Tag Archives: Asian history

Videos for the Classroom: The British Empire in Colour

In watching our recent troubles, both economically and on the world stage, I was reminded of another great power that often had to come to grips with its legacy.

I found this incredible documentary, The British Empire in Colour, which gives a sweeping account of the climax, then slow decline, of one of the most influential colonial empires on Earth.  Most importantly, it explores the legacy, both glorious and tragic, of the British colonial experience as it stands in former dominions such as Canada, Australia, former Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Jamaica.

Starting with the Roanoke and Jamestown experiments in North America in the late 16th-early 17th century, Great Britain amassed an empire over the course of two centuries that spread over three-fourths of the globe.  The empire was solidified on the unshakeable belief that the British nation–the white European British nation–had a divine destiny in spreading its culture, its language, its institutions to a world “mired in darkness”, to use a phrase of the time.

Yet even though many of these colonial possessions–Canada, Australia, India–are enjoying success as independent nations, the negative aspects of colonialism have left their deepest and most cruel mark on these former colonies.  

Starting with the “dominions of settlement,” the settler colonies such as Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Rhodesia, a systematic marginalization and destruction of native populations has wreaked havoc on once-proud local cultures.  The carving of African colonies in the 1880s and 1890s has exacerbated religious, ethnic and tribal tensions still to be resolved today.  Furthermore, these same colonial subjects, especially from India and Jamaica, had found that the reality of living in the British homeland–a reality rife with racism and economic turmoil–was a far cry from the idyllic descriptions in their imperial educations.

Share this video with your students, especially those studying Global Studies for their Regents exams.  It will give you an excellent glimpse at the twilight of a great power–and the consequences of those left behind.

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Pol Pot is “History’s Greatest A**hole!”


Congratulations to Yonatan Lupu for his entry of Cambodian crazyman Pol Pot as “History’s Greatest Asshole.” Even in a crowded field of philandering autocrats, plundering kleptocrats, a “people’s” plutocrat, and an anger-obsessed Democrat, the freaky guerrilla leader who hated everybody beats out all. 

Thanks to everyone who voted, and here’s hoping for a new contest sometime soon.

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Reminder for Our Poll – “History’s Greatest A**hole”

90275679I’ve been pretty swamped here, with kids gearing up for the state tests, assessments that I still have to design with rubrics to match, workshops I have to present, trips I need to plan, etc.  I need a breather to get some creativity back.

Just a quick reminder that our Poll for “History’s Greatest A**hole” is up and running, thanks to the good folks at PollDaddy.  Please vote as soon as you can: the polling ends next Saturday, November 7.  The poll is designed to not accept multiple votes from the same IP address, so it’s strictly one vote per person.

Next post should be a good one for next week: a look at the minor “incursions” or “police actions” in American history.

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“History’s Greatest A**hole!” – The Finalists!

Thanks to everyone who sent their submissions!  Based on the quality of the candidates, and space/time issues for a proper poll, here are the five finalists (for sake of fairness, the contestants’ names have been left out):










1. Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Assholes like to make history-making dick moves, and few moved their member with such ferocity as Henry Tudor, or King Henry VIII of England.  Apart from going through six wives–and countless chambermaids–to secure that elusive male heir, he decided to make himself head of a church, which helped lead to centuries of religious violence.  As we all know, all assholes think they’re God, and fat Harry was no exception. Even his portraits are symbols of douchebaggery.  By Henry’s death in 1547, Hans Holbein the Younger needed double-wide canvasses just to do His Lardness some justice. 










2. Fidel Castro (1926-       )

If Fidel wins this contest, I’m blaming Miami and Union City, NJ with stuffing the ballots (just kidding).  Fidel Castro is certainly worthy of this list.  His 1959 revolution in Cuba created the first Communist regime in the Western Hemisphere.  Thousands have been killed, tortured and imprisoned for defying him and his brand of Communism.  His programs have driven the country into ruin, while aid continues to enter the country just to make the US look bad.  He makes lefties swoon and right-wingers squirm, and is personally responsible for Miami and Union City, NJ.  Yet the real reason he’s on here?  According to legend (and we can’t really substantiate this) Castro made ice cream cones illegal.  Now that’s an asshole!










3. Pol Pot (1928-1998)

Here’s a wacko that deserves a well-placed kick in the nuts.  Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge guerrillas to power in Cambodia in 1975.  For four long years, Pol Pot systematically reduced his country to the Stone Age, literally.  He changed time so that everything started at “Year Zero”, forcing cities to be evacuated for slave labor in the countryside.  Almost 2.5 million people, or 21% of the population, died on his watch from starvation, torture and execution.  The guy hated everybody: foreigners, intellectuals, the disabled, even hated people wearing glasses.  It took the Vietnamese, of all people, to end this nightmare with an invasion in 1979, forcing Pol Pot into the hills as his country still recovers from the lunacy.  They say he was poisoned–let’s hope its by Pearle Vision.










4. Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

It is now common knowledge among academics that the father of Jacksonian Democracy was also a bit of a scumbag.  As President of the United States from 1829-1837, he was a steadfast supporter of slavery, killed the Second Bank of the United States as a gesture to create an “agricultural republic” (or “plantation republic”, for those with less taste in bullshit) and supported the forced removal of almost 45,000 Native Americans from the eastern US, resulting in almost 4,000 deaths along the way–in defiance of the Supreme Court.  If this wasn’t bad enough, consider his temper: he fought 13 duels, killed a man in one, had bullets lodged all over his body, and even had to be restrained from killing an assassin who botched an attempt on his life.  No wonder he graces the “yuppie food stamp.”








5. Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997)

Only a truly global asshole would change his name.  Joseph-Desire Mobutu took over the Congo in a bloodless military coup in 1965.  He then proceeded to create a totalitarian regime unequalled in Africa.  His personality cult silenced all opposition.  Mobutu personally embezzled $5 billion dollars from his country, forcing it into the economic shitter–which was hard considering it was the mineral breadbasket of Africa.  He renames the country Zaire, and forced the whole country to adopt African names and dress on pain of imprisonment or death.  Finally, in a real classy move, he changes his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”).

I will create the poll in a separate post, along with the dates of the poll.  May the worst asshole win!


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