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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Royal United States of America

Posted by Adam Roberts on 10/11/06 at 07:19 AM

So, what’s below the fold?  At first glance I’d say it was the flag of the Royal United States of America, in an alternate history-type scenario whereby that lamentable business in 1776 never happened, Queen Elizabeth is sovereign from sea to shining sea and Americans everywhere are much happier for it.

See, there are the thirteen stripes, for the original thirteen colonies; and there in the top-left, the splendid crisscross red-white-and-blue Union Flag—serene, glorious—instead of those kitsch and frankly migrane-y stars all a-jostling:

But of course not.  This is, or was, a real flag: the flag of the British East India Company, the private trading organisation that effectively ran the Indian sub-continent from the late eighteenth-century through to 1858, when (in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny) its charter was altered.  (In the 1860s its assets were all taken by the British Crown, and it was officially dissolved at the start of 1874).  So why did the Company design this strangely American-looking flag?  But, no, the question is back-to-front.  The Company’s pennant, in fact, predates Old Glory by quite a bit, being first flown in the early 1600s.

But wait: the East India Company directly provoked the events that lead to the independence of the USA!

The desperate directors of the company attempted to avert bankruptcy by appealing to Parliament for financial help. This led to the passing of the Tea Act in 1773, which gave the Company greater autonomy in running its trade in America. Its monopolistic activities triggered the Boston Tea Party in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, one of the major events leading up to the American War of Independence.

Given this fact, is it not a little – how to put it? – strange that the fledgling republic would take as its flag a design that so closely resembled the flag of this hated, British-global multinational?  A bit like Iraqi insurgents kicking out American forces and then adopting a version of the Macdonald’s logo as the new national emblem?


Still waiting my comments.

Like to know why my comments haven’t appeared--please respond.



By on 10/12/06 at 02:13 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I heard Emma Rothschild give a fascinating lecture last year arguing that the American revolutionary sentiment was strongly affected not just by growing frustration with the Company in the American colonies, but by the American colonists awareness of Company abuses in India.  She described it as an early example of the politics of globalization.

By on 10/12/06 at 06:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

That is interesting, Sean; although it doesn’t answer (in fact, does the opposite of answering) the question posed in my last two sentences.  But maybe there is no answer.

By Adam Roberts on 10/12/06 at 10:04 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Jacques Albert; I’m not ignoring you. I’m afraid I’ve no idea why your comments have not appeared.

By Adam Roberts on 10/13/06 at 06:11 AM | Permanent link to this comment

If you have a look at the fairly recent - last year? year before? - issue of the journal Orbis devoted to 18th C Anglo-American continuities, you’ll see an illustration (mocked up in the 19th C I think, but still) of a bunch of colonists in 1775 hoisting a ‘Grand Union’ flag looking very like the E India Co one; union jack in the top corner, stripes on the rest.  The point being to assert a wish for legislative independence for colonial assemblies, within a larger, more federative definition of Britishness.  Pretty much Ben Franklin’s option, before it became clear it wasn’t a choice actually on the table.

By on 10/13/06 at 07:24 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Adam Roberts: Thanks for responding; there have been 3 lost posts of mine in a week and no indication from the “web postmaster” of a return of any of them. I’ll try again soon, but I’ve transferred two of them to other blogsites.

On the British East India flag that apparently served as an adaptable model for Old Glory, I see no strangeness in this. Our former national anthem was an adaptation of “God Save the Queen” (notwithstanding Ives’s amusing variations on it), n’est ce pas?

Often ignored in the post-colonialism industry so successfully (alas!) promoted by that pampered fraud, Edward Said, is recognition of a truly great and independent voice of pro-Empire sentiment, I mean the Bengali historian Nirad Chaudhuri, the “unknown Indian”. While not exactly a devotee of NC, an Indian colleague of mine who taught with me at an African-American college some years ago did have great respect for his incisiveness and integrity.
My colleague confirmed what V.S. Naipaul has said about the odious racial snobbery of the British--i.e., it was much exceeded by that of most Indians themselves.

On the “multiculturalism-diversity” shakedown racket, I’ll comment later.



By on 10/13/06 at 09:45 AM | Permanent link to this comment

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