Local & Regional

The FT has a really nice piece on Hidden City Rivers

Eoin Purcell

Lovely corner in the Fleet Sewer. (Image with thanks to Flickr User: Mr. J Doe)

Lovely corner in the Fleet Sewer. (Image with thanks to Flickr User: Mr. J Doe)

What a week
I had intended to write more on hidden city rivers but then events interrupted and I got waylaid.

In any case, the FT has a wonderful article on another hidden river, The Fleet in London:

The Fleet became a noxious ditch and, in 1679, the build up of filth burst under the pressure of the water behind it and washed away several butchers around Smithfield meat market, cattle and all. The poet John Gay, perhaps employing his profession’s licence, thought the river delightful and observed: “Fleet Ditch with muddy current flows.” Gay also recommended the oysters for sale on the quayside. Such shellfish would struggle to pass health and safety muster now. Much better to stop at The Eagle, the bar that started Britain’s gastropub revolution, and which tempts me in with those ancient London scents: meat, beer and fish.

It really is a wonderfully evocative piece and well worth reading. If you are looking for something more, you could read the Wikipedia article linked above or you could check out Mr. J Doe’s Flickr stream (his image adorns this post) and read some the fascinating captions he has on the sequence of photographs of London’s Sewers.

Hidden City Rivers

Eoin Purcell

Image Copyright of Flickr user informatique (http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/)

Image Copyright of Flickr user informatique (http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/)

UPDATE: Kathy Foley has e-mailed me some links that I will incorporate into something later today or perhaps tomorrow. I also remembered this book, Hidden Cork, which we are publishing in November and I am planning on hitting the author up for some Cork details!

An appropriate topic for Uncovered History!
A great pointer from the NYT Blogs section (not to mention a wonderful historical photo) to an article on “Daylighting” historically covered rivers in cities and creating greenbanks along their banks:

I have a story running in The Times on one of the most remarkable such transformations — the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, South Korea. Through more than six centuries of settlement, the stream went from being a revered feature of the landscape to an open sewer to a buried, forgotten storm drain and now to a three-mile corridor of burbling waters, milling carp, strolling picnickers and relative quiet in one of the powerhouse metropolises of Asia. You can see a video report on that effort at the bottom of this post. The Seoul stream project was integrated with a parallel effort to take away highways and improve public transportation.

The story also discusses an ambitious effort to expose 1,900 feet of the Saw Mill River, which runs under a stretch of shops and parking lots in downtown Yonkers, a city of 200,000 abutting the Bronx. The photograph above shows the giant flume built in the early the 1920’s to contain the river. From San Antonio to Singapore, there are other examples.

Of course it doesn’t take long to realise that Dublin has it’s own rivers that might make for interesting “Daylighting” projects. The video gets particularly interesting around the 5minute mark when they go underground and actually follow the tunnels that the Poddle river flows through

On the other hand, Dublin is lucky in that it has two extant canals that frame the city centre and create park-like walkways most of the northern and southern perimeters. When you take in the glorious seafront, the effect of the Liffey and the Dodder, then “daylighting” the Poddle seems a bit like we are getting greedy.

Kathy Foley suggests that Cork might benefit from some “daylighting” but when I did some digging on that front I didn’t get much. If anyone knows more, send me info to eoinpurcellsblogATgmail.com

Just going 9am, time to cut the hedges!
Eoin

1798: The bloody & failed Irish republican revolt

Eoin Purcell

1789: The 14th July, Bastille Day
Maybe it is the old style liberalism in me but, being deeply suspicious of it, I have never been a fan of radicalism of any description. This has pushed my sympathies in some strange directions. In the case of France that has been with the moderate forces during the French Revolution and to some extent the moderate Royalists who in the early days of the Estates General and The National Assembly and the National Constituent Assembly.

I studied the history of the moderate and reformist aristocracy (and there were certain parts of the second estate that passionately believed in change, I must dig out that essay wherever it is) during my third year in University and they proved to be among the most active reformers in the early days of the revolution, pushing for radical reform and the type of moderate limited monarchy that most liberals would happily settle for and indeed which their close neighbours in England had slowly but surely achieved in the course of the 17th & 18th Centuries (though that development was not without its own fair share of blood).

So the shift from moderate and sensible reform towards radicalism, blood and a spiral of terror that the events of 14th July (The Storming of the Bastille) indicate are a lost opportunity in my mind, not a cause of celebration. To be clear, I don’t blame the citizen of Paris, nor even the less moderate politicians of the third estate, there was sufficient evidence in their eyes that the King and his party had plans to launch a coup, the worrying and increasing presence of foreign born troops was a worrying indicator and the sacking of Necker an equally concern one. There was an atmosphere of distrust that was fostered by the King. But the results were pretty wasteful.

Ireland’s Republican Glory
Much like the storming of the Bastille & 14th July is in France, the 1798 Rebellion is remembered in Ireland as a rather exciting and noble event in Irish history, something I have long failed to understand. The event itself was planned by some high minded people (those behind the United Irishmen) but the net effect of their planning was a violent, bloody and utter failure. It came to a somewhat shambolic end this week in a series of engagements, most notably at Knightstown Bog.

Peasants with little training were thrown upon militia and regular soldiers of the British Crown with some initial success but ultimately savage retribution. The rebellion put paid to Ireland’s Parliament dooming the country to even less self government until the protracted revolution of 1914-1921 delivered a moderate home rule program (again at some cost).

Text From A History of the Rebellion in Ireland, in the Year 1798

Text From A History of the Rebellion in Ireland, in the Year 1798

I often wonder how an Irish parliament might have reacted to the Potato Blight in the 1840s or indeed how a parliament alert to the challenges that faced its landlord membership might have tried to reactivate the economy in the decades following the Napoleonic Wars when agricultural prices suffered so badly due to the increased land supply that had proved very profitable during the wars but now, with the emergence of new grain sources and rapid transport from the US and Russia, drove prices down and increased hardship amongst the poorest, and reduced capital available for investment among the landlords.

How too might a body, without the stains of massacres like Scullabogue or battles like Vinegar Hill or Ballinahinch. While some dismiss it, I don’t think you can validly explore history as it happened without thinking of the alternatives.

All told, I tend to see these periods of radicalism as swathes of history when our worst human tendencies have gained the upper hand and pushed back rational advances until good sense and order has reestablished itself, or more simply, a was eof time, effort, money and a huge waste of lives.
Eoin

Some upcoming new history

Eoin Purcell

New books rather than old ones
Just spotted some nice upcoming history in Little Brown’s online catalogue (hosted via the rather excellent Exact Editions). The jewels of the pack to my mid are:

The Last Crusaders BY Barnaby Rogerson

The Road to Bosworth Field BY Trevor Royle

And

A Radical History of Britain BY Edward Vallance

Looking forward to some good reading!
Eoin

The Coming Anarchy – Kaplan's piece and the blog

Eoin Purcell

The warning bell
All that digging in the archives lead me to Kaplan’s fabulous February 1994 piece The Coming Anarchy which attempted to shake off the lethargy and myopia that had spread across the Western World with the downfall of communism and the seemingly rapid spread of democracy to the former soviet satellites.

Kaplan offered what he (or the sub editor) nicely headed:

A Premonition of the Future

West Africa is becoming the symbol of worldwide demographic, environmental, and societal stress, in which criminal anarchy emerges as the real “strategic” danger. Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms, and international drug cartels are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism. West Africa provides an appropriate introduction to the issues, often extremely unpleasant to discuss, that will soon confront our civilization. To remap the political earth the way it will be a few decades hence—as I intend to do in this article—I find I must begin with West Africa.

There is much more unsettling stuff there that seems relevant even now from his points about Côte d’Ivoire:

Consider “Chicago.” I refer not to Chicago, Illinois, but to a slum district of Abidjan, which the young toughs in the area have named after the American city. (“Washington” is another poor section of Abidjan.) Although Sierra Leone is widely regarded as beyond salvage, the Ivory Coast has been considered an African success story, and Abidjan has been called “the Paris of West Africa.” Success, however, was built on two artificial factors: the high price of cocoa, of which the Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer, and the talents of a French expatriate community, whose members have helped run the government and the private sector. The expanding cocoa economy made the Ivory Coast a magnet for migrant workers from all over West Africa: between a third and a half of the country’s population is now non-Ivorian, and the figure could be as high as 75 percent in Abidjan.

During the 1980s cocoa prices fell and the French began to leave. The skyscrapers of the Paris of West Africa are a facade. Perhaps 15 percent of Abidjan’s population of three million people live in shantytowns like Chicago and Washington, and the vast majority live in places that are not much better.

Not all of these places appear on any of the readily available maps. This is another indication of how political maps are the products of tired conventional wisdom and, in the Ivory Coast’s case, of an elite that will ultimately be forced to relinquish power.

Chicago, like more and more of Abidjan, is a slum in the bush: a checkerwork of corrugated zinc roofs and walls made of cardboard and black plastic wrap. It is located in a gully teeming with coconut palms and oil palms, and is ravaged by flooding. Few residents have easy access to electricity, a sewage system, or a clean water supply. The crumbly red laterite earth crawls with foot-long lizards both inside and outside the shacks. Children defecate in a stream filled with garbage and pigs, droning with malarial mosquitoes. In this stream women do the washing. Young unemployed men spend their time drinking beer, palm wine, and gin while gambling on pinball games constructed out of rotting wood and rusty nails. These are the same youths who rob houses in more prosperous Ivorian neighborhoods at night. One man I met, Damba Tesele, came to Chicago from Burkina Faso in 1963. A cook by profession, he has four wives and thirty-two children, not one of whom has made it to high school. He has seen his shanty community destroyed by municipal authorities seven times since coming to the area. Each time he and his neighbors rebuild. Chicago is the latest incarnation.

Fifty-five percent of the Ivory Coast’s population is urban, and the proportion is expected to reach 62 percent by 2000. The yearly net population growth is 3.6 percent. This means that the Ivory Coast’s 13.5 million people will become 39 million by 2025, when much of the population will consist of urbanized peasants like those of Chicago. But don’t count on the Ivory Coast’s still existing then. Chicago, which is more indicative of Africa’s and the Third World’s demographic present—and even more of the future—than any idyllic junglescape of women balancing earthen jugs on their heads, illustrates why the Ivory Coast, once a model of Third World success, is becoming a case study in Third World catastrophe.

President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who died last December at the age of about ninety, left behind a weak cluster of political parties and a leaden bureaucracy that discourages foreign investment. Because the military is small and the non-Ivorian population large, there is neither an obvious force to maintain order nor a sense of nationhood that would lessen the need for such enforcement. The economy has been shrinking since the mid-1980s. Though the French are working assiduously to preserve stability, the Ivory Coast faces a possibility worse than a coup: an anarchic implosion of criminal violence—an urbanized version of what has already happened in Somalia. Or it may become an African Yugoslavia, but one without mini-states to replace the whole.

Now that’s a long quote but when you read these stories from the recent past you see just how clear sighted the article was. Now the country has regained some sense of normalcy in the last twu years but the tensions remain.

And the blog
The blog is an interesting discussion forum based on the ideas and concepts the Kaplan brought forth in his article, but Kaplan does not contribute there and he is not involved in any way. He is more of an inspiration. There is no end of variety to the topics covered so I won’t try and elaborate except to say that this is by far my favourite on a review.

So much to think about sometimes is there not?
Eoin

Links – 23/01/2008

Visit Gongblog for a series of great graphics on China and India’s role in the world economy. For while I have been annoying one of my good friends with the idea that China has traditionally accounted for about 30% of the world economy and will over time return to norm. Its a nonsense notion in one sense but seems to be emerging as truth. Of course it could as easily not have happened this way since 1920 or so but it has. Interesting.
HERE

Lost and Found. One of the best documentary movies I have ever seen. I lost the address, got the address and finally got around to posting it. and sending an e-mail I’d love the answer to be positive on!
Here

Sweet! Stanford University iTunes lectures. Download-a-go-go! [Launches iTunes]
Here

The vagaries of Google Book search

Goddamn I love free books!
Yes free. Download em if you doubt me.

For instance: The Causes of the French Revolution by Lord John Russell (Longman, London, 1832) is available free for download here. Which is kinda crazy. Of course as we mentioned before you can get the text already on Gutenberg but this is a whole different ballgame. Or maybe its the game changer.

You can also easily download the History of the Girondists: Or, Personal Memoirs of the Patriots of the French Revolution, By Alphonse de Lamartine (H.G. Bohn, London??, 1853) and if you want to it is here.

But I did say vagaries (I had to check that. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant but just in case).
Sadly the one I really want is The History of the French Revolution, By Adolphe Thiers (A. Hart, Philadelphia, 1850) and all I can get is this! It seems strage for a book published in 1850 and even Thiers, though long lived (he died in 1877) died outside of the window for public domain works!

Oh well. I’ll take the free stuff for now and get the rest when I can!
Eoin