White Man’s Grave: the relationship between colonialism and wealth

It is popularly asserted that many countries became wealthy via colonialism, essentially sucking the wealth out of other countries. This claim ignores the fact that many countries that did little to no colonizing, like the US and Germany, are richer today than countries that did extensive colonizing, like Spain and Britain.

It sounds to me like the claim is backwards. Colonialism doesn’t make countries wealthy; wealth makes countries able to have colonies.

Colonies, on net, probably lose money. I don’t have a definitive cite for this and frankly, if I did, I’d be cherry-picking because I’m sure there were colonies that did make money and there are studies that show a variety of outcomes for different countries, especially given that the term “colonialism” covers a lot of different things.

Here’s an example from one article discussing the issue:

Conversely, John Keynes believed British savings would have been better employed at home in creating jobs and modernizing the capital stock of the British economy2. Marseille 1984, Davis and Huttenback 1986, Patrick O’Brien (1988), Fitzgerald 1988 and ForemanPeck 1989 followed this idea and provided evidence that colonization was costly to imperial economies. They made three arguments: first, public investments in the colonies were burdensome for French and British taxpayers3; second, the mainland private sector suffered because some private investment was diverted towards the colonies and earned lower than expected returns; and third, colonial trade led to lower productivity gains due to a lack of competition and colonial protectionism. (Marseille 1984 and O’Brien 1988). …

3 Davis and Huttenbach 1986 argue that British taxes would have been 20 percent less in the absence of empire because the United Kingdom bore most of the defense costs of the British Empire; Marseille 1984 estimates that the investment in public financial assets in the colonies amounted to 7 percent of metropolitan public
expenditures in the 1910’s, and 4 percent from 1947 to 1958; Marseille 1996 estimates that the trade deficit compensated by France’s public subsidies to the colonies represented 8-9 percent of metropolitan expenditure in the 1920s and from 1945 to 1962.

The authors of this study claim that Spain was economically retarded by its colonies.

The British also paid to enforce the ban on slave trading across the Atlantic:

For 60 years after the 1807 act, the Royal Navy was used to enforce the British ban by shutting down the slave trade routes and seizing slave ships at sea. The West Africa Squadron patrolled the seas liberating around 150,000 enslaved Africans. The majority of the British Slave Trade was suppressed very rapidly, but as the British ships withdrew from trading the French, followed by the Spanish and Portuguese, took their place. After 1815, with Europe finally at peace, British supremacy at sea was secured, but, even with a powerful navy, suppressing the trade proved difficult, dangerous and very costly.

It was a huge task requiring co-operation from the governments of all the countries involved. Heavy subsidies were paid to induce other countries to curtail their involvement through anti-slavery treaties with Britian. Smaller amounts were also paid to numerous African chiefs to cease their involvement. The cost of maintaining the British squadron was also high. Initially ships operated out of the Cape of Good Hope but in 1819 a separate West Coast of Africa Station was created. By 1825 there were seven ships on station, manned by around 660 men. This grew to around 25 vessels by 1845 manned by around 2000 British sailors and nearly 1,000 ‘Kroomen’, experienced African fishermen.

Let’s see if we can find some numbers:

In this article we develop a theory of costly international moral action by investigating the most expensive example recorded in modern history: Britain’s effort to suppress the Atlantic slave trade from 1807 until final success in 1867. Britain carried out this effort despite its domination of both the slave trade and world sugar production, which was based on slave labor. In 1805-1806 the value of British West Indian sugar production equaled about 4% of the national income of Great Britain. Its efforts to suppress the slave trade sacrificed these interests, brought the country into conflict with the other Atlantic maritime powers, and cost Britain more than five thousand lives as well as an average nearly 2 percent of national income annually for sixty years.

Lack of money is commonly cited as a reason for decolonization, eg:

The emergence of indigenous bourgeois elites was especially characteristic of the British Empire, which seemed less capable (or less ruthless) in controlling political nationalism. Driven by pragmatic demands of budgets and manpower the British made deals with the nationalist elites.

Further, we note that the end of colonialism did not cause nations like Britain and France to economically collapse:

John Kenneth Galbraith argues that the post–World War II decolonisation was brought about for economic reasons. In A Journey Through Economic Time, he writes:

“The engine of economic well-being was now within and between the advanced industrial countries. Domestic economic growth – as now measured and much discussed – came to be seen as far more important than the erstwhile colonial trade…. The economic effect in the United States from the granting of independence to the Philippines was unnoticeable, partly due to the Bell Trade Act, which allowed American monopoly in the economy of the Philippines. The departure of India and Pakistan made small economic difference in the United Kingdom. Dutch economists calculated that the economic effect from the loss of the great Dutch empire in Indonesia was compensated for by a couple of years or so of domestic post-war economic growth. The end of the colonial era is celebrated in the history books as a triumph of national aspiration in the former colonies and of benign good sense on the part of the colonial powers. Lurking beneath, as so often happens, was a strong current of economic interest – or in this case, disinterest.”

In general, the release of the colonised caused little economic loss to the colonisers. Part of the reason for this was that major costs were eliminated while major benefits were obtained by alternate means. Decolonisation allowed the coloniser to disclaim responsibility for the colonised. The coloniser no longer had the burden of obligation, financial or otherwise, to their colony. However, the coloniser continued to be able to obtain cheap goods and lobar as well as economic benefits (see Suez Canal Crisis) from the former colonies. Financial, political and military pressure could still be used to achieve goals desired by the coloniser. Thus decolonisation allowed the goals of colonisation to be largely achieved, but without its burdens.

Weirdly, the arguments in favor of colonialism are often framed in terms of “burdens” that whites ought to undertake. West Africa became known colloquially as “the white man’s grave” because so many died there, eg:

To expand on this: in the Orkneys, the land was rather barren; there were no trees because there were always gales blowing, but that didn’t bother me, I enjoyed it there, I wished I could have done my entire service there, but I couldn’t. I had to go to West Africa, which was known as ‘White Man’s Grave’, which it is. Anyone who stays there for five years can expect to have something radically wrong with them afterwards, because of the climate etc.

Another account:

The doctor, Harold Tweedy then found that I had blackwater fever, sleeping sickness, from the bite of the tsetse fly, and malaria, all together. … They thought that I was going to die so for good measure John Busby gave me an injection of triparcimide. This was specific against the sleeping sickness which normally requires a prolonged course of treatment, but in a miraculous manner the blackwater fever seemed to evaporate and the fevers subsided. I was very weak and yet I felt remarkably better and in a week I was put in a hammock and taken down to the sea-shore and carried through the water to a launch. The Paramount Chief and his Tribal Authority stood in the water to bid me farewell and I remember leaning out of the hammock to shake the chiefs hand and say to him that I would be back to talk that alleged murder case and other things. …

It was evening and as the sun went down over the sea as one looked westward I noticed the phenomenon of the green flash, an optical illusion which one sometimes saw. In the morning I was feeling all right but an orderly brought me some tea. It was dark. He then came to shave me; it was still dark. I just thought they started early here. Then he brought me some breakfast; it was still dark. I asked him the time. It was 8 a.m. when the sun was well up and I could not see it. I had gone blind overnight.  

(Note that none of this is arguing that colonialism was a net gain for the colonized. It is entirely possible for something to be a net loss for everyone involved.)

As for wealth allowing colonization:

According to the data gathered by Professor Angus Maddison in The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, in 1600 India’s per capita GDP was $550 (1990 dollar levels), which remained the same for nearly a hundred and fifty years (the period of Mughal decline), and was slightly lower at $540 by the time the British became politically active in India in the 1750s.  …

At the same time the British per capita GDP increased from $974 in 1600, to $1250 in 1700, $1424 in 1757,

In other words, India economically stagnated while Britain was zooming forward just before Britain colonized India.

So why colonize at all?

I propose that colonizing is akin to gambling. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. If you can do it with someone else’s money, all the better. Some people love to gamble and will keep doing it for years. But in the long run, the house always wins.

“Colonialism will make us lots of money” sounds great, and clearly lots of people believe it. More likely, though, colonialism made some people a lot of money at the expense of a lot of other people losing money. So long as a country has lots of money to throw around or bad accounting, they can keep going, but eventually, repeat losers face insolvency and have to stop.

Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara, pt. 2/3

16445980Today we are continuing with Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara. Oddly, the volume I am reading ends with his arrival in Lahore, which is quite a distance from Bokhara. His actual expedition to Bokhara must be in a different volume; I’ll let you know next week if I find it.

As usual, I am using “” instead of block quotes for readability and trying to correct for any mistakes in the scanning, but unfamiliar words (chiefly ethnonyms) make this difficult.

“The population chiefly consists of the pastoral tribe of Katha, or Jun, who are so called from their living an erratic life, “Jun” having that signification: few of them are found at any distance from the rivers but in the rainy season. They have immense herds of buffaloes and camels, from the milk of which they derive sustenance; hardly cultivating the soil, though some tolerable fields of tobacco, raised by irrigation, may be seen near their habitations.”

EvX: The text here says “Kattia,” but this is most likely a transcription error, as “h” is often turned into “ti,” and I haven’t found any evidence of a “Kattia” tribe, but Kathia is a last name found among Gujarati and Punjabi peoples.

Scene in Kathawar: Travelers and Escort
Scene in Kathawar: Travelers and Escort

“They are a tall and handsome race, which may be attributed to a rule among them, prohibiting marriages before their females attain the age of twenty years: they believe that the children of an early union, so common among every other Indian tribe, are puny and unhealthy. These Katha are a predatory and warlike race: few of them are free from scars and wounds. They extend from the banks of the Hydaspes across the deserts to Delhi, and are the aborigines of this country.”

EvX: Wikipedia claims:

The Kathia are a Muslim tribe classified as Rajput, who claim descent from Parmara Rajputs, found in Punjab, Pakistan. According to the Census of India 1931, their male population numbered about 200,000. …

According to their traditions, the Kathia are descended from the legendary Rajah Karan of the Mahabharat.Originally they resided in Bikaner, whence they migrated and founded the state of Kathiawar, which takes its name from the Kathia tribe, and is in modern day Gujerat State of India. From there they went to Sirsa and then Bahawalpur. In this migration, they were accompanied by a few families of the Baghela tribe. Next they crossed over to Kabula stream and went on to Daira Dinpanah. From this place they spread over to Kamalia. The Kathia, like other Neeli Bar tribes were pastoralist.

Gold coin of Diodotus, Bactrian Empire, c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – "(of) King Diodotus".
Gold coin of Diodotus, Bactrian Empire, c. 245 BC. The Greek inscription reads: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΔΙΟΔΟΤΟΥ – “(of) King Diodotus”.

“At Shorcote I had the good fortune to procure a variety of coins, which I long believed to be Hindoo; but my surmise regarding the antiquity of the spot received a strong and satisfactory confirmation through the intelligence of the able secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, — Mr. James Prinsep. That gentlemen discovered it to be a Bactrian coin, resembling that of an Appolodotus, and shaped like a Menander, — two coins of the Bactrian monarchs, found by Colonel J. Tod, and engraved in the transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society. The Greek word Bazileos may be read; and I had, therefore, to congratulate myself on having, in my journey to the Hydaspes, found the first Grecian relic in the Punjab. …”

Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom circa 180 BC
Map of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, circa 180 BC

EvX: Wikipedia notes:

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was – along with the Indo-Greek Kingdom – the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC. It was centered on the north of present-day Afghanistan. The expansion of the Greco-Bactrians into present-day northern India and Pakistan from 180 BC established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which was to last until around 10 AD.[1][2][3]

Dugong
Dugong–bolun?

“Among the inhabitants of the river itself, a creature called “bolun” was the most remarkable. We saw several of them in the mouth of the Ravee, which were of a black colour, and rolled like the porpoise. The natives class this fish with the alligator, and say it has four small paws, and a long snout like a pig. Its habits do not lead it on shore, and it lives on small fish. The large alligator is unknown here ; but the long-nosed reptile called “ghuryal” abounds. There is said to be a singular creature, called ‘* thundwa,” in this river, which is described as of the turtle species, and to have a string in its mouth, by which it can entangle a man, or even an elephant. It is mentioned in the Shasters as having seized the elephant of a god.

gharial
gharial

EvX: I’ve found nothing so far on this “bolun,” but I suspect it may have been a dugong, a relative of the manatee, which lives in coastal waters throughout the Indian Ocean including western India (though not, currently, off the coast of Pakistan.) Gharials, at least, are well-documented.

“It was a source of no small amusement to watch the love of gossip among the natives of our suite. We had a reporter sent purposely from the Court, who daily despatched an account of our employment and rides: the news-writer of Mooltan followed us from that city, and every day transmitted a Gazette. I had also letters from the news-writer at Lahore, giving me a precis of local news, and asking for a morceau in return. Our Dewan corresponded with the Chevaliers Ventura and Allard; and I was somewhat surprized to receive answers to many of my enquiries regarding the country from the former gentleman, to whom their subject had been communicated without my knowledge. Nothing, however, could exceed the politeness of all the people towards us, and the ready and happy manner they acceded to our wishes made us careful to wish for any thing.”

EvX: Wikipedia defines “Dewan“:

The originally Persian title of dewan (also quite commonly known as Diwan; also spelled -van) has, at various points in Islamic history, designated a powerful government official, minister or ruler. … The word is Persian in origin, and was loaned into Arabic. The original meaning was “bundle (of written sheets)”, hence “book”, especially “book of accounts,” and hence “office of accounts,” “custom house,” “council chamber”. The meaning divan “long, cushioned seat” is due to such seats having been found along the walls in Middle Eastern council chambers.[1]

The Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro
Mohenjo-daro, an IVC city laid out similarly to Harappa

“About fifty miles eastward of Toolumba, I passed inland [number transcribed incorrectly] miles to examine the ruins of an ancient city, called Harapa. The remains are extensive, and the place, which has been built of brick, is about three miles in circumference. There is a ruined citadel on the river side of the town; but otherwise Harapa is a perfect chaos, and has not an entire building ; the bricks have been removed to build a small place of the old name hard by. Tradition fixes the fall of Harapa at the same period as Shorkote (1300 years ago), …”

Wikipedia, again:

[Harappa] is believed to have had as many as 23,500 residents and occupied about 150 hectares (370 acres) with clay sculptured houses at its greatest extent during the Mature Harappan phase (2600–1900 BC), which is considered large for its time.[2][3] Per archaeological convention of naming a previously unknown civilization by its first excavated site, the Indus Valley Civilization is also called the Harappan Civilization.

(See also my post on the Indus Valley Civilization.)

I’m going to pause here, but I’ll leave you with a preview for next week:

The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Lahore, houses the funerary urns of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 - 1839).
The Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, Lahore, houses the funerary urns of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839).

Sikhs got pretty buildings. I hear they have nice food, too.

Anthropology Friday: Travels into Bokhara (pt.1/3)

16445980In search of something new and different (but actually old,) and not set practically within shouting range of the previous two books, I decided on a whim to pick up Capt. Alexander Burnes’s Travels into Bokhara: Being an account of a Journey from India to Cabool, Tartary and Persia. Also, narrative of a Voyage on the Indus from the Sea to Lahore, published in 1834. According to Wikipedia:

At the age of sixteen, Alexander joined the army of the East India Company and while serving in India, he learned Hindi and Persian, and obtained an appointment as interpreter at Surat in 1822. Transferred to Kutch in 1826 as assistant to the political agent, he took an interest in the history and geography of north-western India and the adjacent countries, which had not yet been thoroughly explored by the British, then he went to Afghanistan. …

His proposal in 1829 to undertake a journey of exploration through the valley of the Indus River was approved and in 1831 his and Henry Pottinger‘s surveys of the Indus river would prepare the way for a future assault on the Sind to clear a path towards Central Asia.[3] In the same year he arrived in Lahore with a present of horses from King William IV to MaharajaRanjit Singh. The British claimed that the horses would not survive the overland journey, so they were allowed to transport the horses up the Indus and used the opportunity to secretly survey the river. In the following years, in company with Mohan Lal, his travels continued through Afghanistan across the Hindu Kush to Bukhara (in what is modern Uzbekistan) and Persia.

The narrative[4] which he published on his visit to England in 1834 added immensely to contemporary knowledge of these countries, and was one of the most popular books of the time.

The book reads like excerpts from Burnes’s personal journal, edited for interest. It is sorely in need of illustrations (or at least, the version on the internet does; perhaps the original had some that weren’t uploaded,) so I’m going to try to add some. It’s been difficult picking which parts to excerpt, so I make no guarantees that I’ve picked the best or most important bits. As usual, I am using “” instead of blockquotes for readability.

Map of "Hindoostan" from the 1830s
Map of “Hindoostan” from the 1830s. Cutch–now Kutch–is part of the modern district of Gujarat; on the map it is the pink bit on the north-west coast, just south of the main mouths of the Indus.

“Among the timid navigators of the East, the Ability of mariner of Cutch is truly adventurous; he voyages to Arabia, the Red Sea, and the coast of Zanguebar in Africa, bravely stretching out on the ocean after quitting his native shore. The “moallim” or pilot determines his position by an altitude at noon or by the stars at night, with a rude quadrant. Coarse charts depict to him the bearings of his destination, and, by long-tried seamanship, he weathers, in an undecked boat with a huge lateen sail, the dangers and tornadoes of the Indian Ocean. This use of the quadrant was taught by a native of Cutch, who made a voyage to Holland in the middle of last century, and returned, “in a green old age,” to enlighten his country with the arts and sciences of Europe. … For a trifling reward, a Cutch mariner will put to sea in the rainy season, and the adventurous feeling is encouraged by the Hindoo merchants of Mandivee, an enterprising and speculating body of men. …

Ruined Shiva Temple from Kera, Kutch
Ruined Shiva Temple from Kera, Kutch

“There are many spots on [the river’s] banks hallowed in the estimation of the people. Cotasir and Narainseer are places of pilgrimage to the Hindoo, and stand upon it and the western promontory of Cutch. Opposite them lies the cupola of Rao Kanoje, beneath which there rests a saint, revered by the Mahommedans. To defraud this personage of frankincense, grain, oil, and money, in navigating the Koree, would entail, it is superstitiously believed, certain shipwreck. In the reverence we recognise the dangers and fear of the mariner. There is a great contrast between the shores of Sinde and Cutch; the one is flat and depressed, nearly to a level with the sea, while the hills of Cutch rise in wild and volcanic cones, which meet the eye long after the coast has faded from the view.”

EvX: This is one of those places where ethnonymic shift makes my work difficult. You try Googling “Cotasir” or “Rao Kanoje” and see if you find any information about these places.

“Rao” appears to be a noble title, and I have found a “Rao Khengarji” who was the “first Rao of Cutch,” but Wikipedia has no pictures. So I have picked a picture of a ruined Hindu temple from the area that might be relevant.

Jadeja Chief in Kutch attire, 1838
Jadeja Chief in Kutch attire, 1838

Burnes then quotes from Quintus Curtius on the surprising tides:

“About the third hour, the ocean, according to a regular alternation, began to flow in furiously, driving back the river. The river, at first, resisted; then impressed with a new force, rushed upwards with more impetuosity than torrents descend a precipitous channel. The mass on board, unacquainted with the nature of the tide, saw only prodigies and symbols of the wrath of the gods. Ever and anon the sea swelled; and on plains, recently dry, descended a diffused flood. The vessels lifted from their stations, and the whole fleet dispersed; those who had debarked, in terror and astonishment at the calamity, ran from all quarters towards the ships. … Vessels dash together, and oars are by turns snatched away, to impel other galleys. A spectator would not imagine a fleet carrying the same army; but hostile navies commencing a battle. * * * * Now the tide had inundated all the fields skirting the river, only tops of knolls rising above it like little islands ; to these, from the evacuated ships, the majority swam in consternation. The dispersed fleet was partly riding in deep water, where the land was depressed into dells; and partly resting on shoals, where the tide had covered elevated ground; suddenly breaks on the Macedonians a new alarm more vivid than the former. The sea began to ebb; the deluge, with a violent drain, to retreat into the fritli,* disclosing tracts just before deeply buried. Unbayed, the ships pitched some upon their prows, others upon their sides.”

Deshalji II, Rao of Kutch, 1819-1860
Deshalji II, Rao of Kutch, 1819-1860

*EvX: fritli is likely a word that was incorrectly rendered when the book was digitized–I suspect it means “froth”.

“The fields were strewed with baggage, arms, loose planks, and fragments of oars. The soldiers scarcely believed what they suffered and witnessed. Shipwrecks on dry land, the sea in a river. Nor yet ended their unhappiness; for ignorant that the speedy return of the tide would set their ships afloat, they predicted to themselves famine and death.”

EvX: At any rate, they try to get permission to head up the river, but are turned back.

“…here our civilities ended. By the way we were met by several “dingies” full of armed men, and at night were hailed by one of them, to know how many troops we had on board. We replied, that we had not even a musket. “The evil is done,” rejoined a rude Belooche soldier, “you have seen our country; but we have four thousand men ready for action!” To this vain-glorious observation succeeded torrents of abuse; and when we reached the mouth of the river, the party fired their matchlocks over us…”

“On the 10th of February we again set sail for Sinde; but at midnight, on the 14th, were overtaken by a fearful tempest, which scattered our little fleet. Two of the vessels were dismasted; we lost our small boat, split our sails, sprung a leak; and, after being buffeted about for some days by the fury of the winds and waves, succeeded in getting an observation of the sun, which enabled us to steer our course, and finally conducted us in safety to Sinde. One of the other four boats alone followed us. …”

EvX: After much negotiation, (including being told that the river is only a few feet deep,) Burnes is finally allowed to take his boats up the Indus. Burnes complains about the duplicitousness of the Ameer of Sind, who was afraid that Burnes was essentially a spy and would use information he gathered about the Indus to help the British invade–which is, of course, exactly what happened. Even if the Ameer was impolite, he was also correct.

A tomb at Makli Hills necropolis, Thatta, built in 1559. Wikipedia claims Thatta's nickname is "The city of silence."
A tomb at Makli Hills necropolis, Thatta, built in 1559. Wikipedia claims Thatta’s nickname is “The city of silence.”

“A week’s stay was agreeably spent in examining Tatta and the objects of curiosity which surround it. The city stands at a distance of three miles from the Indus. It is celebrated in the history of the East. Its commercial prosperity passed away with the empire of Delhi, and its ruin has been completed since it fell under the iron despotism of the present rulers of Sinde. It does not contain a population of 15,000 souls; and of the houses scattered about its ruins, one half are destitute of inhabitants. It is said, that the dissentions between the last and present dynasties, which led to Sinde being overrun by the Afghans, terrified the merchants of the city, who fled the country at that time, and have had no encouragement to return. Of the weavers of “loongees” (a kind of silk and cotton manufacture), for which this place was once so famous, but 125 families remain. There are not forty merchants in the city. …

Indus Valley engraving of a boat
Indus Valley engraving of a boat

“On our return, we saw much of the people, who were disposed from the first to treat us more kindly than the government. Their notions regarding us were strange: some asked us why we allowed dogs to clean our hands after a meal, and if we indiscriminately ate cats and mice, as well as pigs. They complained much of their rulers, and the ruinous and oppressive system of taxation to which they were subjected, as it deterred them from cultivating any considerable portion of land. Immense tracts of the richest soil lie in a state of nature, between Tatta and the sea, overgrown with tamarisk shrubs, which attain, in some places, the height of twenty feet, and, threading into one another, form impervious thickets. At other places, we passed extensive plains of hard-caked clay, with remains of ditches and aqueducts, now neglected. …

More recent picture of Indus River boat
More recent picture of a boat on the Indus River

“The boats of the Indus are not unlike China junks, very capacious, but most unwieldy. They are floating houses; and with ourselves we transported the boatmen, their wives and families, kids and fowls. When there is no wind, they are pulled up against the stream, by ropes attached to the mast-head, at the rate of a mile and a half an hour; but with a breeze, they set a large square-sail, and advance double the distance. …

“A Syud stood on the water’s edge, and gazed with astonishment. He turned to his companion as we passed, and, in the hearing of one of our party, said, “Alas! Sinde is now gone, since the English have seen the river, which is the road to its conquest.” If such an event do happen, I am certain that the body of the people will hail the happy day; but it will be an evil one for the Syuds, …

“I followed up the interview by sending the government presents which I had brought for his Highness: they consisted of various articles of European manufacture, — a gun, a brace of pistols, a gold watch, two telescopes, a clock, some English shawls and cloths, with two pair of elegant cut glass candlesticks and shades. Some Persian works beautifully lithographed in Bombay, and a map of the World and Hindoostan, in Persian characters, completed the gift. …

“Meer Nusseer Khan, the son of the Ameer, presented me with a handsome Damascus sword, which had a scabbard of red velvet ornamented with gold; his father sent me a purse of fifteen hundred rupees, with an apology, that he had not a blade mounted as he desired, and begged I would accept the value of one. After all the inconvenience to which we had been subjected, we hardly expected such a reception at Hydrabad. …

It turns out that there are two Hyderabads, one in the middle of India and one in Sindh, Pakistan. This is a photograph of the correct Hyderabad, from the 1800s
It turns out that there are two Hyderabads, one in the middle of India and one in Sindh, Pakistan. This is a photograph of the correct Hyderabad, from the 1800s

“On the capital itself, I can add little to the Hydrabad accounts which are already on record. It does not contain a population of twenty thousand souls, who live in houses, or rather huts, built of mud. The residence of the chief himself is a comfortless miserable dwelling. The fort, as well as the town, stands on a rocky hillock; and the former is a mere shell, partly surrounded by a ditch, about ten feet wide and eight deep, over which there is a wooden bridge. The walls are about twenty-five feet high, built of brick, and fast going to decay. Hydrabad is a place of no strength, and might readily be captured by escalade. In the centre of the fort there is a massive tower, unconnected with the works,
which overlooks the surrounding country. Here are deposited a great portion of the riches of Sinde. …

Shrine of Lal ShahBaz, lit up for the anniversary of his death
Shrine of Lal ShahBaz, lit up for the anniversary of his death

“Sehwun has considerable celebrity and sanctity from the tomb of a holy saint of Khorasan, by name Lal Shah Baz, who was interred here about 600 years ago. The shrine stands in the centre of the town, and rests under a lofty dome at one end of a quadrangular building, which is handsomely ornamented by blue painted slabs, like Dutch tiles, that give it a rich appearance. A cloth of gold, with two other successive palls of red silk, are suspended over the sepulchre, and on the walls which surround it are inscribed in large Arabic letters the praises of the deceased, and extracts from the Koran. Ostrich eggs, peacocks’ feathers, beads, flowers, &c. complete the furniture of this holy spot; and pigeons, the emblems of peace, are encouraged to perch on the cloths which shade the remains of departed virtue.

“The miracles of Lal Shah Baz are endless, if you believe the people. The Indus is subject to his commands, and no vessel dares to pass his shrine without making a propitiatory offering at his tomb. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the consecrated spot, and the monarchs of Cabool and India have often visited the sanctuary. The drums which proclaim the majesty of the saint are a gift from the renowned persecutor Alla-o-deen, who reigned a. d. 1212; and the gate, which is of silver, attests the homage and devotion of a deceased Ameer of Sinde. The needy are daily supplied with food from the charity of the stranger; but the universal bounty has corrupted the manners of the inhabitants, who are a worthless and indolent set of men.

“The Hindoo joins with the Mahommedan in his veneration of the saint, and artfully insinuates “Lal” to be a Hindoo name, and that the Mahommedans have associated with the faith of their prophet the god of an infidel creed. …

“We halted four days at Sehwun. The climate was most sultry and oppressive: the thermo-
meter stood at 112°, and did not fall below 100° at midnight, owing to scorching winds from the west, where the country is bleak and mountainous. …”

EvX: If I lived somewhere that was still 100 degrees out past midnight, I think I’d be “worthless and indolent,” too.

Seriously, I think the “people move around more in cooler climates because they aren’t going to die of heat exhaustion” theory of civilization has a lot going for it. I don’t know how humans are supposed to do anything useful in extreme heat.

“With the better orders of society we had frequent intercourse and conversation. … They were full of enquiries regarding our customs. Our Khyrpoor friend, Mahomed Gohur, was particularly horrified at our arrangements for getting a wife, and begged me in future to let my beard grow. … I delighted to hear him sing the praises of the soldiers of Sinde, who, he said, differed from all the world in thinking it an honour to fight on foot. The feelings of pity which some of the people displayed for us were amusing: they were shocked to hear that we cleaned our teeth with hogs’ bristles. I was frequently asked to lay aside the English saddle, which they considered quite unworthy, and worse than a seat on the bare back of the horse. …

Major ethnic groups of Pakistan in 1980
Major ethnic groups of Pakistan in 1980

“The Beloochees are a particularly savage race of people, but they are brave barbarians. From childhood they are brought up in arms; and I have seen some of the sons of chiefs who had not attained the age of four or five years strutting about with a shield and a sword of small size, given by the parents to instil into them, at that early period, the relish for war.

“This tribe composes but a small portion of the Sindian population; and while they are execrated by the peaceable classes of the community for their imperious conduct, they, on the other hand, hate the princes by whom they are governed. It would be difficult to conceive a more unpopular rule, with all classes of their subjects, than that of the Ameers of Sinde: nor is the feeling disguised ; many a fervent hope did we hear expressed, in every part of the country, that we were the forerunners of conquest, the advance-guard of a conquering army.

“The persons of the Ameers are secure from danger by the number of slaves which they entertain around their persons. These people are called “Khaskelees,” and enjoy the confidence of their masters, with a considerable share of power : they are hereditary slaves, and a distinct class of the community, who marry only among themselves. …”

EvX: so far I haven’t been able to find anything else on the “Khaskelees,” but apparently Pakistan, India, Haiti, and Mauritania rank very high in numbers/percentage of the population currently enslaved.

“The ladies were more curious than their husbands. They wear ear-rings of large dimensions, with turquoises suspended or fixed to them; for these stones are of little value in the vicinity of Khorasan. Among the women, I should note the Syudanees, or Bebees, the female descendants of Mahommed: they go about veiled, or rather with a long white robe thrown over their entire body, having netted orifices before the eyes and mouth. They are all beggars, and very vociferous in their demands for alms: one set of them, (for they go about in troops,) when they found I did not readily meet their demands, produced a written paper from the shrine of Lal ShahBaz, at Sehwun, to hasten my charity! Father Manrique, in his journey by the Indus some centuries ago, complains “of the frail fair ones” who molested him by the way.

Jewish-Indian (known as Bene-israel) family in Bombay, late 1800s or early 1900s.
Jewish-Indian (known as Bene-israel) family in Bombay, late 1800s or early 1900s.

“… some of the principal merchants of Bhawulpoor, who had followed the Khan. The intelligence of these people, and extent of their travels, surprised me. Most of them had traversed the kingdom of Cabool, and visited Balkli and Bokhara: some had been as far as Astracan; and they used the names of these towns with a familiarity as if they had been in India. They had met Russian merchants at Bokhara, but assured me that they never came to the eastward of that city. The intervening countries they represented as perfectly safe, and bestowed the highest commendations on Dost Mahommed, of Cabool, and the Uzbeks, who encouraged commercial communication. These merchants are chiefly Hindoos, whose disposition peculiarly adapts them for the patient and painstaking vocation of a foreign merchant. Some of them are Jews, who retain the marks of their nation in all countries and places. …”

EvX: According to Wikipedia:

The history of Jews in Pakistan dates at least as far back as 1839.[1][2] Various estimates suggest that there were about 1,000 Jews living in Karachi at the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly Bene Israel Jews from Maharashtra, India.[3] A substantial community lived in Rawalpindi.[1] A smaller community of Jews also lived in Peshawar. The Bene Israel Jews of India were concentrated in Karachi.[4] According to Bene Israel human rights lawyer, Levi M. Sankar, there are no indigenous Jews remaining in Pakistan.

Since “Travels into Bokhara” was published in 1834, I think this needs to be revised.Given the trade routes, I think it likely that Jews have been in the area of modern day Pakistan since sometime around the rise and fall of the Persian Empire.

I’m going to stop here for now. See you next Friday.