Sunday, August 26, 2007

Donald Lowry and British Loyalty in Empire

Donald Lowry and British Loyalty in Empire

Donal Lowry, in his article The Crown, Empire Loyalism and the Assimilation of Non- British White Subjects in the British World: An Argument Against ‘Ethic Determinism’, attempts to challenge the previous imperial historiography that claims that British citizens and their descendants expressed little loyalty towards the British crown and empire. He argues that, in fact, some non-British citizens exhibited a fervor for empire just as genuine as that of the British settler loyalists and their descendants in the colonies. To prove this, the author primarily focuses on the Catholic communities of the settler colonies like Canada and Australia, but also discusses Jewish loyalism.

One of the arguments that Lowry makes is that for many non-British ethnic minorities, loyalty to the crown was not only a necessary defensive measure (“George-etienne
Cartier subsequently became fearful of the threat to property of the ideas of Proudhon and other socialists”) but also presented an opportunity to further their own nationalist interests (“Lafontaine became convinced that french-Canadian heritage would be best consolidated under the crown”). Another theme of the article is religion, which Lowry argues was prominent in consolidating empire loyalism of the non-British subjects in Canada and elsewhere. The crown became a guarantor of religious rights that french-Canadian bishops could depend on, at the time of the “misery and shame of the French Revolution.”

Many non-British subjects even became willing participants in the imperial project as they sought to spread the reach of their catholic religion to the rest of the empire. In other words, the author seems to suggest that as more time passed, the more the non-British populations in the colonies became loyal to the empire, as they sought to appropriate it for their own advantage. Another theme that is introduced in the article is the discord that exists in the ethnic communities regarding their role within the empire and loyalty to it.

While Lowry demonstrates the great contribution that ethnic communities like the Irish Catholics have made to the empire (D’arcy McGee), he also discusses their constant struggles in forging their own identities and the place it ought to occupy within the empire. Henri Bourassa for example, while fearing the threat of potential American annexation, also spoke of U.S. “aggressive imperialism” and the threat this posed to the french nation.

Lowry goes a long way in demonstrating the enthusiasm of many members of the non-British ethnic minorities for empire, as well as their important historical contributions to it. No one can doubt that many Irish Catholics or french-Canadians were willing imperialists and fiercely loyal to the crown. But Lowry, despite a few sparse reminders of the prevalence of French-Canadian nationalism (“monarchist sentiments were greatly weakened by the quiet revolution”), over-emphasizes the empire loyalism that was prevalent at the time. The majority of the sources, secondary in nature, tend to concentrate on the political elites of the non-British peoples. Very few references are made to the loyalty of average citizens, notwithstanding the popularity of the monarchical visits to Montreal and Toronto, hardly evidence of a profound “sense of loyalty to the crown and empire.”

In order to explain empire loyalism, Lowry refers to adoptive nationalism, where “the
monarchy could be imagined selectively by...imperial subjects.” He goes on to see traces of French-Canadian loyalty to empire in as late as 2001. Certainly, this is a redundant argument not worth mentioning. If a modern Quebec MP is making deference to the British monarchical heritage of the Canadian political system, is this truly a genuine loyalism to the British crown or rather mere sentimentalism? If Quebec were to have successfully gained independence, would its first task be to appoint a governor-general? Is it not more likely that immigrant arrivals adopt the prevailing nationalism, but without necessarily sensing a profound duty to a distant Queen?

It is this weakness that pervades Lowry’s earlier analysis of empire loyalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The author fails to show that empire loyalism, where presumably the subject peoples were prepared to defend the crown in combat if necessary, was anything more than a sentiment present in the minority of the political elite or population as a whole.

Ancient Indian District of Allahabad

District of Allahabad, India

Located in the easternmost portion of the Allahabad division within the United Provinces, the district of Allahabad presents us with with a fairly accurate picture of the lives of most Indians living around the time of the turn of the century.

Geography and Environment

Allahabad is limited to the north by Partabgarh and to the east by Mirzapur with the Banda district representing its southern boundary, and finally Fatehpur to the west. Geographically, we can divide the district in terms of its two major rivers - the Ganges and the Jumna - into three areas. The Doab is the first of these subdivisions. Triangular in shape and land-locked between the two rivers, it is a relatively fertile land with patches of forests on its elevated plains and featureless ravines closer to its mainland.

The second major geographical subdivision of the district is called the Trans-Ganges tract. While well-wooded and more fertile than the Doab and containing many swamp areas near which rice is grown, its southern portion contains some 60,000 acres of barren land; this does not include other uncultivable land permanently occupied by roads, railways, and the such. The final area under consideration is the Trans-Jumna tract of land; this is where the largest presence of barren land (70,000 acres) is to be found, despite also having the widest area of physical attributes. From this brief description, then, we can begin to see a pattern of land scarcity that surely has a guiding role in the organization of economic and social activity among the peoples of this district.

Agriculture and Commerce

The agricultural and commercial activities in the Allahabad district are largely influenced by the geographic and climactic conditions of this region. The one remaining factor that delineates economic activity is the social caste system of India. One recognizable feature of Allahabad is the regularity of the rains that are received, averaging some 38 inches per annum. This ensures that a predictable harvest can happen, one upon which local economic activity is planned. As hinted at earlier, the lack of cultivable land results in high commodity prices due to scarcity to which we must also add a relatively dense population. Rice, wheat, barley and various autumn pulses represent the mainstay of the crops in this district. Opium and hemp is also cultivated in significant numbers.

The district benefits, since the great famine of 1896-7 which was due in part to decreased precipitation, from an extensive network of wells and reservoirs which are needed for the intensive rice cultivation. Farming in Allahabad is also characterized by the Indian caste system. The Kachhi and Kurmi castes are seen as "careful," employing "intensive tillage," where as the methods of the others (mainly higher castes) are described as "scanty tenantry."

In terms of keeping livestock as an economic activity, this is largely present in the Trans-Jumna tract: extensive pastures have been utilized for the breeding of buffaloes and bulls. Fisheries is another important source of food for many, and a primary occupation of the Mollah and Kahar castes, but one that is insufficient due to an inadequate supply. Industry and factory is negligible in Allahabad: metals and the manufacture/repair of military equipment as well as the production of tiles, indigo and bricks make up the majority of the work.

Trade is limited to the bare necessities of the populace. In terms of imports, we can speak of oil-seeds from Banda district (by river), grain from the north in Partabgarh across the Ganges, in addition to metals, salt and piece goods from elsewhere. The main exports are cotton, sugar, grain and ghi. The final remark to be made concerns the "sanctity" of Allahabad as a prime center of pilgrimage within the entire UP. Tradition, therefore, plays an important role for the local population, to which we will now turn.


The population of Allahabad is roughly divided equally between the make and female sexes and total some 1.5 million, 14% of whom are urbanized (largely owing to the size of Allahabad city) while the rest of the people living among some 3,500 towns and villages. Hinduism is the largest religious affiliation with around 1.3 million believers, followed by Islam (200,000) and Christianity (1,300).

The most numerous castes within the Hindu population are the Brahmans (land-holders, cultivators and money-lenders), the Chamars (agriculturalists, cattle breeders) and the Rajputs. While the Rajputs represent only a mere 5% of the Hindu population, they are a dominant caste, owning more land than any other. For example, the Raja of Manda, a Gaharwar Rajput, is the largest landholder of the district. The Raja will then typically lease out the land to cash-paying tenants, the preferred method among landholders.

Literacy in Allahabad district is comparatively high and has made huge progress over the years. As of 1901 some 7.96% of the males were literate, a figure that is surpassed only in Lucknow and Benares as well as some of the hill districts. Female literacy has also steadily increased to a percentage of 0.56 in 1901. Among the Muslims, the literacy rate is slightly higher, roughly 10% for the males compared with 7% among the Hindu's. The main reason for this is the general likelihood for the Muslim population to be residing in cities as opposed to rural areas which present less educational opportunities.

Allahabad City

In terms of administration, Allahabad city is the headquarters of the district and the seat of government of the United Provinces. As such, it is one of the largest urban areas in the entire province. The city is located on the left bank of the Jumna river. The population, as of 1901, was some 172,000 with the majority of them Hindu but with a significant Muslim minority of 50,000. The city is a great point of assembly for religious pilgrimages, with up to a million people bathing and celebrating in the great rivers of Allahabad.

Where the city lacks in terms of trade or recognizable historic buildings it makes up for in its educational institutions. Allahabad is the most important center for education within the United provinces. The Muir College (founded in 1872), the Allahabad Christian College (1902) and the Kayastha Pathshala, with the number of students ranging between 50 and 350, all attest to the importance of higher learning to Allahabad. The city is also home to numerous English language newspapers such as the Pioneer, which is the more prominent among them.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Beginnings: Disney and the F.B.I.

The Beginnings: Disney and the F.B.I.

"Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood." Walt Disney.

The F.B.I. files on Walt Disney begin from 1936 and continue until his death in 1966. The Disney file reveals a complex relationship between these two Cold War actors but is also informative of the process of cultural production taking place during the Cold War and how content becomes a plane upon which a struggle between competing visions of purpose is enacted.

The first reference hinting to Disney's relationship with the Bureau is in a memo dated December 16th, 1954 sent from the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) in the Los Angeles division to Director Hoover. The memo gives a brief summary of Disney's career and notes that Disney had volunteered the use of his studios to representatives of the Bureau. The memo goes on to conclude that Disney would be a valuable asset for the Bureau given his prominence within the entertainment industry and should be accepted as an official SAC Contact. All previous relations between Disney and the Bureau are blacked out in the memo, a pattern that is repeated throughout the Disney file.

Some have speculated that in fact Disney had been an informant for the F.B.I. during the war and that he had received a promotion in 1954 allowing him to operate his own network of informants. While it is difficult to prove such accusations given the current state of the evidence, it remains a probability that Disney had been an informant during the war, given the previous intersecting relationships between the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (of which Disney played a role in), the Bureau and HUAC. Disney's official status as SAC-Contact was granted January 12, 1955.

Notwithstanding the granting of Contact status to Disney, the relationship with the Bureau in this early period was difficult. On January 20, 1956, a representative of Disney dropped by the Bureau office to discuss shooting a video about the F.B.I. for the ABC network. Despite approval by the local Los Angeles SAC, Hoover refused.
On February 6th, it was Disney's turn to decline a request from the Bureau: “Walt Disney [sentence blacked out] declined to furnish signed statements or appear before a security hearing board. On March 7th, SAC Malone visited Disney (his assigned contact in Los Angeles) at the latter's request. Disney again asked for cooperation from the Bureau on a special science exhibition at the Disneyland Amusement Park as well as shooting a video for the Mickey Mouse Club on the ABC network. One week later, Hoover again refused Disney's request in a letter, citing a busy schedule. On March 21st, a request was made, possibly by Hoover, for a background check on Disney. Arguably, this was the beginning of a change of heart on the part of the Bureau in their dealings with Disney.

The summary describes the Night of the Americas Gala, in which Disney was a guest, and that was hosted in 1943. The summary goes on to hint at a potential connection between Disney and Communism when the former helped sponsor a tribute to Cartoonist Art Young, an evening that also happened to be sponsored by the New Masses, a magazine that HUAC claimed was a Communist weekly.

The following year in 1957, an SAC met with Disney and proposed to the latter an idea for a show that would commemorate the twenty fifth anniversary of the FBI crime laboratory. Disney agreed. According to the March 4th memo, an aid to Disney described the motivations behind his acceptance of the project as largely altruistic: “Mr. Disney likes to do films of this type occasionally as a public service.” But this also came as welcomed news for Disney given that two months earlier, the Studios had signed a two year, nine million dollar contract with ABC Television for the production of three new series of programs. Despite a note subsequently written on the March 4th memo admonishing the SAC for going beyond his authority in initially approaching Disney, the Bureau reluctantly accepted to follow through on the project, “on condition that we had the chance to review the film before it is used.” The F.B.I. took great pains in ensuring their image was controlled; in 1954, at the urging of Hoover, Congress passed Public Law 670 giving the Bureau the ability to protect its name from unwarranted commercial exploitation.

Collaborating for America

Filming for the Mickey Mouse Club segments took place in April at the Bureau's Virginia office in Quantico and was done by Hugo Johnson of Walt Disney Productions. The storyline involved the young actor Dick Mertzger narrating a tour of the Bureau's Laboratory operations and even at one point meeting Hoover himself. This scenario was common to viewers of the Mickey Mouse Club, which regularly featured programs outlining professions for the impressionable audience. And for Disney, what could be more honorable than for young people to follow in Uncle Walt's footsteps and become an employee of the F.B.I.?

Disney kept his promise and sent the Bureau a copy of the unfinished film along with the completed script as envisioned by the producers. But in an October memo, despite positive reviews of the film, recommendations for changing a portion of the script were made: “It is recommended that a blind memorandum be sent to SAC [Malone] in Los Angeles” listing the suggested changes. The changes were relatively minor, given the Bureau's conclusion that the film was complimentary of its image, but nonetheless revealing. The Bureau, for example, explained that one purpose of the film was to get “across to youngsters the safe handling of guns.” But the Bureau also felt that the film should not be encouraging young children of Dirk's age to be handling loaded guns - “it is not considered appropriate” - and therefore demanded the deletion of the associated scene. It was a moot point given the film's repeated and deliberate references to the necessity of guns and indeed their glorification: in the first episode, with the young Dirk acting as Narrator, we are told that every agent learns to “shoot fast and straight” and later, the virtues of the Thompson submachine gun are explained.

The film, it must be noted, was very sucesssful in portraying the image of the F.B.I. in a positive light and its subject matter was well-trodden territory within the American cultural landscape; the romanticizing of the G-Men, especially as portrayed to children, went back to World war II. Children saw the FBI as a “grown-up kids gang” and started Junior G-Men Clubs across the country in reverence of them. One youngster wrote a letter to Hoover for help in starting a club: “We need guns, bombs, and other things to surprise the crooks,” he wrote.

The changes were accepted by Disney and the four completed film segments aired on the ABC network as part of the Mickey Mouse Club program in late January, 1958. While the F.B.I. did briefly threaten to cut off cooperation with the Disney Studios because they had not received a completed copy of the updated film on time - “Did we have a definite understanding to see the film before clearance?” - the relationship with Disney was quickly consummated and the project was a success. It seemed that Disney was Hoover's greatest triumph and the most admiring of all his children!
The FBI activity in regards to Disney is reduced in subsequent years. In 1959, the White House asks the FBI for a rush check on Disney in lieu of his proposed appointment to the Advisory Committee on the Arts. And in 1960, Hoover sends Disney an autographed copy of his book Masters of Deceit, to which Disney replied in a letter by thanking Hoover for “defending our way of life.”

In 1961, the Bureau's activity on Disney increased substantially. The Bureau had learned from a Daily Variety newspaper article that Disney recently hired a certain actor to play the role of an FBI agent in an upcoming movie “Moon Pilot,” a live-action comedy about the first American man shot into space; “Discreet inquiries” had been made to secure a copy of the script. A March 1st memo shows that Disney supposedly tried to contact the FBI to inform them of the new film project, sensing that their may be anxiety about the depiction of the G-man in his movie, but no meeting ever took place. Hoover himself was incensed about the way the G-man was portrayed in “Moon Pilot” after he read the script and demanded that the SAC meet with Disney to personally transmit the directors opposition to such representations; “Handle diplomatically,” Hoover reminded the Agent. While Disney did suggest that he was willing to replace the FBI character with one from another agency, he felt it would be inaccurate and unrealistic to do so given the storyline and urged Hoover to wait for a revised script. But Disney relented and replaced the G-man with a generic representation of a security officer. Hoover later questioned Disney's initial representations of the F.B.I. in Moon Pilot – “I am amazed Disney would do this” - and rationalized that Disney “had probably been infiltrated.”

The movie Moon Pilot was released in 1962. While Disney did make the changes requested by the Bureau, probably out of personal devotion to Hoover, the movie in hindsight has come to represent the difficulties inherent when the politics of government intersects with art. In examining a critics review of Moon Pilot at the time of its release, we get a picture of the Cold War dynamic between individual entertainers and government agencies, and more specifically, Disney's relationship to American culture at the time. One reviewer argues that the movie had political motives in that it represented “the bitter struggle between what obviously is the F.B.I. and the NASA security bureau...this is fairly broad comment on sacred cows.66” Disney, in his own mind, saw himself as the one man who had to act and critique the security lapses that were occurring during his time, always mindful of his own role (as he conceptualized it) in the larger Cold War conflict that was taking place. Disney never abandoned that great sense of patriotic duty that he felt towards others. “In fact,” the reviewer continues, “were the sources other than Disney's studio, howls from patriotic organizations would hardly be unexpected.”

Disney's position as mediator and authority figure in American culture had long since been established and this allowed him to play an expanded role in the politics of the time.