A TIMELINE OF DEMOCRACY
This TIMELINE is a part of the Democracy exhibition. It is 7 metres long and a little over 1 metre high.
Once you read through and want to offer suggestions, please do so using the submissions box on this page.
INTRO: A TIMELINE of HISTORY IS YOUR STORY
Much of history is written and taught as though
you and your loved ones have been witnesses to events which have formed society, rather than participants in them, unless you are aristocratic, wealthy or from a high ranking diplomatic or military family.
But History is the exciting human story of us all in which all of our social, political, creative, technical, scientific and personal roots are found.
History is you; it belongs to you. Who are you? Who are your parents and friends? How did they and you wind up being born where you were, living where you are, eating what you eat and thinking what you think?
That personal story revealed by history, the story of how we came to be who we are, is not an abstraction because you are not an abstraction. Each of us is a consequence of history. Each of us is living history.
History is almost seamless. It flows from minute to minute and century to century, usually changing slowly, often painfully slowly for the people of a particular time. But sometimes there are great eruptions of human activity
in wars, revolutions, plagues and droughts, or through technological or philosophical ideas. At those moments, many things change at once.
Human history is filled with dramatic stories that highlight cruelty and kindness,
collective madness and occasional outbreaks of sanity; it is filled with avarice, fear, jealousy, as well with decency, heroism and love.
All of these are a part of our ancestor’s struggle for freedom and democracy. If you say, ‘I don’t believe in politics and I don’t vote’, you turn your back on all those who have fought and often suffered to win the compromised democracy we now have.
If you embrace the sweeping stories of history, you embrace much of life and many ideas that help you to understand where you and we are today.
490 BCE – 455 CE*
EUROPEAN TIMELINE FOR ANCIENT ROME AND GREECE
The history of Western Democracy begins in Ancient Greece where about 10% of the population - men who had fought in wars - were privileged to participate in governing decisions. Slaves, women and most men did not have the right to participate. But, it was the first step towards what we now call Democracy.
In ancient Greek, Demos means ‘the people’ and ‘kractos’ means ‘voice’ or ‘power’. The modern translation is ‘the power of the people’.
The word ‘Democracy’ has come to mean:
a form of government chosen through fair elections of the people, by the people, and for the people, that allows for the active participation of the people in political and civil life in which all people are equally and fully protected by the rule of law, in which al people’s human rights are equally protected, and within which all people have equal opportunities. That is the dream of democracy.
In England and Bridport Democracy is now practiced by electing people to represent the individual in law-making bodies, like the British Parliament, the Dorset County Council, or Bridport’s Town Council. Sadly, centres of power are where human lust for control and wealth may distort the actual practice of representation. Elected representatives may act for their own gains, for their party, or for powerful and often rich individuals and organisations, ignoring that their duty is towards those they represent.
Distortions happen where groups within governments form ‘Cabinets’ in which a small number of people, sometimes not elected, make decisions beyond the advice, reach or well-being of the voters. Often these decision represent a particular political or economic points of view or are only in the best interest of corporations or even on behalf of long established but hidden fraternities.
This is why the people must be constantly vigilant.
* BCE means Before Common Era, up to the year that ends on the last day before CE One.
CE means the Common Era that begins in the Christian year one.
When a date is not marked with BCE it denotes that it is of the Common Era.
509 BCE – 27: Rome
In 509 BCE, dissatisfied citizens overthrew the last ancient Roman king.
Rome became a Republic -a form of Democracy in which the poor or common people had limited rights. In reality, the wealthy land owners and ancient families held the balance of power.
594 BCE: Athens
Solon, a poet, wrote basic laws to find compromise for holding power between aristocrats and the people. He contrived a complex system that allowed the mass of Athenians, but for the very poorest, to hold some control over political decision making.
490 BCE - 479 BCE: Athens
After years of struggle, the Athenian victory of 479 BCE over Persian invaders
led to wealth and power for the rich of the city.This gave rise to the Age of Pericles – a great thinker and speaker - in which demos-kractos (the peoples voice, or the people’s power) was first experimented with.
479 BCE – 146 BCE: Athens
Athens eventually lost power to Sparta and they to other city-states. A limited form of Democracy was practiced in Athens but in 146 BCE the Roman legions defeated Corinth, then the most powerful city-state in Greece, and with that, Athens becomes a colony of the Rome.
During that period, even with Roman control over Greece, Greek thinking, philosophy and teachers dominated Roman culture. Because of that, Greece, as Rome’s greatest intellectual influence, is considered the real founder of European civilization.
27 BCE – 455: Rome
Internal strife and decent and an anti-democratic ruling class led to the crowning of the first emperor, in 27 BCE. This followed a period in which the rich wanted to and finally did rest power from the people, allowing a dictatorship to be established. The Republic’s progressive laws were overturned in favour of the new dictatorship and the wealthy.
In this period of 482 years, Rome expanded its empire from the Middle East to as far west as Britain. Eventually, the rise of massive populations on the edges of the empire created ever greater pressures. Rome, as the centre of empire, was finally defeated and occupied by Vandal tribes in 455.
The lands of the previous Roman empire fell into isolation, chaos and disconnection. Trade and money exchange ceased. Towns and cities dwindled in importance. Classical knowledge, acquired across so many centuries, was lost. This was a tragedy leading to 800 years of squalor, ignorance, hunger, illness, violence with slow progressive changes.
In year one of the new era, there were two hundred million people on earth; one thousand years later, there were only 4 hundred million.
55 BCE: Southern Britain
Previous to the invasion by Roman Legions under Julius Caesar, in 55 and again in 54 BCE, southern Britain was ruled by tribal groups often fighting each other for resources and trade.
Caesar did not conquer but made alliances based on allowing favourable trade with Roman France (Gaul). Primitive Democracy may have existed in pre-Roman tribal groups. Elders would represent the other member’s attitudes and needs to the chief or the tribal council. In this way, the group’s opinions were represented and may have had some weight in the decision making.
50 BCE: Southern Britain
Dorset and the area around Bridport was controlled by an indigenous Celtic tribe, the Durotriges. Five years after the initial appearance of the legions in Kent, the Durotriges became part of the Roman alliances.
43: Southern Britain
93 years after Caesar, Rome fully invaded with four legions to conquer and subdue all of Britain. Thereafter, Britain was racked by revolts, usurpations and tribal wars. Although law and order were brought to the Roman dominated areas, and although the normal citizen was in theory protected from the worst excesses of their own leaders who ruled in the name of the Emperor, the people were exploited by these newly enriched locals as well as by the army.
Even the faint echoes of tribal Democracy disappeared.
410: Southern Britain
With the costs of Britain constantly assaulted by ever growing tribes of Saxons, Irish and with revolts by Picts and local tribes, economic decline and political battles in Rome weakened their control in the province.
Towns reverted to agriculture within their walls, less coinage was minted and trade diminished. When the Legions finally withdrew in 410, Britons fell into the hands of local lords, warring tribes and successive invasions.
The Dark Ages had arrived.
455 – 1300
MEDIVAL PERIOD in EUROPE
(also called the MIDDLE AGES or the DARK AGES)
In Europe, the Middle Ages began with the collapse of the Roman Empire, which led to de-population, de-urbanization and invasions of Germanic, Hungarian and Moorish peoples. Although intellectual thought diminished and often disappeared from vast areas of Europe, some Christian Monasteries became centres of learning, and a few centres of Jewish culture, in a vast sea of illiteracy, maintained reading as a prerequisite to being Jewish.
A short lived Frankish Empire failed under pressure from civil wars and external invasions of Vikings, Magyars and Saracens.
Around the year 1000, European populations increased as technology and agricultural improvements encouraged trade and a warm period of climate change increased crop yields. Slowly the feudal manorial system evolved in which peasants in villages paid rent and gave forced labour to the landlords (called ‘nobles’). Lesser and greater knights and lords in turn gave their service to a more powerful noble, duke or prince. Meanwhile the church, often operated by the sons of local nobles, controlled the peasants with threats of eternal damnation unless they paid service and taxes to the church and their landlords.
Although the period was neither very inventive nor dynamic, its continual wars led to new weaponry and modes of fighting. Gunpowder led to the invention of cannons, newly invented siege weapons, armour, chain mail, lances and the long and crossbows also changed forever the way battles were conducted.
There were developments in navigation as the compass, sails and steering, which helped in the following Age of Exploration.
During this tragic thousand years or fifty generations of people, there was little progress towards Democracy although there were momentary examples in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and England.
Democracy came to the attention of people late in the period,when individual creative thought and the new economic power of cities and their guilds (a form of early trades unions) gave rise to a new secular Europe in which the rebirth of Democratic ideals could develop.
The Code of Civil Law was published by Justinian I in Constantinople. This body of law compiled centuries of imperial pronouncements and legal writings. They excluded non-Christians from citizenship while uniting the Christian Church within the state.
989: Northern Europe
Pagan German tribes worshipped an earth goddess who lived on an island and annually visited the German tribes. During her travels, wars ceased and the Germans had a taste of peace and harmony.
In 989 the CHRISTIAN TRUCE OF GOD, copied the German custom. It claimed a zone of immunity in church squares, where violence was prohibited. Local clergy granted immunity from violence to people who could not defend themselves. Nobles and knights attacking a church, robbing peasants or the poor of farm animals, or robbing, striking or seizing a priest or any man who did not bear arms, would be denied the rights of the church. Later, women and children were added, and then merchants and their goods. Although not directly a process evolving European Democracy, it helped establish that powerless people had some rights.
1095: Europe and the Middle East
The Crusades, first preached in 1095 by the Pope, were Western European Christian’s military attempts to regain control of the Middle Eastern Holy Lands from the Muslims. Meanwhile Kings (the strongest of the noble families) became leaders of centralised nation-states like France, England and Spain.
They reduced crime and violence and collected taxes while oppressing the serfs.
The Crusades introduced Knights and clergy to Islamic and Classical Greek and Roman ideas which they carried back to Europe.
11th Century: Western Europe
During the 11th century, feudal life began to change. Farming became more productive with the invention of the heavy plow and three-field crop rotation. The food supply expanded and improved and populations increased. Many peasants were drawn to towns and cities where they could find better paid work and some freedoms.
12th Century: Western Europe
The cultivation of inexpensive beans made a better balanced diet available to all social classes for the first time in European history. The population grew rapidly, leading to the breakup of the old feudal structures.
The continuing Crusades expanded trade routes to the East giving European nobles a taste for foreign wine, olive oil, spices and other luxurious imports. As the new commercial economy enlarged, trading cities became successful. By 1300, there were some 15 cities in Europe with a population of more than 50,000.
Durante degli Alighieri, called Dante was a major Italian poet of the late Medieval Period. His DIVINE COMEDY is considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. Written in common Italian, it helped to democratize high cultural works by giving non-scholars access to the beauty of poetry.
1347 and 1350: Western Europe
The Black Death, a horrible disease of the Late Middle Ages, killed about a third of the population of Western Europe. Religious differences mirrored conflicts between emerging states, civil strife and peasant revolts occurred throughout Europe. These happened because the landed nobles exploited their peasants beyond tolerance, because the peasants often had no choice but to surrender their produce and animals to the nobles and their gangs of knights, and then to die of hunger or to revolt.
After the Black Death, peasants recognised that their labour had greater value because there were so few workers left. Many left their villages and hamlet to find land of their own.
Cultural and technological developments, an increased food supply through better weather, tools and technology combined with new ideas transformed European society, concluding the Late Middle Ages and beginning the early modern period.
The name "England" comes from the Old English name "Englaland", which means "land of the Angles". The Angles were one of the Germanic tribes that settled in Britain during the Early Middle Ages from an area of the Baltic Sea. The earliest recorded use of the term, as "Engla londe", is in the late ninth century translation into Old English of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
William the Conqueror invaded England, destroyed the English opposition at the Battle of Hastings and became king.
1154 – 1485: England Under Plantagenet kings
England transformed from a colony, governed from France, into a sophisticated, politically independent kingdom. The Plantagenet kings, with their many wars in France, needing the financial and military support of their Barons, often negotiated from weakness.
King John further raised taxes to pay for war with France and angered the Barons. Later, in the beginning of the 20th century, the similarity between wars waged at the whim of a ruling elite against another ruling elite becomes a reoccurring story in the roots of the First World War, another unnecessary slaughter.
King John fell out with the Pope over who had the right to select the next Archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope banned all church services in England,
forcing a concession from John.
King John suffered another military defeat in France. Afterwards his arbitrary demands for more taxes from the Barons pushed them to demand in exchange, more power for themselves.
The Barons forced King John to negotiate the Magna Carta at Runnymede near Windsor on 15 June 1215. Although many of its articles are now meaningless to modern life, three of its articles are still relevant: it promised protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown. It was thought to allow for habeas corpus, offering the guarantee against wrongful arrest and by extension, a fair trail.
1216 – 1297; England
The crown often adopted, clarified and enlarged the scope of the Magna Carta,
usually bartering with the Barons to raise more taxes in exchange for granting more rights to them.
Edward I reissued the Magna Carta finally confirming it as part of England's statute or written law, becoming a part of rights with through which (only) the wealthy could defend themselves against the previously arbitrary authority of the King or Barons.
Edward III modified the Charter to Six Statutes to include the Clause, “That no man of what Estate or Condition that he be, shall be put out of Land or Tenement, nor taken nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor put to Death, without being brought in Answer by due Process of the Law.”
925 to 939
During the reign of King Athelstan a mint was established, Bridport became a significant trading post and the growth of the rope, twine and net industry flourished. The port built boats and traded more by sea than land.
Henry Plantagenet stormed Bridport during the Civil War and destroyed the castle built in the late 8th century.
William ordered a survey of all his English domain called the Domesday Book.It was to discover his wealth and the that of the feudal landowners.’ It reported Bridport had 100 houses of which 20 were uninhabitable.
King John commissioned, according to 'Bridport weight', for large supplies of hempen thread to produce ships' ropes and cables, due to the imminent war with France.
King John ordered that there be 'made at Bridport by night and day, as many ropes for ships both large and small as they could'.
1300 – 1600
The word means ‘rebirth’. It suggests that the darkness had passed and a new brilliance was beginning to shine within Europe.
Crusaders encountered and brought back Ancient Greek and contemporary Islamic cultural, and scientific, architectural and technological influences from their wars in the Islamic east. Greeks, fleeing Constantinople after its fall to the Ottomans in 1453, and Moslem and Jewish scholars in the new universities of southern Europe, brought with them Greek and Roman Classical texts.
New economically vibrant towns - centres of production in foodstuffs, wool and fabric manufacturing - began to trade across long distances. Eventually goldsmiths began to exchange letters of credit for gold, to finance the trade, while sitting on benches (‘banco’ which in English became ‘bank’) in front of the merchant houses in Florence, Italy - a city thriving on the manufacturing and trading of cloth. As merchants and manufacturers became rich and powerful, they achieved rights to govern their towns without the overlordship of local Barons and Knights.
Political and economic stability developed, wealthy merchants and the powerful church began to build new churches with soaring spires and beautiful stained glass windows and paintings depicting Biblical stories. As with the use of visual culture today, they were a form of advertising/propaganda and tools of dominance. These huge structures overwhelmed the peasants and labourers and the paintings and stained glass windows revealed the glory of their God and the damnation of sinners. The development of the mechanical, movable type printing press, around 1440, by Johannes Gutenberg meant that about 3000 sheets of paper could be printed a day, rather than the few copied by hand in the monasteries. More people gained access to knowledge, and more knowledge combined with more complex financial and manufacturing methods and increased trade meant more people needed to be able to read. This reveals how technological development can, as in this case, democratise learning.
While the early Renaissance of the 10th century was preoccupied with philosophy and science, the high Renaissance, from the 12th century concentrated on poetry and culture, including new developments in Latin and vernacular literatures, also based on classical sources. Scholars developed the ‘humanist’ method of enquiry that encouraged a search for realism and human emotion in the arts, usually being careful not to challenge the un-scientific myths of the Church.
As knowledge evolved and scholars and artists increased their recognition and interpretation of the human condition, they revealed an understanding that every human had value, and individuality and that we are not all simply stamps of a God. Soon the terrible suffering of the common people, that has been previously ignored by the lords and the church, become ever more understood in the human rather than God centred art of the Renaissance.
That recognition of the value of human individuality was the greatest contribution of the High Renaissance, and led, centuries later to the idea of universal human rights and the calls for Democracy. This revels how central thought and art are to human freedom.
Anti-intellectualism and disdain for the value of art has arisen in Anglo-American popular media-controlled culture – a culture that promotes the value of money above all other human values.
In the middle of these extraordinary changes, the Black Death, like the earlier Bubonic Plague, ravaged Europe, killing over 30% of the population. This tragedy made labour more valuable and helped to further dismantle the Feudal system as peasants sought work and greater freedom in the growing centres of trade and in escaping the lands owned by feudal lords.
1377 – 1446: Italy
Filippo Brunelleschi was a multi-talented artist, engineer, architect and mathematician who won the award to build the dome of Florence Cathedral, which for many decades had remained unfinished. No one had calculated how to make such a huge construction without it falling in on itself. He, along with other artists and scholars, searched the newly revealed ancient Roman and Greek manuscripts, which helped them to revive partially lost skills and ideas. Because so much of it was uncovered in Italy, this gave rise to the European Renaissance beginning there.
1378 –1455: Italy
Lorenzo Ghiberti, was a Florentine artist of the Early Renaissance known as the creator of the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistry, which took him and his fellow artists 28 years to complete and which transformed biblical stories into real human drama.
1404 – 1472: Italy
Leon Battista Alberti came to represent the ideal ‘Renaissance Man’. Although thought of as an architect he was an Italian Humanist author*, artist, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher and cryptographer. His contribution to these fields represent the importance of the individual in history and the value of intellectual thought leading ultimately to people questioning the authority of royalty and the church. His treatise DELLA FAMIGLIA (On the Family) was the first of his dialogues on moral philosophy that led to his reputation as an ethical thinker and literary stylist.
*Humanists believe in the predominance of rational thinking and the sciences are needed to provide a moral and ethical understanding of the world with reference to caring for others and involving the arts while rejecting religious cant and often God.
Marsillo Ficino was one of the most influential humanist philosophers of his day. He was an astrologer and translated the ancient Greek philosopher Plato into Latin. He created an Academy to revive Plato's Academy and had enormous influence on the direction of the Italian Renaissance and European philosophy.
1452 – 1519: Italy
Leonardo Da Vinci was a sculptor, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, astronomer, cartographer, botanist, historian and writer, and thought to be one of the greatest painters in history and one of the most multi-talented people to have been born in Europe. He has been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, ‘a man of unquenchable curiosity and feverishly inventive imagination’. His interests were without precedent. Among his most famous paintings are the MONA LISA and THE LAST SUPPER. His only rival was that of his contemporary, Michelangelo. It is extraordinary that these two men lived at the same time. As the Renaissance ideas spread, other places in Europe were stimulated by the new ideas.
1454 – Mainz (present day Germany but then a part of the Holy Roman Empire)
The GUTENBERG BIBLE was published. Movably type and the printing press revolutionized European literacy.
1513 - Italy
Niccolò Machiavelli was a Florentine Republic diplomat for 14 years. He wrote THE PRINCE, a study for politicians on the use of ruthlessness in statecraft, which inspired the word ‘Machiavellian’. He became known as the ‘father of modern political theory’. Although a realist, he helped establish a vile standard of negotiations between nations and a level of treaty making which had little to do with the well being of the common people.
Medieval civilization reached a new level of freedom for some individuals in the 13th century. Guilds of trades, civic councils, and monastic chapters achieved some amount of self-administered organisation. The legal idea of people and groups being able to represent themselves developed. This led to political assemblies whose members were able to make decisions for their communities. Although intellectual thought was still oppressed by the Roman Catholic Church, the philosophical method of Scholasticism began to open enquiry into new realms.
1517 THE PROTESTANT REVOLT
Corruption, arrogance and the disregard of the people led to a split in the Latin Christian church. Martin Luther, a German professor of Theology, became disgusted by the church selling indulgences – bribes paid to the clergy to assure sinners of a ticket to heaven. Luther’s and other’s protests led to the establishment of an alternative community based on pared down religious devotion, called Protestantism, which evolved over the next decades. This period of the establishment of an alternative path to heaven is called the ‘Reformations’
The main problem for change was the belief that the Roman Catholic Church offered the only path to salvation. For change to happen on a large scale, a theological argument was needed to convince people and priests that they did not need the established Church to save them from hell.
In 1517 Luther did just that by writing 95 theses against the indulgences. Soon various religious orders who sold indulgences, called for sanctions against him. The Pope condemned him, but Luther wrote powerful narratives based on the scripture and his ideas spread. But because Luther was an anti-Semite, the contagion of anti-Semitism spread with his otherwise progressive ideas. This racism provided a continual source of anti-democratic thinking in Europe.
Emergence of Protestantism was a reflection of and a response to early developments of capitalism engaged in a struggle for political power with the landowning aristocracy. The new economic power of city based traders, ship owners and manufactures, wanted, amongst many things, to not have to pay a tax to the bloated coffers of the Roman Church.
The Reformation was bloody. Military conflict in the European ‘Wars of Religion’, killed tens of thousands. In England, where a Protestant church was established, both sides were persecuted and the troubles of the Reformation still remained because almost all religions become property owning big business primed to pouch believers from other faiths while excluding anyone who does not agree with their views.
Miguel de Cervantes was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. DON QUIXOTE, his major work, is thought to be the first modern European novel, partly because it reveals the inner consciousness of its main characters. In Spain he is still called ‘ The Prince of Wits’.
LE MORTE D'ARTHUR (in English - THE DEATH OF ARTHUR) is a compilation by Sir Thomas Mallory of traditional tales about the legendary King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Malory was committed to prison several times for various offenses and probably wrote LE MORTE D'ARTHUR during his last days in prison.
LE MORTE D'ARTHUR was first published in 1485 by William Claxton, who was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. He may have been the first English person to work as a printer and to introduce a printing press into England, which he did in 1476.
1590 and 1596: England
THE FAERIE QUEEN, is an epic poem written by Edmund Spenser, published in two parts. Its structure, influenced by Italian master poets, reveals how far flung knowledge had become through the printed word.
Henry VIII broke with the Roman Catholic Church and seized power as head of new (Protestant) Anglican Church.
1536 – 41: England
Henry VIII dismantled Roman church and demolished many monasteries. This was mostly based on the needs of wealth and state power rather than on theological conviction. To gain greater power over the most powerful noble families, he used the wealth from his land grabs to buy off his rivals and create new allies.
Henry’s devoutly Catholic daughter Mary seized power and used brutal tactics to reconvert Britain to Catholicism. She was known as ‘Bloody Mary’.
1558 – 1603: England
Queen Elizabeth I re-established the Anglican Church and was ex-communicated by the Pope. Her reign oversaw the blossoming of the Renaissance in England.
1564 – 1616: London
William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright and actor, and the world's most accomplished dramatist. He is known to have written around 38 plays, 154 sonnets and two narrative poems. His works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. He wrote comedies, histories and tragedies including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. He stands amongst the other brilliant artists of the Renaissance – Dante, Michelangelo and Da Vinci.
1348 - 1361
In 1348, the Black Death hit Bridport. There are no statistics available but over 30% of the European population died from the disease. As after previous plagues, labour would have had, for a short time, more value and would have become more self-assured. Unfortunately, the struggle for greater Democracy often came after terrible historical tragedies.
Henry VIII enacts a law that restricts sales of rope & hemp within 5 miles of Bridport.
In 1580 Elizabeth I renewed the Bridport Charter to encourage trade and in 1593, following a strong pleading petition for support to rescue Bridport from dire poverty, she granted Bridport a New Charter and allowed the people to hold markets and fairs in order to save it from the threat of decay and poverty. Money was also made available for regeneration of the harbour and a school house.
The charter read:
“ Whereas our Borough of Bridport in our County of Dorset is an ancient Borough and mercantile town and formerly was a port of great celebrity and resort until the entrance and ascent of the same port were lately choked by the sand of the sea and almost blocked up, by reason of which the same Borough in commerce and merchandise is diminished and deteriorated and the buildings and edifices of the same Borough are in great decay ruin and dissolution as we have heard from many of our subjects worthy of credit.”
The following years saw much of the trade and justice firmly in the hands of the town.
Between 1000 CE and 1500 CE, the worlds population rose by one hundred million people, which is only 14 times the size of contemporary London’s population.
1488 – 1914
THE AGE OF EXPLORATION, CONQUEST AND IMPERIAL RULE
In1488, Portuguese sailors, led by Bartolomeu Diaz, rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa and entered the Indian ocean. Although earlier probes had explored the western cost of Africa, this voyage is considered the beginning of the Age of Exploration, soon to be followed by Christopher Columbus and other brave but ruthless men, charting the then unknown world for European Kings, Queens and merchants.
Whilst unquestionably daring, it was not, as often described, a sign of indomitable curiosity by white Christian Europeans. It was because of the desire to find sea routes that would allow European explores and seamen to find a way to outflank the Ottoman Empire’s control over the spice trade in the near and far east and its control of the silk routes to China.
This led to establishing trading posts along the cost of Africa, Brazil and the west cost of India. Soon, the Spanish and Portuguese were bickering over their claims of ownership. The Pope, acknowledging that Christian countries should take ownership over land and people they had no rights to, settled the argument while rationalising the lust for wealth, rape and profits with the moral justification of converting ‘heathens’ into God fearing Christians.
Quickly the Dutch, French and English were involved in murderous invasions of foreign lands, enslaving the people as miners digging for gold or growing cotton. The European invasions turned into genocides in the West Indies, the Americans and along the costs of Africa. In North America alone, over 25 million people were murdered or died from diseases, which they had no immunity to. In Mexico and South America, three civilizations were destroyed; art and relics of huge significance were stolen and melted down to raw gold.
This terrible war against other peoples and nature lasted until the beginning of the First World War, which was another expression of what became known as Imperialism. Imperialism promotes the creation of Empire. The name comes from the Latin ‘imperium’, meaning ‘to rule over large territories’. Imperialism seeks to rule other people and their land through colonization, by using military force, or other means’ often based on ideas of racial superiority.
There were three waves of imperialism: 1/ the Americas (North, South and the Caribbean); 2/ Asia and Africa; 3/ the third wave called the ‘New Imperialism’ was structured by the Berlin Conference (1884–85), at which the main European powers divided up Africa, as if it was their right.
We have inherited the burden and shadow of genocides, racism, and slave ownership. Many people still live on the reinvested wealth of these exploitations of our fellow men and women, and some poor souls still believe in racial superiority. Today, democracy and popular opinion are manipulated for people to believe immigration is the fault of the migrant rather than of history imposed upon them by Western powers.
Finally, it is written in Genesis, ‘And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. ‘
This is often quoted by those who wish to rationalise imperial conquest, or those who wish to deny their complicity in destroying forests, polluting rivers and melting ice caps.
After years of trying to convince the Portuguese and then the Spanish crown to finance his traveling west across the Atlantic to land in Japan – an idea counter to the official religious idea that the earth was flat and therefore the ships would fall off the edge of the world - Columbus was sponsored by King Ferdinand of Spain. His three small ships touched land in what is now called the Bahamas.
In this first encounter with the indigenous people he wrote they were peaceful and friendly. But when he notices a gold glinting ear ornament, Columbus set the pattern for horror. His armoured soldiers took the Arawaks prisoner and forced them to guide him to the source of the gold.
In his journal of 12 October 1492, he wrote, “They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language”. He later added, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.” Intimidation, enslavement, false ownership, racism, kidnapping, forced religious conversion are all present in that first encounter between the Europeans and the 'New World'.
After a 10 month journey, Portuguese sailors, led by Vasco de Gama, reached India. De Gamma attempted to make a treaty with the local prince but failed, as the prince was under-whelmed by what were to him and his advisors, paltry gifts of honey and oil. After over a year’s return journey, De Gamma and his sailors were hailed as heroes. They brought back cargo worth 60 times the cost of the trip and the spice trade would prove to be a major asset to the Portuguese royal treasury. The voyage had made it clear that the east coast of Africa was essential to Portuguese interests; its ports provided fresh water, provisions, timber, and harbours for repairs, and served as a refuge where ships could wait out unfavourable weather.
Portuguese ‘discovered’ Brazil.
The Spanish, under Hernando Cortes, entered Mexico and claimed it for the Spanish crown although there existed a sophisticated Aztec Empire ruling over central Mexico. Within a few years, and with the backing of the Catholic Church and the Crown, the Aztecs had been decimated, millions were killed by disease, forced labour and genocidal attacks. The Spanish crown grew rich on the gold stolen from the Aztecs and dug out of the mountains.
1526: Atlantic Ocean Between Africa and the Americas
The Atlantic slave trade began in the 16th century and lasted through to the 19th century. The vast majority of captured Africans were transported to the Americans. Far more slaves were taken to South America than to the North. The South Atlantic economic system centred on producing commodity crops, and making goods and clothing to sell in Europe, needing ever increasing numbers of slaves to produce these things cheaply. The Portuguese were the first to engage in the New World slave trade in 1526. Other countries soon followed. Ship owners considered the slaves as cargo to be transported to the Americas as quickly and cheaply as possible, there to be sold to work in coffee, tobacco, cocoa, sugar and cotton plantations, gold and silver mines, rice fields, in the construction industries, cutting timber for ships and as domestic servants.
In 1527, Diogo Ribeiro finished the official, but secret Spanish world map used in all Spanish ships. It is considered the first scientific world map. It clearly shows the coasts of Central and South America and the east coast of North America. However, neither Australia nor Antarctica appear, and India is too small.
Cartography - the art, science and technology of making maps, implies that maps are objective representations of the world. In reality they serve political means. For instance, in the 19th century, maps "contributed to empire by promoting, assisting, and legitimizing the extension of French and British power into West Africa". They also implied knowledge, reason and rationality, as opposed to the unmapped irrationality of inferior people.
1473 –1543: Royal Prussia
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a model of the universe that placed the sun rather than the earth at the centre of the universe. The publication of this model in his book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres was a major event in science, triggering the Copernican Revolution.
The book was immediately attacked by different defenders of the Catholic Church but defended by those who needed to understand how to use the stars more sensible to determine ships position on the oceans.
1571: The Mediterranean
The Battle of Lepanto was fought between the Ottoman Empire who were seeking to take control of colonies in Italy and islands in the Mediterranean and an alliance of Christian countries and kingdoms, under the banner of the Pope. The sound defeat of the Ottoman Moslems stalled their attempt to spread Islam across the southern areas of Europe.
Michel de Montaigne is most famous for his sceptical remark, Que sais-je? (in modern French), meaning ‘What do I know?’ His attempt to examine the world through his own judgment and his masterful balance of intellectual knowledge and personal storytelling represented a man with a very modern sensibility, bringing attention to the value of the individual. This would, in the future, seep into the consciousness of other writers and philosophers, leading to political demands for the people equal to the freedoms enjoyed by the rich. The deepening demands for equality were promoted in his humanist work.
This century erupted with the Dutch Golden Age, the Baroque cultural movement developing out of the Renaissance, the Grand Century in France overseen by Louis XIV, the Scientific Revolution and the crisis of the Thirty Years War, the Dutch Revolt against Spain, and the English Civil War.
Power in Europe was dominated by Louis XIV. He solidified his control over feudal lords in a civil war and subjugated them to the power of an absolute monarchy. With central power assured, he expanded France to include many more surrounding provinces.
By the end of the century, Europeans were also aware of logarithms, electricity, the telescope and microscope, calculus, universal gravitation, Newton's Laws of Motion, air pressure, and the calculation machine due to the work of the first scientists of the Scientific Revolution.
By the middle of the 17th century, slavery had hardened into becoming a racial caste; they and their offspring were legally the property of their owners, and children born to slave mothers were slaves. As property, people were considered merchandise or units of labour, and were sold at markets with other goods and services.
The Atlantic slave traders, ordered by trade volume, were: the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Spanish and the Dutch Empire. Several had established outposts on the African coast where they purchased slaves from local African leaders. These slaves were managed by a Factor who was established on or near the coast to expedite the shipping of slaves to the New World. Current estimates are that about 12 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic.
The slave trade is sometimes called the Maafa by African and African-Amecican scholars, meaning "great disaster" in Swahili, or use the terms "African Holocaust" or "Holocaust of Enslavement".
During the period of slavery, the new United States, European, including the British economy, hugely prospered from this travesty of morality and Christian duty. It clearly revealed that the merchants and traders humanity were but a thin skein stretched across a venal pit of profit-making. Sadly, through corporate ownership, many upstanding citizens, including clergy, profited by investment in or remote ownership of slaves.
17th Century England
Guy Fawkes, who previously fought on the side of the Spanish to supress the Protestant revolt against them in the Lowlands, joined a plot to destroy Parliament and overthrow or kill the Protestant King James I, and replace him with a Catholic King. He was discovered in Westminster Palace guarding gunpowder, was tortured, broke and gave evidence against the other plotters.
1603: Scotland and England
Scotland had been as an independent state since the Middle Ages and continued to be until 1707. In 1603, King James VI of Scotland became King of England and Ireland, creating a personal union between the three states. One hundred and four years later, Scotland entered into union with England and England with Scotland on 1 May 1707 to create the new single united Kingdom of Great Britain (UK). The union fostered a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both Parliaments of England and Scotland. Because democratic choice we limited to the wealthy, neither Parliament represented the mass of people, many of whom rioted in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and elsewhere against the decision.
After invasions and wars with the Irish people, Great Britain entered into a forced political union with Ireland on 1 January 1801 to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The settlement of Jamestown established by the Virginia Company of London. The settlement was within the lands of a local tribe, the Paspahegh. These indigenous people welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not farmers. The relationship fell apart early on. After three years of war, the Paspahegh were annihilated . So started North American colonization by the UK.
The UK’s political system became unique in Europe – by the end of the century, the monarch was a symbolic figurehead and Parliament was the dominant force in government, unlike the rest of Europe. Although this was a democratization of power, extending representation to more of the population, it simply removed power and control from the exclusive hands of the aristocracy and placed it into the hands of rich merchants.
The ‘Corporation Act’ was passed under Charles II. This was the first Penal Law, which made receiving communion in the Church of England a precondition for holding public office. It was largely aimed at removing Catholics from power. Any law that limits people’s freedom by virtue of religious beliefs, is an anti-democratic law.
The Corporation Act was strengthened to include all levels of public office, the armed services and education. It extended the embargo to any non-Anglican faith and was worded to exclude all non-conformists, preventing them from being awarded degrees by the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Non-conformists, or dissenters were Protestants who believed that the Church of England did not satisfy their views of religion.
By the reign of Charles the Second (1649) the ‘Common Council’ of the borough was a self-perpetuating oligarchy of 15 Burgesses who were named for life; 10 from the town and 5 from the surrounding parishes (within 10 miles). An oligarchy is a state of place ruled by a group or a few people. These were landowners who served as bailiff, magistrates or cofferers and they appointed a Clerk and two sergeants at mace. Not only did they govern by they enforced their rule.
The Borough was coextensive with the Manor and the Parish both of which had their own governance. The Manor was supervised by the High Steward appointed by the Crown. He acted though the manorial Court to which all tenants had to present themselves to deal with disputes. The Parish was governed by the Parish Council that appointed churchwardens and could levy taxes, upkeep of the church, relief of the poor and paving the streets.
James II attempted to relax the penal sanctions of the Corporation Act. This helped to remodel the Bridport Corporation by removing all Royalists and reinstated dissenters, creating a ‘Dissenting Corporation’.
For this and other reasons, attempts to overthrow James II were not supported by the good people of Bridport. But a plot was hatched at Charborough Park in Dorset to oust him and replace him with William and Mary.
William and Mary became joint Monarchs and the ‘Glorious Revolution’ ended Catholic claims to the throne. They also showed tolerance for dissenting non-conformists, who, in Bridport, maintained their popularity as an effective corporation. This resulted was that dissenters remained in power with an illegal administration until 1835 (almost 150 years)
EUROPE and the Enlightenment
This slowly swelling intellectual movement claimed the allegiance of many thinkers from the 1620’s through its heights in the 1780’s. Thomas Paine, the English revolutionary who played a significant part in the American Revolution on the side of the colonies against the UK, called the period and his famous book the AGE OF REASON. It represented the on-going conflict between the individual and repressive institutions as the Monarchies of Europe and religion, and supported the inquiring mind wishing to use reason based evidence and proof to understand their physical and moral universe, rather than subservience and cant. Tolerance, science and scepticism were seen as tools to create a better world.
It was a glorious moment in our collective history when the humanism of the Renaissance and free thinking offered Europe and the world the idea that the intellect, freed of centuries of shackles, could offer a life liberated from brut power. During the 18th century, the Enlightenment culminated in the French and American revolutions. These two eruptions in history were an expression of all the anti-church, anti-feudal and anti-monarchical humanist thinking that proceeded them, and were each a child of the Enlightenment.
Sadly both revolutions promised more than they delivered in terms of freedom and justice for all. France was compromised by the excesses of the Reign of Terror. Soon the European monarchies formed a broad coalitions to destroy the French revolution and Napoleon’s aims to spread it across the continent. In the newly formed United States, slavery continued, un-property men and no women had a vote, and a clique of rich property owners and later of mill owners controlled government.
THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The UK became a major power with its defeat of France in the Americas in the 1760s, and the conquest of large parts of India. However, Britain lost many of the North American colonies in the American Revolution of 1776 – 1783.
The Industrial Revolution, which began in the UK, was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, it developed new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the better use of water-power, the increased use of steam power, and the development of machine tools. The rapid transition from wood and other bio-fuels to coal began the degradation of the planet’s bio systems. This was one of the great explosions in history. Almost every aspect of daily life was affected – people moved in droves from the tranquillity of the country to the kinetic and filthy cities; the nature of labour intensified and became controlled by the pace of machinery; machinery was invented capable of producing other machines for transport, production and war. The population of England and Wales rose dramatically after 1740 and more than doubled from 8.3 million in 1801 to 16.8 million in 1850 and, by 1901, nearly doubled again to 30.5 million. Europe's population increased from about 100 million in 1700 to 400 million by 1900.
The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, and spread to Western Europe and North America within a few decades. Economic historians agree that the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals, plants and the use and control of fire.
In 1774 in the time of George III, a visitor to Bridport, Thomas Belsham, wrote’ “Bridport is a town where the Dissenters are more numerous and powerful than the Establishment. They have introduced a kind of Anti Test, for no man is admitted a Member of the Corporation who is not a Dissenter”.
NINETEENTH CENTURY EUROPE
At the beginning of this century, the United Kingdom finally defeated Napoleon and his French Empire and France, as much of the continent was to have several revolutions and other inter-European and colonial wars. Spain, having wasted the riches it has pillaged from the Americas on decorations and luxuries instead of converting them to productive capital, collapsed upon itself. Italy was racked by a civil war of unification, Holland continued to develop economically. Russia created a huge Euro-Asian Empire. The United Kingdom, financed by its colonies and industry, became the largest empire ever know, at its height controlling 20% of the earths land and 25% of the its population.
Between 1450 and 1750 Europeans traded with Africa, but they set up very few colonies. By 1850, Great Britain had only the Cape Colony on the southern tip of Africa. Instead, free African states continued, and after the end of the slave trade in the early 1800s, trade increased of finished British manufactured goods for Egyptian gold, ivory, palm oil.
1884 - 1885
The Berlin Conference of 1884-5, in an effort to avoid more inter-European wars, allowed diplomats to draw lines on maps that carved Africa into colonies for the powerful European countries . The result was another tragic transformation of Africa, with virtually all parts conquered at a great cost to human lives. By 1900 the entire continent had been overrun by what some Africans referred to as ‘marauding and murderous white European tribes’.
Belgium was one of the first countries to sponsor expeditions to develop commercial activities, first establishing the Congo Free State under the direction of Belgium's King Leopold I and eventually seizing it as the Belgian Congo. This event set off the Scramble for Africa, in which Britain, France, Germany, and Italy competed with Belgium for land in Africa. This further perpetuated the ideas of the superiority of the white European and the supposed ‘white man’s burden’ to civilize and Christianize the heathens.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Lord Wilberforce headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. The passage came at a time when it was recognized that the production of sugar from beetroot would reduce the price of sugar as a commodity and therefore the power of the sugar plantation slave owners to fill the coffers of the treasury as previously would be less important.
During this period, although India was not a British colony, the British East India Company administered governmental affairs and initiated social reforms that reflected British values. In 1857 the Sepoy Rebellion broke out. Sepoys were Indian Muslim and Hindu mercenary soldiers under the direction of the Company. The soldiers revolted against new training rules, but it exposed a deeper need for an Indian identity and a desire to be rid of the invaders.
For many years the Tories resisted giving more people the vote. In November 1830, Earl Grey became Prime Minister in a Whig (Liberal) government and tried to push through electoral reform. He had the support of the King William IV but not the Tory Lords. It took two years of wrangling before ‘The Representation of the People Act 1832’, known as the Great Reform Act, was passed. It removed 56 boroughs in England and Wales and reduced another 31 to only one MP and created 67 new constituencies.
It broadened the property qualification to vote in the counties to include small landowners, tenant farmers, and shopkeepers and it created a uniform franchise in the boroughs, giving the vote to all householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more and to some lodgers. Still only one in seven adult males had the vote and it did not include women, or Jews! It did not rationalise the size of constituencies; many still had less than 300 electors and Liverpool had over 11,000.
It increased the number of eligible voters from 435,000 to 652,000, out of a total population of 16,000,000.
Lord Wilberforce supported the campaign for the complete abolition of slavery. It led to the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire. Wilberforce died three days after hearing that the passage of the Act through Parliament was assured.
1857 - 1947
With the suppression of the Sepoy Revolt, the British government removed the British East India Company from control and declared India a British colony. British officials took over all raw material production and of the cotton and poppies for the opium trade. They expanded production, built factories in India, and constructed huge railroad and irrigation projects, and the telegraph system.
THE REFORM ACT increased the voting population to nearly 2 million by including many working class men.
In the election of that year, Pandelli Ralli, A Liberal, easily defeated the Tory, Charles Warton and became the Town's Member of Parliament. However five years later, completely against the national trend, as Gladstone's Liberal Government wiped out Disraeli's Prime Ministership, the result was mysteriously reversed.
This decline in the fortunes of the local Liberals was the result of bribery. Job Legg was the then Brewer at what was later to become ‘Palmer’s Brewery’. All Legg's pubs in the town, which was virtually all of them, were thrown open early in the morning and were free to those who promised to vote for the Tory candidate. These privileged patrons were transported to the polling booths in carriages supplied by none other than Charles Warton, the Tory hopeful. Noted Liberals trying to avail themselves of the free beer in the Greyhound had the door slammed in their face. The ruse clearly worked as the Tory won by 13 votes.
Charles Nicholas Warton was Bridport's M.P. for the next five years and he was to earn the sobriquet "Champion Blocker" for the "pertinacity with which he objected to every single bill that the Liberals put forward."
1914 – 2015
THE LONG TWENTIETH CENTURY in EUROPE
The 20th century saw the first global-scale wars fought across continents and oceans. The right of people and nations to determine their own destinies led to decolonization and nationalist-influenced regional conflicts, often where the Soviet Union and the West, and in particular the United States, would use puppets to resolve communist versus capitalist control.
The THEORY OF RELATIVITY and quantum physics, changed the models of science. The exploitation and use of fossil fuel created hugely wealthy energy corporations capable of buying politicians governments and standing in the way of progress towards solutions to change the way energy and transport are created.
After more than four years of warfare during World War I, 20 million were dead. Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology (especially computers, paperback books, public education and the Internet) made the world's knowledge more widely available but at the same time, more controllable by large publishing and broadcasting corporations.
Advancements in medical technology and chemistry,improved global life expectancy from 35 years to 65 years. During World War II over 60 million people were murdered, while nuclear weapons gave humankind the means to annihilate itself. When the conflict ended in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as the major world powers. Allies during the war, they soon became hostile to one another as their opposing forms of economic organization – communist collectivism and democratic capitalist individualism confronted each other across occupied Europe, divided by the metaphoric Iron Curtain and the actual Berlin Wall. The period was marked by a new arms race, and nuclear weapons were produced in the tens of thousands, sufficient to end most human life on the planet had a large-scale nuclear exchange occurred.
The two world wars resulted in the destruction of the British Imperial system, to be replaced by the American financial system and military adventurism. After 1980, British and American neo-economics distorted ownership so far in favour of a small cohort of wealthy people, that the middle and working classes were left watching their standards of living frozen or falling, expectations for their children lower than their own, and the poor made even poorer. The political right toasted the new and unnecessary totem of austerity to fool people into accepting what has been called the largest transfer of wealth from the people to the rich, ever in history. Meanwhile industry was exported to nonunionized countries with oppressive regimes, swathes of the old industrial areas in the developed world became rust belts, people lost their homes, hunger grew and medical help was reduced along with public support for the unemployed.
After World War II, most of the European colonized world in Africa and Asia gained independence in a process of decolonisation. But the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and US and European foreign policy soon encroached on the independence of these struggling new nations, leading to exploitation of their natural resources, political overthrows, support for repressive regimes, mass starvation, high unemployment and the mass migration of people from the countryside to cities seeking any work, and from countries riddled by wars to more secure developed nations.
Following World War II the United Nations was established as an international forum in which the world's nations could discuss issues diplomatically. It enacted resolutions on such topics as the conduct of warfare, environmental protection, international sovereignty, and especially the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
The Soviet War in Afghanistan caused three million deaths and contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union.
The revolutions of 1989 released Eastern and Central Europe from Soviet supremacy. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia dissolved, the latter violently over several years, into successor states, many rife with ethnic nationalism often prompted by the local religious institutions. . East Germany and West Germany were reunified in 1990.
European integration began in earnest in the 1950s, and eventually led to the European Union, a political and economic union that comprised 15 countries at the end of the 20th century.
In the last third of the century, concern about humankind's impact on the Earth's eco system made environmentalism popular.
1900 - 2015 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
1914 – 1918
World War I was a senseless war fought between European monarchies squabbling over who would control which piece of land in Europe. It led to mass slaughter and for the UK, with an incompetent military and political leadership of with ‘lions led by donkeys’, they oversaw the death of a generation of men and boys. In its wake, the financial revenge taken against Germany ultimately led to World War II.
The 1884 bill and the 1885 Redistribution Act tripled the electorate again, giving the vote to most agricultural labourers. By this time, voting was becoming a right rather than the property of the privileged. However, women were not granted voting rights until the Act of 1918, which enfranchised all men over 21 and women over thirty. The burden of war warned the establishment that the workers needed buying off. Granting the vote was a part of the price paid.
1919 – 1939
The UK’s economy suffered from the expense of the war and from having lost so much foreign trade during the war. With the huge industrial power of the United States and the stubborn English factory owners refusing to reinvest to modernise their own industries, they supressed wages to extract more profit from their out-dated mills and factories.
The General Strike was a consequence of the coal owners attempting to reduce miner’s pay from £6 to £3.90. The Labour Party, for the first time in government, attempted to forestall the strike, because they thought it would embarrass them, and the Trade Union Congress feared revolutionary elements in the union movement. Although joined by transport unions and others, the government organised middle class groups and fascists to break the strike and maintain services. Within 6 days from its start the TUC called off the strike but the miners continued until hunger forced them back to work. While governments have police and the army to support their aims, and the industrialists have their wealth and organization to support theirs, and they both have a supporting media to promote their ideas, the working people only have their unions and their right to withdraw their labour. A true Democracy cannot exist without independent and strong trade unions.
The last bit of discrimination for voters was eliminated by the Equal Franchise Act, which gave all citizens the right to vote.
1939 – 1945
World War II was one of the most heroic moments in the United Kingdoms history. Standing all but alone for the first two years of the struggle, as country by country fell to the Nazis, Italian fascists and Soviets, the people’s unity stopped totalitarianism from overwhelming all of Europe.
The United Kingdom entered the Cold War, with full awareness that little but the English Channel and the presence of United States troops on European and British soil stood between it and Soviet tanks in Eastern Europe. Even as the ‘Spirit of 45’ created a more just social system, real power was never conceded to the people in terms of their ownership and management of production.
The Labour Party, which should have been the mechanism of the people became its tame representative voice, conceding that the construction of the welfare state was sufficient to create a tranquil working class.
Meanwhile the UK’s colonial possessions sought and won liberation, including India, the great money-making jewel in the crown for their British rulers.
In the early 1980’s, with the rise of Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher, the American led neo-liberal economic ideology led to removing controls on banking and later on financial markets and the beginning of the rolling back of the welfare state, followed by the privatization of everything and the development of the new economic myth of austerity. These damaging economic and political policies gutted the middle and upper working classes, further impoverished the poor, and transferred wealth from all of them to a new oligarchy of super-wealthy people, while on both sides of the Atlantic, politicians either stood with their hands behind their backs or actively participated in helping this cruel set of polices to be enacted.
2008 AND BEYOND
The banking crisis of 2007- 08 was a clear display of the failure of the bank and financial industry’s deregulations, as people in the first and seventh wealthiest nations on earth lost their homes, communities, self-esteem and social status while also losing many social welfare entitlements. Hunger and poor health spread, cultural and educational programmes were shutdown as were many clinics and hospitals along with businesses and shops. Insider trading, gambling with other people’s money, illegally fixing interest rates, trading in known faulty products, charging for unnecessary insurance and many other corrupt practices were responsible for the crisis. Virtually none of the people responsible were tried and thereafter, the general public were convinced that they were responsible to repay the banks for the losses made illegally by them. Thus, many of the long fought for gains of humanism and democracy fell to cruelty and avarice.
And meanwhile, as the earths temperature warms towards what 99% of scientists concerned with climate change say is the crucial two degrees plus increase in temperature, the British government does little to stop the powerful and wealthy fossil fuel industry from carrying on fracking, mining and otherwise polluting into the future.
BRIDPORT 1900 – 2015
Bridport has been a successful industrial town prospering from its rope and net making. The loss of trade after the two World Wars, the owners refusal or inability to invest in new technologies and to pursue new markets, followed by the introduction of Thatcher’s neo-liberal economic policies, which encouraged industry to either off shore their production or to dis-invest to reinvest in the financial markets, quickly led to the closure of many mills and factories in the town in the 1980’s. This has led to several generations of unemployed and underserved people living on local estates. Thatcher’s housing policy, which encouraged the sell off of public housing to occupants, has led to a continuing shortage of local affordable housing.
Today 25% of Bridport’s citizens live within the confines of zero hour contracts, expensive local housing, low wages and receding social welfare.