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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

steam engine James Watt - connection to slave trade !!


கருணையுள்ள கானிங்பிரபு !  சரித்திர புத்தகத்தில் படித்தது.  மனிதர்களை அடிமைப்படுத்தி அவர்களை விலங்குகளைவிட மோசமாக நடத்தி – அவர்களை வியாபாரம் பண்ணினவர்கள், மனிதகுலத்தில் எப்படி நல்லவர்களாக கருதமுடியும் ?  ஜேம்ஸ் ஆண்ட்ரூ பிரௌன்-ராம்சே என்ற இயற்பெயர் கொண்ட ‘டல்ஹவுசி’ பிரபுக்குப் பின்னர் ஆங்கிலேயர்களுக்கு கீழேஇருந்த இந்தியாவின் இந்தியத் தலைமை ஆளுநராக பதவி வகித்தவர் – சார்லஸ் ஜான் கானிங்.  இந்திய முதல் சுதந்திர போரை முறியடித்து,  பங்குகொண்ட பல்லாயிரக்கணக்கான போர்வீரர்கள் மீது கடுமையான தண்டனைகளை வழங்கியவர் இந்த கருணையுள்ளம் கொண்டவர் என நாம் புத்தகத்தில் படித்த பிரபு   !!

‘Slavery’ – keeping humans chained and treating them worser than animals and trading them – ‘slavery’ would remain one of the worst cruelties of mankind  yet its perpetrators stood glorified as ‘merciful’ mainly because History was written from their side.   To me ‘Amistad’ was more moving .. yet this movie too cast its spell – the storyline is of early 1858  Texas, brothers Ace and Dicky Speck drive a group of shackled black slaves on foot. Among them is Django, sold off and separated from his wife Broomhilda von Shaft, a house slave raised in a German household.   “Django Unchained”   released in  2012 is American movie directed by Quentin Tarantino

There have been people who speak high of British stating that they gave us the Railways.  They have been in existence in rudimentary forms for centuries.  During the Industrial Revolution, steam engines started to replace water and wind power, and eventually became the dominant source of power in the late 19th century and remaining so into the early decades of the 20th century, when the more efficient steam turbine and the internal combustion engine  rapidly replaced  the steam engines. The name of Scottish Inventor – James Watt [1736 -1819] is very prominent.  He was a  mechanical engineer, and chemist who improved on Thomas Newcomen's 1712  steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1776. 
Pic credit : ttps://sciencestruck.com/steam-engine-invention

It is stated that Watt became interested in steam technology while working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow. He realised that contemporary engine designs wasted a great deal of energy by repeatedly cooling and reheating the cylinder. Watt introduced a design enhancement, the separate condenser, which avoided this waste of energy and radically improved the power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines. Eventually he adapted his engine to produce rotary motion, greatly broadening its use beyond pumping water.  However, Watt could not commercialise his invention as he was experiencing financial difficulties.  He developed the concept of horsepower, and the SI unit of power, the watt, was named after him.

He probably would have read of the Act of Parliament in 1807, by which the  British government sought to abolish  the slave trade throughout the British Empire. Slavery itself would persist in the British colonies until its final abolition in 1838. The slave trade refers to the transatlantic trading patterns which were established as early as the mid-17th century. Trading ships would set sail from Europe with a cargo of manufactured goods to the west coast of Africa. There, these goods would be traded, over weeks and months, for captured people provided by African traders. European traders found it easier to do business with African intermediaries who raided settlements far away from the African coast and brought those young and healthy enough to the coast to be sold into slavery.

.. .. ..  now comes the news (read in Daily Mail UK)  that a major British university has condemned steam train pioneer James Watt among other donors for their links to slave trade. Glasgow University had recently signed an 'historic' agreement to fund a £20million programme of 'reparative justice' over its links to the slavery during the British Empire. Officials signed an agreement with the University of the West Indies to fund a joint centre for development research.It comes after a report by Glasgow University last year found that 25 financial gifts and donations that came from the profits of slavery and a further 18 that may have done so. These would be worth at least £16million in today's money.

Among the donor list was James Watt, the 18th century pioneer of the steam engine who appears on the current £50 note. The report says the father of 'the famous inventor James Watt' was 'a West India merchant and slave-trader who supported Watt in his career. 'Glasgow University is believed to be the first institution in the UK to pledge money to atone for its links to the transatlantic slave trade.  


It adds: 'Watt worked for his father as a mercantile agent in Glasgow during the 1750s. Furthermore, Caribbean planters who needed to process sugar cane were significant consumers of James Watt's steam-engines.'It is certain that Watt profited from slavery and its commerce, but exact quantification is impossible.'

The reparation programme says that the centre, which will have two sites in Glasgow and the Caribbean, will stimulate public awareness about the history of slavery and its impact around the world. Another link is Robert Cunninghame Graham, the rector of Glasgow University from 1785 to 1787. He spent much of his early life in Jamaica, where he became receiver-general for taxes in 1753 while making his fortune from owning slaves. Several 18th and 19th century professors at the university – John Millar, Patrick Wilson and John Young – were also active participants in the city's abolitionist movement against slavery. Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, the university vice chancellor, said: 'One of our report's external advisers says, while you can't change the past, you can change their consequences.  'This is the story of our journey to do this to further enhance awareness and understanding of our history and the university's connections to both historical slavery and the abolitionist movement.'

It deeply saddens still to read about the cruelty of slavery !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Sept. 2019.

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