Tag Archives: Power Politics

Of Tyranny and Violence

The people disappeared in Syria’s military prisons do not have graves, but they do have names. They may not have been accorded funeral rites, but they have faces and stories and their families have memories of their presence. The war which has destroyed much of Syria can be localised: to a family, to a single person, to a face. And within the wider war lurk stories of cruelty and barbarism which affect individuals but whose effects spiral outwards. These specific instances of savagery become institutionalised. Continue reading

Lord William Bentinck and Sicily: Building a Nation or an Empire?

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, Europe was aflame, rent in two by the Napoleonic Wars which had effectively redrawn the map of an entire continent. Kingdoms had fallen; nations had been conquered, vanishing into the great mass of Napoleon’s burgeoning dominion; the old order seemed on the run, and a succession of Coalitions drew up to face the French threat. The location of some of Napoleon’s first campaigns, Italy, remained pivotal throughout the ensuing decades. With its cultural heritage, material wealth and long coastline, Italy represented a valuable prize for both sides. British domination of the Mediterranean, long established, had to be maintained. It was that sea which bore the trading vessels that Nelson devoted so much time to defending; it was both the lifeblood of British trade in Europe and the means by which much British aid made the journey to other Coalition partners. In this calculation, the island of Sicily was a valuable asset. It, like Malta and Gibraltar, could be a valuable base and it could provide several essential ports. To that end Lord William Bentinck, a former governor of Madras, was dispatched as Commander in Chief of British forces in the Mediterranean with a special responsibility for Sicily. Continue reading