The Roman Military Occupation of Britain

When Rome Ruled Britain

Directed by Eric Tenwolde

Film Review

Apart the filmmakers’ claim that Roman military occupation substantially improved life for early Britons,* this documentary seems to provide a reasonable account of the Roman conquest and pacification of the British Isles.

This documentary starts with Julius Caesar’s two failed invasions of of Kent in 55 and 54 BC, based on the preposterous claim these remote islands posed a threat to Roman security (sound familiar?). More likely Caesar coveted the islands’ rich tin reserves Rome needed to produce brass. Despite strong resistance from British tribes unified by the warlord Cassivellaunus, Caesar eventually marched his troops through Middlesex as far as the Thames, forcing Cassivellaunus to surrender and pay tribute to Rome.

It would be 100 years before Roman troops returned to Britain under the Emperor Claudius in 53 AD. They did so at the request of a pro-Roman king, who was under attack from anti-Roman warlords who had ceased to pay tribute. Making use of fierce Germanic auxiliaries recruited in Gaul, the Roman troops defeated the the rebels and progressed as far inland as Colchester, where the emperor Claudius made a triumphal entry on an elephant.

Caratacus, king of the Catubellauni tribe, retreated into Wales where he resisted Roman incursion for more than a decade. In 57 AD, Roman legions attacked the Druids in Anglesey (island off Northwest coast of Wales), seeking to end their ritual practice of  human sacrifice. Roman troops also gradually progressed northward despite large scale revolts that persisteed until 69 AD.

In 78 AD the Roman governor of the province of Britannia led a brief incursion into Caledonia (modern Scotland), but Emperor Vespasian, dealing with a civil war in Rome, ordered him to retreat. The territory was considered of dubious value.

By 100 AD, Rome had established a stable military occupation of the territory comprising most of modern day England. The Romans brought the bronze age to Britain, as well as bustling cities, the Latin language, aqueducts carrying drinking water,  mosaics, Roman money, massive road networks and pottery. Despite their subjugation by Rome, residents of Britannia enjoyed the right to become Roman citizens if they so chose and were free to follow their own religion

In the North and West of Britannia (modern day Wales), city life never took hold and the Celtic tongue remained preeminent.

In 117 AD, Rome built Hadrian’s Wall to hinder Scots from invading the province of Britannia. Between 176-210 AD, following penetration of the Wall by an army of Scots, Rome dispatched 50,000 troops to Britannia in an unsuccessful attempt to invade and occupy Caledonia.

During the third century, instability in other parts of the empire (and declining military strength) laid to an increase in raids on the province by Scottish, Irish and Germanic tribes.

In the fourth century Constantine (who would become emperor in 306) fought alongside his father in yet another war against the Scots. In 383 AD, the Scots would join forces with Saxons from Germania to invade Britannia. From 388 on, Rome was occupied with a series of civil wars and barbarian invasions on the European continent and allowed trade, defenses and troop numbers to steadily decline in Britannia

In 410 AD, Rome declined a request from Britannia’s governor for a return of troops to protect the province against marauding Angles and Saxons. Within decades Germanic law replaced Roman law in the British Isles and paganism replaced Christianity.**


*I suspect that, as with most colonies, it was mainly wealthy elites who benefited, at the expense of farmers and laborers.

**Christianity was first introduced to Britannia during the third century. In 380 AD, Constantine declared it the official religion of all Roman provinces.

When England Was Connected to the European Continent

When Doggerland Sank Beneath the Waves: Europe’s Lost World

Directed by Pete Kelly (2020)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the continental shelf that connected Ireland, the UK and Europe during the last Ice Age. The filmmakers date the start of the Paleolithic or Stone Age (ie the first human use of stone tools) to 3.3 million years ago.

In Britain the oldest human remains date from 400,000 – 500,000 years ago. For the most part,  they derive the species Homo neanderthalensis. Neanderthals lived during a period when when several human species roamed planet earth. They became extinct around 35,000 BC.

The first British evidence of modern humans (homo sapiens) dates from 31,000 BC. There’s good evidence these early hunter gatherers traveled hundreds of miles, across the Doggerland* land bridge, following herds of woolly mammoth. They would be forced to retreat to more southern areas of Europe when the last ice sheet covered Britain from 31,000 – 11,000 BC.
As northern Europe began to warm in 3,000 BC, tundra throughout Europe gradually changed to savanna and forestland featuring lions, hyenas, saber tooth tigers, bears, hares, badgers and primitive horses. During the period Doggerland connected Britain to the continent, the Thames flowed into the Seine and Danube Rivers.
Between 8,000 – 6,200 BC, rising sea levels steadily shrank the size of Doggerland. By 7,500 BC, Ireland was a separate island and by 7,000 BC, most of Doggerland were so marshy people could only travel to Europe by boat. The Doggerland Hills remained until 6,200 BC, when evidence suggests they were submerged by a mega-tsunami triggered by a landslide off the Norwegian coast.

*The name Doggerland derives from the Dogger Banks, a shallow region off East Anglia, renowned for abundant fish catches. Dogger is the Dutch word for fisherman.

 

The Deep State vs Jeremy Corbyn

This film (released about a week ago) is about the collusion between British intelligence and the mainstream media to block Corbyn from becoming prime minister on December 12 – despite overwhelming public support.

The film begins with vignettes from prominent British and international prominent Jews, such as Noam Chomsky, Bernie Saunders and Norman Finkelstein shredding the outrageous smear (repeatedly echoed by every media outlet, including the BBC) that Corbyn and the Labour Party are viciously antisemitic. As with Bernie Sanders the radical policies Corbyn promotes pose a grave threat to a powerful elite that includes the British banking and arms industry, as well as the pro-Israel lobby abetting the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Israel.

British intelligence has been using the mainstream media to peddle disinformation about the Labour Party since 1948, when MI5 faked a document linking them to the Communist Party.

Filmmakers go on to castigate the British media for failing to confront the outright lies expounded by Corbyn’s Conservative and Liberal Democratic opponents. This section includes a clip of one of Boris Johnson’s ministers calling for the UK to replace the National Health Service (NHS) with a US-style system of private insurance. Another clip depicts Corbyn displaying leaked documents from Johnson-Trump trade negotiations that include the  the right of the US to bid on private contracts to run specific NHS services currently run by the British government.*

The film ends by reminding us of the true purpose of rigged political polls (currently showing Johnson with a strong lead) – namely to demoralize Labour supporters and discourage them from coming out to vote. They point to 2017, when Conservatives ended up with a minority government, despite all the polls predicting a strong Tory majority.

*In the week since the film was released, the mainstream media (based on an anonymous source on Reddit) is blaming the Russians for leaking the documents to Corbyn.

 

 

 

Archeologists Find Indoor Stone Toilet from 3,300 BC

The World of Stonehenge – Part 3 The Age of Cosmology

BBC (2018)

Film Review

The Age of Cosmology describes Britain’s late Neolithic Age between 4,000 and 3,00 BC. The age Stonehenge dates from, this period is mainly characterized by the rise of a priestly class and an interest in spirituality and cosmology. Both Britain and Ireland are home to hundreds of large stone monuments like Stonehenge. They are all astronomically aligned to the summer and winter solstice and are unknown anywhere else. Some of Ireland’s neolithic stone monuments predate the Egyptian pyramids.

In addition to circular stone monuments, archeologists also find remains of large green stone axe “factories” and stone beads from this period, along with evidence of cremation. The latter was reserved for the priestly classes, to hasten their journey to the afterlife.

Archeologists have also found the remains of an indoor stone toilet in the Orkney Islands dating from 3,300 BC.

 

World War I: How the West Fomented Ethnic Conflict to Destroy the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire: Demise of a Major Power

DW (2017)

Film Review

This documentary demonstrates how people of multiple religions and ethnicities were able to coexist peaceably for over four centuries in the Ottoman empire. This flies in the face of western propaganda about the inevitably of genocidal violence when various religions and ethnicities share the same geographic space.

According to the filmmakers, the long peaceful coexistence of multiple religious and ethnic groups (the main ones being Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Sunni, Shia and Sufi Muslims) relates mainly to the Ottoman creation of semi-autonomous regional “millets.” These were under the administrative control of local religious leaders.

The democratic ideals that arose from the 1789 French Revolution would pose the first major challenge to this stability, in triggering a whole series of rebellions. In 1821, Greek rebels would launch a full scale war of independence. Russia, France and Britain, keen on expanding their empires into the Balkans and Middle East, supported the rebellion. Greece would ultimately win independence in 1829.

Over the coming decades, the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empire fomented similar rebellions by ethnic Serbs, Romanians and Bulgarians. In 1877, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire – under the pretext of protecting its Christian subjects – which ended with the 1878 Congress of Berlin. The latter divided up the Balkans and placed the minority Armenians in the Anatolia peninsula under the protection of the European powers. Russia was granted control of Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro and the Austro-Hungarian empire control of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This peace agreement, which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Balkan Muslims, signaled the dawn of the modern age of refugees.

For me the most intriguing part of the film concerned the intelligence role of archeologist Thomas Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), who was actually a British secret agent sent to mobilize the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula to revolt against their Ottoman rulers. Lawrence, on behalf of Britain, promised Arab fighters their own Arabian kingdom in return for their military support – a promise Britain conveniently broke in 1920.*

This documentary leaves absolutely no question that the real agenda in World War I was 1) disrupting the growing German-Ottoman alliance and 2) for the European powers who initiated the war to divide up the Ottoman empire. Following the 1918 armistice and 1920 Treaty of Sevres, Britain would win colonial control of Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq and Kuwait) and Palestine and the French control of Syria and the newly created Christian enclave of Lebanon.

After Britain gained colonial control over Palestine in 1920, they immediately revved up ethnic tensions by requiring Jerusalem residents to reside in distinct religious zones an


*The Ottoman Empire’s possessions in the Arabian Peninsula became the Kingdom of Hejaz, which was annexed by the Sultanate of Nejd (today Saudi Arabia), and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen. The Empire’s possessions on the western shores of the Persian Gulf were variously annexed by Saudi Arabia (Alahsa and Qatif), or remained British protectorates (Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar) and became the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. requiring passports for travel between zones.

 

 

 

 

 

Suez: Britain’s Illegal 1956 War Against Egypt

A Very British Crisis

BBC (2006)

Film Review

In 1956 Britain, France and Israel launched an illegal war of aggression against Egypt after President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. As in the more recent US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s real goal was regime change – the removal of Nasser as president. Eden, like Bush and Obama believed the local population would welcome the foreign invasion – that they would use it to rise up and topple their leader.

The humiliation Britain faced over the Suez Crisis would spell the end of their role as the world’s foremost super power.

Part 1 covers Egypt’s war of independence, which began as a mass popular uprising against British military occupation. In 1952, a secret group of Egyptian military officers, led by Nasser, took advantage of the civil unrest to topple King Farouk, establish a revolutionary council and demand the withdrawal of British troops. When Britain and the US tried to isolate Nassar by blocking a World Bank loan for Egypt’s Aswan Dam, Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal Company (jointly owned by Britain and France). His intention was to use canal profits to pay for the dam.

Part 2 concerns the secret conspiracy hatched by Britain, France and and Israel to invade Egypt, reclaim the Suez Canal and remove Nasser from power.

Part 3 covers the brutal invasion and the armed civilian resistance that fought back against the invaders. It also reveals the humiliating circumstances that forced Britain to withdraw their troops before they ever reached the canal. Because both France and Britain hold vetoes on the UN Security Council, Eisenhower used economic warfare to force Britain to agree to a ceasefire. A coordinated attack on the British pound by Wall Street banks* forced Eden to request Eisenhower’s support for an IMF loan. The latter demanded an immediate ceasefire as a condition of the loan.


*The filmmakers are a bit fuzzy about the coordinated sell-off of the British pound that caused its value to plummet. Based on what Willim Engdahl has written about US economic warfare (see How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar), I suspect it was instigated by the Economy Warfare division of US Treasury.

The Rise and Fall of Britain’s Working Class

the-people

The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910-2010

By Selina Todd

John Murray Publishers (2015)

Book Review

The People is about the rise of the British working class during World War I and its systematic erosion during the seventies as the Thatcher government systematically dismantled Britain’s manufacturing base.

British workers first began to see themselves as a cohesive force during 1914-18 as hundreds of thousands left domestic service (where most were employed) for the war industry. Working class consciousness reached its zenith during World War II, in part due to discriminatory treatment by the Churchill government. Working class women were often forced to leave well-paying jobs to be conscripted into the munitions industry. In contrast, middle and upper class women were exempted from conscription because they did “voluntary” work. Middle and upper class families also found it easier to be exempted from the mandatory evacuation scheme. The latter required rural families were required to accept child evacuees from urban centers without compensation.

The Churchill government provided virtually no funding for the mandatory evacuation scheme (which was organized mainly by schools and charitable groups), nor for benefits for families who lost housing, jobs and breadwinners due to German bombing, nor for proper air raid shelters. Government provided shelters were so wet and filthy, Londoners spontaneously seized and occupied the subway system, and there was nothing the government could do to stop them.

According to Todd, the austerity cuts that have turned Britain into a low wage economy actually started in 1976 (three years before Thatcher was elected prime minister) with public spending cuts imposed on the UK as a condition of an IMF loan. For the most part, this “free market” attitude continued under Blair and New Labour.

In her Afterward, Todd sees evidence of a growing popular discontent over inequality in the rise of UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) and the Scottish independence referendum. The latter, she maintains, was actually more about inequality. More recently, this discontent has manifested in the election of left wing Jeremy Corbyn to run the Labour Party and the successful Brexit referendum.

A History of British Anarchism

slow burning fuse

The Slow Burning Fuse: the Lost History of British Anarchists

by John Quail

Granada Publishing (1978)

A number of chapters are available free on-line at Libcom.org

Book Review

The Slow Burning Fuse is the first (and only?) textbook of British anarchism, a social movement that’s virtually invisible in mainstream British history books.

According to Quail, anarchism evolved out of the 1830-48 European revolutions.* He describes it as a reaction to the ease with which electoral reform and democratic socialism snuffed out popular desire for genuine revolution. Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin were the primary architects of anarchist thought.

Although British anarchism never became the mass movement it did in France and Spain, it had a major influence on the British trade union movement and British socialism.

In the UK, anarchism grew out of the Chartist** and Radical*** clubs and their demands for an end to the aristocracy and the privilege of unearned income (enjoyed by the royal family and Church of England clergy), abolition of the House of Lords, home rule for Ireland and nationalization of major industries. The most vocal proponents were German, French and Russian refugees who fled to Britain (as Karl Marx did) following the passage of antisocialism legislation in their native countries. For many years, all German revolutionary and anarchist literature was produced in London.

British anarchism reached high points during significant periods of working class unrest (1889-94 and 1910-19). Its influence declined after 1920 for four main reasons:

1) Police infiltration and false flag events (the British police appear to be responsible for most of the major bombings attributed to British anarchists).
2) The incorporation of anarchist supporters into the fledgling Labour Party (aka Socialist Labour Party) which first assumed power in 1924
3) The absorption of anarchist supporters into the British communist party following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. News of Lenin’s brutal treatment of Russian anarchists was very slow to reach the UK. Initially most British anarchists jubilantly supported the Bolshevik Revolution.

In their heyday, British anarchists boasted an active membership (ie participating in street protests) of 4,000, although 7,000-8,000 subscribers bought their newspapers and magazines.

In the early twentieth century, members of the anarchist movement collaborated with socialists, suffragettes and trade union syndicalists in staging major strikes and mass

Anarchism experienced a brief resurgence during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and campaigned for British volunteers to join the International Brigades fighting Franco’s fascist coup.


*1830 revolutions

  • France
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Switzerland

1849 revolutions

  • Italy
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hungary
  • Galicia (Ukraine)
  • Switzerland
  • Poland
  • Ireland
  • Danubian principalities (Romania)
  • Schleswig (Denmark)

**Chartism was a working class movement between 1836 and 1848 with a principal aim of gaining political rights and influence for the working class.
***The Radicals were a parliamentary political grouping in the UK who helped to transform the Whigs into the Liberal Party