place to aircraft, automobiles and spacecraft. Yet some boys kept their enchantment with railroads, and railroads remain a critical artery to our 21st-century economy.

“Last Train to Texas: My Personal Railroad Odyssey,” by Fred W. Frailey, illustrates both. Frailey was obsessed with railroads as a child and maintains that interest to this day.

He turned his obsession into a career, without ever working for a railroad, transforming a journalism career into one focusing on railroading. He documented the modern railroad industry’s impact on the nation over the last half-century in the business press and Trains magazine.

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In 2015, I reviewed Hans Fallada’s great novel of the late Weimar era, Little Man, What Now?   Today’s review is of another Fallada novel, this one set earlier in Weimar, during the time of the great–insane–inflation. Wolf Among Wolves tells the story of a collapsing society through the intertwined lives of many characters, who include: […]

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I expect we will hear more from the ethnic supremacy people sooner rather than later, so I would like to get the best arguments to tear apart antisemitism & holocaust denial.  I may not want to cancel them, but I have no support for their insanity.  My preferences are for right wing critiques. I wonder […]

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Autumn Colors: The Color of Law, an in-depth review

 

When people are free to associate as they please, we can’t be surprised if they sometimes self-segregate. People self-sort along many affinities, including ethnic affinities. This is what lawyers call de facto segregation, and it’s none of the law’s business. De jure segregation — segregation imposed by law, including segregation promoted by public policy — is, on the other hand, very much the law’s business.

In 1866, Congress passed a Civil Rights Act (the 1866 CRA) asserting the equal rights of blacks before the law, including property rights, and real-estate rights in particular. The 1866 CRA warned

Photographs and Memories

 

Scrolling through the scanned images from many years of 35mm manual camera photography, I ran across this image. It was one of my better shots from my first military assignment, in Bavaria, West Germany. But who was that young officer doing a standing backflip under the elevated barrel of a King Tiger tank? I had not spoken with him since I left Germany in the spring of 1990, and his name had faded from memory. A bit of poking around the internet answered that question and filled in a vague memory with surprising detail.

When I reported to my officer basic course at Fort Bliss, Texas, I saved my modest pay until I could buy a good basic 35 mm camera kit. I bought a Pentax K1000 camera. Knowing I would be shooting film on the go, my hands often occupied with a map, mike, or machine gun, I went with a compromise lens, an aspherical 28-200mm wide to telephoto lens. That lens stood me in good stead through about seven years of active service, until I busted some pin or ring when I tossed the camera into a back seat.

In an age before cell phone cameras, most consumers either had a real 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera or some form of disposable camera with very limited capability. So, I tended to be the guy behind the lens. During an official goof off officer professional development weekend, a paid field trip with our senior officers effectively chaperoning us young’uns, we happened to stop at this scene.

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In the glorious lull between the end of exams and the arrival of two friends from the States for an extended visit (I am simultaneously a kid in a candy shop, over the moon excited to see the friends that I haven’t seen in so many months and already exhausted by preparations), I have been […]

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(Author’s Warning: This is a long-ish piece, representing a lot of ideas brewing in my mind over the last several weeks.  Having recently started both a) graduate school and b) coaching a 13-14 Fall Baseball team, my time to post to Ricochet has been virtually nil.  So ideas and concerns built up over time.  This is […]

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Living in a college town, I’m friends with a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters. Watching them go crazy on Facebook is a daily source of entertainment. When the Congressional Black Caucus PAC (separate from the CBC) recently endorsed Clinton, their spokesman John Lewis stated that Sanders didn’t have a good record on civil rights in […]

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In my post about Freya Stark’s book A Winter In Arabia, I said that I would make a separate post discussing the colonial administration as it was portrayed in the book. Harold Ingrams and his wife Doreen were the colonial administrators assigned to the Hadhramaut and were headquartered in Al-Mukalla on the coast. At this time, […]

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 In 1937, three British women went on an expedition (encompassing archaeology, among other things) into the Hadhramaut region of Yemen (at that time, part of the East Aden Protectorate). One of them, Dame Freya Stark, wrote a book about it titled A Winter in Arabia: A Journey Through Yemen. I read it recently, and thought […]

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Forty years ago, Spanish Sahara was one of the few remaining European colonies in Africa. The king of Morocco believed that the Sahrawi tribes owed him a historical allegiance, so he was determined that the territory would be reunited with Morocco during decolonization, rather than becoming independent or being annexed by another country such as […]

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What Makes Men Good?

 

shutterstock_105095180Nothing. If history has taught us anything, it is that mankind excels at doing bad while pretending to be noble and otherwise.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but the last century has proved beyond doubt that human beings are not getting better. In fact, the opposite has occurred: we’ve regressed. The myth of progress be damned and forgotten evermore. Sure the last century saw many positive examples of growth – technology and applied science come to mind. And, yes, this growth has been at an unprecedented level too – since 1915 we have had the invention or upgrading of planes, automobiles, vaccines, indoor plumbing, freezers, dishwashers, modern medical advances such as the heart transplant and chemotherapy, television, radio, mobile phones, satellites, and the computer. I could go on and on, but I shall stop where I am. Human technology and its use has been a definite benefit.

But the story of the last century encompasses much more then the good uses of technology. it also saw the rise of three totalitarian threats (the legacies of which are still with us), which nearly wiped out all life on earth; two unbelievably destructive great world wars; genocides (I use the plural because even in our “enlightened age” they occur still); mass torture; starvation; a Cold War (that included multiple actual wars); the unleashing of political tyrannies never seen before, whose great claim was making many of their subjects never to be seen again; the rise of police states to a level Orwell could not envision; biological warfare; chemical warfare; poison gas; gulags; concentration camps; the emergence of religious violence and the deaths of 200 million people. More people died in the 20th century from secular regimes than all the wars in history up until that point.