Thursday, July 01, 2010

June 27, 2010

Dear Sis~

I'm finishing up a compelling historical military account written by a young Winston Churchill, first published in 1899, titledThe River War, accurately subtitled An Account of the Conquest of the Sudan.  Over the last 35 years (mostly in the 70's) I've read all of Churchill's major publications (he was a prolific writer) including his famous five or six volume history of World War II (sort of a combination autobiography and history text).  I'd forgotten what a fine writer Churchill was (notwithstanding the somewhat archaic linguistic nuances typical of that time period) and I'm even more impressed by how well he wrote at such an early age.  This book picks up after the disasterous military campaign of General Charles Gordon in the Sudan (then a land violently annexed and cruelly administered by Egypt) and details the English Empire's "reconquest" of the Sudan by Lord Kitchener.  This occurred from 1896 to 1899, and was of course during the zenith of the European imperialism and colonialism era.  Churchill was an ardent believer in colonialism, he was a product of his time, and the book was written from that perspective.  There was a time when I was young and naive, that I would have read this book with a high degree of admiration for Chruchill (who participated in the final battles)  and the English Empire's  aspirations.  That was before I began to think for myself and learned to view history through a different lens, from the perspective of the oppressed nations.  Anyway, what's interesting about this book is how it chronicles the history of the Sudan, including the Darfur region, tracing the contrasts and conflicts between Arabs and Africans, Muslims and Christians, north and south, rich and poor.  This region was dominated by slave trading (Arab slave traders from the north capturing indigenous black Africans from the south) and characterized by terrible suffering and cruelty.  The British stuck their noses into this desolate, stone-age land thinking (or at least proclaiming) they could better the natives' living conditions by violently removing the Egyptian and Arab yokes.  Sort of like how America is always invading some hapless country "for it's own good".  It's interesting to read about all the cultural/racial/religious/financial aspects of 1890's Sudan and see how these same things are in play right now in today's headlines about the Sudan and the Darfur region.  If you want to understand what's going on in the Sudan today, reading this book would be a good place to start...
That's it for now, Sis!
Love. Bill

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