Regards Things and Emotes at Them
That title made me chuckle. The video is pretty darned funny too if you’re familiar with Professor Schama’s work (Amongst other things, he wrote the wonderful book Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution which I cannot recommend highly enough — it’s a thoroughly engrossing read, especially if you’re interested in the taxation and trade policies of the Ancien Régime. Seriously). But I digress. The fellow who edited this compilation of film clips intended it as lighthearted send-up of his recent BBC film The American Future describing the “formulaic” art direction as: “Simon goes somewhere and looks contemplative.”
The musical track, if you’re interested is: Lied Der Grossmutter – Robert Volkmann; Je Te Veux – Erik Satie; and Opus 20 – Dustin O’Halloran.
Update: Speaking of Schama, here he is at Google (Mountain View, CA) in 2007 giving a highly animated talk about his most recent book Rough Crossings (which I haven’t read, but it’s on my list now).
From the review by Publisher’s Weekly:
Has there ever been a patch of history more celebrated than the American Revolution? The torrent is endless: volume after volume about the glory of 1776, the miracle of 1787 and enough biographies of the Founding Fathers to stretch from the Liberty Bell to Bunker Hill and back again. The Library of Congress catalogue lists 271 books or other items to do with George Washington’s death and burial alone. Enough!
By contrast with the usual hagiography, distinguished historian Schama has found a little-known story from this era that makes the Founding Fathers look not so glorious. The Revolution saw the first mass emancipation of slaves in the Americas—an emancipation, however, not done by the revolutionaries but by their enemies. Many American rebel leaders were slave owners. To hit them where it most hurt, Britain proclaimed freedom for all slaves of rebel masters who could make their way to British-controlled territory. Slaves deserted their horrified owners by the tens of thousands.
One, who used his master’s last name, was Henry Washington; another renamed himself British Freedom. The most subversive news in this book is that the British move so shocked many undecided Southern whites that it actually pushed them into the rebel camp: “Theirs was a revolution, first and foremost, mobilized to protect slavery.” Even though they lost the war, most British officers honored their promise to the escaped slaves. The British commander in New York at the war’s end, where some 3,000 runaway slaves had taken refuge, adamantly refused an irate Washington’s demand to give them back. Instead, he put them on ships for Nova Scotia. And there, nearly a decade later, another saga began.
More than a thousand ex-slaves accepted a British offer of land in Sierra Leone, a utopian colony newly founded by abolitionists, which for a few years in the 1790s was the first place on earth where women could vote. Sadly, however, financial problems and the British government’s dismay at so much democracy soon brought an end to the self-rule the former slaves had been promised.
Ah, the things they never teach you in school…