Tim Thornton, University of HuddersfieldIt is perhaps one of the greatest murder mystery stories in British history – a young king and his brother simply vanish. The boys, now dubbed “the Princes in the Tower”, were held in the Tower of London in 1483, but disappeared from public view, never to be seen again.
Richard III has long been held responsible for the murder of his nephews in a dispute about succession to the throne. But Richard’s defenders have pointed to a lack of hard evidence to connect the king to the disappearance of the princes – who were aged just 12 and nine when Richard took the throne in June 1483.
But I believe my recent research provides the most powerful evidence yet as to who the boys’ murderers were. And it connects the murderers directly to Richard III.
The first detailed account linking the deaths of the princes to Richard can be found in the History of King Richard III by Sir Thomas More, a public servant who from 1518 served on Henry VIII’s Privy Council and later became Lord Chancellor (Henry succeeded to the throne in 1509, after his father defeated Richard III in 1485). In his book, written about 30 years later, More names two men, Miles Forest and John Dighton, as the murderers. And says they were recruited by Sir James Tyrell, a servant of Richard III at his orders.
More claims that Richard felt he wouldn’t be fully accepted as king while the boys were still alive so he made a plan to get rid of them. He ordered the Constable of the Tower to give Tyrell the keys to the Tower for one night. Tyrell planned to murder the boys in their beds and chose Forest, one of their servants, and Dighton, who looked after his horses, to do the deed. All the other servants were ordered to leave so the murder could be carried out. Then Tyrell ordered the men to bury the boys at the foot of some stairs, deep in the ground.
Written over 30 years after the events, it is easy for Richard’s supporters to dismiss More’s version of events. Indeed, many people have questioned this story, seeing it as “Tudor propaganda”, designed to blacken the name of a dead king. It has even been suggested that the names of the alleged murderers were made up by More.
But I’ve discovered that the names More gives for the men who are alleged to have killed the princes (Forest and Dighton) are not imaginary, but real people.
Finding the clues
By the middle of the 1510s when More was working on his book, Edward Forest, son of suspect Miles Forest was a servant of Henry VIII’s chamber, and Miles, his brother, was employed by top adviser Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. In this way, the sons were living and working alongside More – meaning he would have been able to speak with them directly.
Both brothers were also the recipients of royal grants and leases of royal lands and offices. This shows how favoured they were by Henry VIII and builds on evidence I have discovered to suggest the brothers were at the heart of the Tudor regime.
I’ve also discovered that when More was composing his other great work, Utopia, in 1515 – and very likely thinking through the History of King Richard III – Miles Forest junior was a messenger between Henry VIII’s court in England and the embassy on which More served. This connects More’s world very directly to the story he is telling, and to the man he says is the leading murderer of the princes in the Tower.
This is a story that is not going away anytime soon. Indeed, the recent announcement of a new film about the rediscovery of Richard III, written by Steve Coogan and Stephen Frears, shows that interest in the controversial monarch is as strong as ever.
And while my latest evidence does not prove definitively that Richard III murdered his nephews, it is certainly clear proof that More wrote his history when he was in direct contact with the men who were closely associated with this most notorious of crimes.
Yu Tao, The University of Western AustraliaThe man widely known in the English language as Confucius was born around 551 BCE in today’s southern Shandong Province. Confucius is the phonic translation of the Chinese word Kong fuzi 孔夫子, in which Kong 孔 was his surname and fuzi is an honorific for learned men.
Widely credited for creating the system of thought we now call Confucianism, this learned man insisted he was “not a maker but a transmitter”, merely “believing in and loving the ancients”. In this, Confucius could be seen as acting modestly and humbly, virtues he thought of highly.
Or, as Kang Youwei — a leading reformer in modern China has argued — Confucius tactically framed his revolutionary ideas as lost ancient virtues so his arguments would be met with fewer criticisms and less hostility.
Confucius looked nothing like the great sage in his own time as he is widely known in ours. To his contemporaries, he was perhaps foremost an unemployed political adviser who wandered around different fiefdoms for some years, attempting to sell his political ideas to different rulers — but never able to strike a deal.
It seems Confucius would have preferred to live half a millennium earlier, when China — according to him — was united under benevolent, competent and virtuous rulers at the dawn of the Zhou dynasty. By his own time, China had become a divided land with hundreds of small fiefdoms, often ruled by greedy, cruel or mediocre lords frequently at war.
But this frustrated scholar’s ideas have profoundly shaped politics and ethics in and beyond China ever since his death in 479 BCE. The greatest and the most influential Chinese thinker, his concept of filial piety, remains highly valued among young people in China, despite rapid changes in the country’s demography.
Despite some doubts as to whether many Chinese people take his ideas seriously, the ideas of Confucius remain directly and closely relevant to contemporary China.
This situation perhaps is comparable to Christianity in Australia. Although institutional participation is in constant decline, Christian values and narratives remain influential on Australian politics and vital social matters.
The danger today is in Confucianism being considered the single reason behind China’s success or failure. The British author Martin Jacques, for example, recently asserted Confucianism was the “biggest single reason” for East Asia’s success in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, without giving any explanation or justification.
If Confucius were alive, he would probably not hesitate to call out this solitary root of triumph or disaster as being lazy, incorrect and unwise.
Political structure and mutual responsibilities
Confucius wanted to restore good political order by persuading rulers to reestablish moral standards, exemplify appropriate social relations, perform time-honoured rituals and provide social welfare.
He worked hard to promote his ideas but won few supporters. Almost every ruler saw punishment and military force as shortcuts to greater power.
It was not until 350 years later during the reign of the Emperor Wu of Han that Confucianism was installed as China’s state ideology.
But this state-sanctioned version of Confucianism was not an honest revitalisation of Confucius’ ideas. Instead, it absorbed many elements from rival schools of thought, notably legalism, which emerged in the latter half of China’s Warring States period (453–221 BCE). Legalism argued efficient governance relies on impersonal laws and regulations — rather than moral principles and rites.
Like most great thinkers of the Axial Age between the 8th and 3rd century BCE, Confucius did not believe everyone was created equal.
Similar to Plato (born over 100 years later), Confucius believed the ideal society followed a hierarchy. When asked by Duke Jing of Qi about government, Confucius famously replied:
let the ruler be a ruler; the minister, a minister; the father, a father; the son, a son.
However it would be a superficial reading of Confucius to believe he called for unconditional obedience to rulers or superiors. Confucius advised a disciple “not to deceive the ruler but to stand up to them”.
Confucius believed the legitimacy of a regime fundamentally relies on the confidence of the people. A ruler should tirelessly work hard and “lead by example”.
Like in a family, a good son listens to his father, and a good father wins respect not by imposing force or seniority but by offering heartfelt love, support, guidance and care.
In other words, Confucius saw a mutual relationship between the ruler and the ruled.
Love and respect for social harmony
To Confucius, the appropriate relations between family members are not merely metaphors for ideal political orders, but the basic fabrics of a harmonious society.
An essential family value in Confucius’ ideas is xiao 孝, or filial piety, a concept explained in at least 15 different ways in the Analects, a collection of the words from Confucius and his followers.
Depending on the context, Confucius defined filial piety as respecting parents, as “never diverging” from parents, as not letting parents feel unnecessary anxiety, as serving parents with etiquette when they are alive, and as burying and commemorating parents with propriety after they pass away.
Confucius expected rulers to exemplify good family values. When Ji Kang Zi, the powerful prime minister of Confucius’ home state of Lu asked for advice on keeping people loyal to the realm, Confucius responded by asking the ruler to demonstrate filial piety and benignity (ci 慈).
Confucius viewed moral and ethical principles not merely as personal matters, but as social assets. He profoundly believed social harmony ultimately relies on virtuous citizens rather than sophisticated institutions.
In the ideas of Confucius, the most important moral principle is ren 仁, a concept that can hardly be translated into English without losing some of its meaning.
Like filial piety, ren is manifested in the love and respect one has for others. But ren is not restricted among family members and does not rely on blood or kinship. Ren guides people to follow their conscience. People with ren have strong compassion and empathy towards others.
Translators arguing for a single English equivalent for ren have attempted to interpret the concept as “benevolence”, “humanity”, “humanness” and “goodness”, none of which quite capture the full significance of the term.
The challenge in translating ren is not a linguistic one. Although the concept appears more than 100 times in the Analects, Confucius did not give one neat definition. Instead, he explained the term in many different ways.
to love others, to subdue the self and return to ritual propriety, to be respectful, tolerant, trustworthy, diligent, and kind, to be possessed of courage, to be free from worry, or to be resolute and firm.
Instead of searching for an explicit definition of ren, it is perhaps wise to view the concept as an ideal type of the highest and ultimate virtue Confucius believed good people should pursue.
Relevance in contemporary China
Confucius’ thinking hs had a profound impact on almost every great Chinese thinker since. Based upon his ideas, Mencius (372–289 BCE) and Xunzi (c310–c235 BCE) developed different schools of thought within the system of Confucianism.
Arguing against these ideas, Mohism (4th century BCE), Daoism (4th century BCE), Legalism (3rd century BCE) and many other influential systems of thought emerged in the 400 years after Confucius’ time, going on to shape many aspects of the Chinese civilisation in the last two millennia.
Modern China has a complicated relationship with Confucius and his ideas.
Since the early 20th century, many intellectuals influenced by western thought started denouncing Confucianism as the reason for China’s national humiliations since the first Opium War (1839-42).
Confucius received fierce criticism from both liberals and Marxists.
Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, also repeatedly denounced Confucius and Confucianism. Between 1973 and 1975, Mao devoted the last political campaign in his life against Confucianism.
Despite these fierce criticisms and harsh persecutions, Confucius’ ideas remain in the minds and hearts of many Chinese people, both in and outside China.
One prominent example is PC Chang, another Chinese alumnus of Columbia University, who was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10 1948. Thanks to Chang’s efforts, the spirit of some most essential Confucian ideas, such as ren, was deeply embedded in the Declaration.
As a classicist, I find such discussions of happiness in the midst of personal or societal crisis to be nothing new.
“Hic habitat felicitas” – “Here dwells happiness” – confidently proclaims an inscription found in a Pompeiian bakery nearly 2,000 years after its owner lived and possibly died in the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the city in A.D. 79.
What did happiness mean to this Pompeiian baker? And how does considering the Roman view of felicitas help our search for happiness today?
Happiness for me but not for thee
The Romans saw both Felicitas and Fortuna – a related word that means “luck” – as goddesses. Each had temples in Rome, where those seeking the divinities’ favor could place offerings and make vows. Felicitas was also portrayed on Roman coins from the first century B.C. to the fourth century, suggesting its connection to financial prosperity of the state. Coins minted by emperors, furthermore, connect her to themselves. “Felicitas Augusti,” for example, was seen on the golden coin of the emperor Valerian, iconography that suggested he was the happiest man in the empire, favored by the gods.
By claiming felicitas for his own abode and business, therefore, the Pompeiian baker could have been exercising a name-it-claim-it philosophy, hoping for such blessings of happiness for his business and life.
But just beyond this view of money and power as a source of happiness, there was a cruel irony.
Felicitas and Felix were commonly used names for female and male enslaved persons. For instance, Antonius Felix, the governor of Judaea in the first century, was an ex-slave – clearly, his luck turned around – while Felicitas was the name of the enslaved woman famously martyred with Perpetua in A.D. 203.
Romans perceived enslaved people to be proof of their masters’ higher status and the embodiment of their happiness. Viewed in this light, happiness appears as a zero-sum game, intertwined with power, prosperity and domination. Felicitas in the Roman world had a price, and enslaved people paid it to confer happiness on their owners.
Suffice it to say that for the enslaved, wherever happiness dwelled, it was not in the Roman Empire.
Over the past two decades, American workers have been working more and more hours. A 2020 Gallup poll found that 44% of full-time employees were working over 45 hours a week, while 17% of people were working 60 or more hours weekly.
The result of this overworked culture is that happiness and success really do seem to be a zero-sum equation. There is a cost, often a human one, with work and family playing tug-of-war for time and attention, and with personal happiness the victim either way. This was true long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studies of happiness seem to become more popular during periods of high societal stress. It is perhaps no coincidence that the longest-running study of happiness, administered by Harvard University, originated during the Great Depression. In 1938, researchers measured physical and mental health of 268 then-sophomores and, for 80 years, tracked these men and some of their descendants.
Their main finding? “Close relationships, more than money or fame … keep people happy throughout their lives.” This includes both a happy marriage and family, and a close community of supportive friends. Importantly, the relationships highlighted in the study are those based on love, care and equality, rather than abuse and exploitation.
Just as the Great Depression motivated Harvard’s study, the current pandemic inspired social scientist Arthur Brooks to launch, in April 2020, a weekly column on happiness titled “How to Build a Life.” In his first article for the series, Brooks loops in research showing faith and meaningful work – in addition to close relationships – can enhance happiness.
Finding happiness in chaos and disorder
Brooks’ advice correlates with those findings in the World 2021 Happiness Report, which noted “a roughly 10% increase in the number of people who said they were worried or sad the previous day.”
Faith, relationships and meaningful work all contribute to feelings of safety and stability. All of them were victims of the pandemic. The Pompeiian baker, who chose to place his plaque in his place of business, likely would have agreed about the significant connection among happiness, work and faith. And while he was not, as far as historians can tell, living through a pandemic, he was no stranger to societal stress.
It’s possible his choice of décor reflected an undercurrent of anxiety – understandable, given some of the political turmoil in Pompeii and in the empire at large in the last 20 years of the city’s existence. At the time of the final volcanic eruption of A.D. 79, we know that some Pompeiians were still rebuilding and restoring from the earthquake of A.D. 62. The baker’s life must have been filled with reminders of instability and looming disaster. Perhaps the plaque was an attempt to combat these fears.
After all, would truly happy people feel the need to place a sign proclaiming the presence of happiness in their home?
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Or maybe I’m overanalyzing this object, and it was simply a mass-made trinket – a first century version of a “Home Sweet Home” or “Live, Laugh, Love” placard – that the baker or his wife picked up on a whim.
And yet the plaque reminds of an important truth: people in antiquity had dreams of and aspirations for happiness, much like people do today. Vesuvius may have put an end to our baker’s dreams, but the pandemic need not have such a permanent impact on ours. And while the stress of the past year-and-a-half feels may feel overwhelming, there has been no better time to re-evaluate priorities, and remember to put people and relationships first.
In February 1852, 46-year-old Mary Anne Allen set off from Melbourne for the Mt Alexander (Castlemaine) diggings with her husband Reverend John Allen and their eight children, the youngest aged five.
Histories of the Victorian gold rushes often overlook women’s presence on the goldfields in 1852. Women, children and home, however, were always part of goldfields life.
Mary Anne Allen’s diary appears to have been written for publication. In it she observes life on the diggings, not through the lens of masculinity and mateship, but through family and home.
A perilous journey
Englishwoman Mary Anne and her family had arrived in Port Phillip before the gold rushes. They migrated in 1849 to deliver the word of God for Scottish evangelist and colonial enthusiast John Dunmore Lang. Yet two years later the family abandoned their congregation in search of gold, “dreaming of little beyond wealth and competency”.
On route to Mt Alexander, the family almost lost their dray over a ravine. Their son Frederick tried to “scotch the wheels” (likely wedging a stone or bar to stop them rolling) but to no avail.
“My little girl came running towards me”, wrote Mary Anne in her diary. “She said we expected father would have been killed but Fred’s hand was smashed and two of his fingers broken.” Disaster was averted, but it would be just the beginning of the family’s trials.
Next, four bushrangers bailed up a bullock driver ahead of them. The Allen family continued cautiously forward, one of her sons armed with a gun, the second with a hatchet, a third with a club. Mary Anne’s younger children inquired anxiously, “What will they do with you Mamma?” Fortunately, fate spared Mary Anne an answer.
Mary Anne found the new goldfields “remarkably picturesque and singularly beautiful”. The countryside was already home to miners’ mia-mias (based on Aboriginal dwellings) and hundreds of tents, scattered for miles through the still dense bush.
But clean drinking water was impossible to find. A German miner gave Mary Anne’s children a cup of water, milky with chalk. Another miner gave Mary Anne a loaded gun to help her protect any water they found. The family moved on to nearby Barker’s Creek, where there were fewer tents and more available water.
The Allen’s erected their tent and furnished it with handmade “bush bedsteads”: saplings driven into the ground and bed cases filled with dried leaves. Their table was topped with bark and the floor carpeted with the same. Mary Anne wrote that the bark decomposed rapidly in wet weather, producing an “exceedingly unpleasant” smell.
Many miners’ tents, she wrote, were lined with blankets inside and bullock hides externally to keep out the weather. Her sons built a stone fireplace with bark sides, which they topped with an old sugar cask. They put up a tarpaulin awning so the family could bake damper and roast meat without standing in the rain. Even with these precautions, mould covered everything.
Living with uncertainty
Families lived in fear of the dangers presented by mine shafts. The lesson was brought home for the Allen family as they watched a man trapped down a shaft. Then another man went in after him. The father of one of the men rushed forward and he too fell headlong into the mine. The whole party, Mary Anne noted disapprovingly, was the worse for “the influence of spirits”.
Bushfires were a frightening, yet entertaining, reality:
One small tree burnt through fell at our horses feet. We hastened onwards and when out of danger we sat and admired the grandeur of the scene.
At night, diggings glowed with fires outside every tent and lamps lit by candlewicks made from honeysuckle flowers soaked in oil. One night, as the family sat reading around their table, a gun was fired through their tent. The bullet landed on her son’s book: “So uncertain was life at Barker’s Creek”.
On the diggings, Sunday was not for religion but for domestic duties and domestic quarrels. Sometimes Mary Anne expected that “instant death would ensue from stabbing members of their own families”.
Living next door to a sly grog tent, Mary Anne reported: “Drunkenness, fighting, profanity and robberies were every day occurrences”. Her diary ends abruptly, to cries of murder and an aborted gold robbery.
She did not record whether her family found gold. Historical documents reveal the family only stayed six months on the diggings. John did not return to the church until just before his death in 1861, by which time the couple had bought a number of properties in Melbourne.
My doctoral research is the first time Mary Anne’s diary has been written into goldfields history. Her manuscript is entitled Mrs Allen’s Trip to the Gold Fields, suggesting she intended it for publication. Now, almost 170 years later, we can read her observations as one of many women on the diggings in early 1852.
Australians love their war heroes. Our founding myth centres on the heroism of the ANZACs. Our Victoria Cross recipients are considered emblematic of our highest virtues. We also revere our dissident heroes, such as Ned Kelly and the Eureka rebels. But where in this pantheon are our Black war heroes?
If it’s underdog heroism we’re after, we need look no further than the warriors who resisted the invasion of their homelands between 1788 and 1928. And none distinguished himself more than Tongerlongeter — the subject of a new book I have written with historian Henry Reynolds.
In Tasmania’s “Black War” of 1823–31, Tongerlongeter led a stunning resistance campaign against invading British soldiers and colonists. Leader of the Oyster Bay nation, he inspired dread throughout the island’s southeast. Convicts refused to work alone or unarmed, terrified settlers abandoned their farms, the economy faltered and the government seemed powerless to suppress the violence.
It was a legacy Tongerlongeter could never have imagined in 1802, when his people encountered the French explorers under Nicolas Baudin on Maria Island. Having never heard of foreign lands or peoples, they concluded the pale-faced visitors were ancestral spirits returned from the dead. If zombies are an apt comparison, they were soon to experience a zombie invasion.
The British established their first settlement at Risdon Cove, opposite today’s Hobart, in 1803. Only from the 1820s did settlement accelerate up the fertile valleys of the southeast. Tongerlongeter initially restricted his warriors to targeted retribution, but as the violence intensified, all stops were pulled.
By night, Tongerlongeter and his people were vulnerable to ambushes. Gangs of frontiersmen and sealers killed hundreds of men and abducted countless women and girls. Tongerlongeter’s first wife was taken in just such an ambush.
Being wary of evil spirits, Tongerlongeter’s people never attacked by night. But from sun-up to sun-down, exposed colonists lived in constant fear of attack. Using sophisticated tactics such as reconnaissance, decoys, flanking and pincer manoeuvres, sabotage, and arson, Tongerlongeter’s war parties attacked hut after hut, and often several at a time.
Trained from infancy in the arts of war, Aboriginal warriors carried out guerrilla operations with extraordinary discipline and strategy. Apart from soldiers, most colonists were woefully unprepared to face such assailants. Typically, warriors would surround a hut, then kill its occupants, plunder whatever they wanted, and set it alight. Then they “simply vanished”, outwitting even mounted pursuit parties.
In 1828, as the body count rose, Lieutenant Governor George Arthur declared martial law. Vigilantes had long “hunted the blacks” with impunity; now they did so legally.
While such measures took a devastating toll, Tongerlongeter and his allies, the neighbouring Big River nation, only intensified their resistance, making 137 documented attacks in 1828, 152 in 1829, and 204 in 1830. Each year they refined their tactics. Some settlers insisted the colony should be abandoned.
In September 1830, under mounting pressure, Arthur initiated a massive military operation designed to crush the resistance of Tongerlongeter and his allies.
The Black Line, as it came to be known, was Australia’s largest ever domestic military offensive. It involved 2,200 soldiers, settlers and convicts — 10% of the white population — in a seven-week campaign designed to “capture the hostile tribes”. Outnumbered by about 200 to one, and using only traditional weapons, Aboriginal resistance had driven the colony to take the most desperate of measures.
Commanded by Arthur himself, the Black Line was a human cordon, sweeping down eastern Tasmania. It was also a stunning failure, resulting in just two Aboriginal people captured and two killed. During the same period, Oyster Bay-Big River warriors killed five colonists and wounded six.
Still, the white men had made an impressive show of force, so Tongerlongeter’s people headed for the relative safety of the Central Plateau.
They didn’t make it unscathed. According to Tongerlongeter, who recounted his wartime experiences years later in exile, he
[…] was with his tribe in the neighbourhood of the Den Hill and that there was men cutting wood. The men were frightened and run away. At night they came back with plenty of white men (it was moonlight), and they looked and saw our fires. Then they shot at us, shot my arm, killed two men and three women. The women they beat on the head and killed them; they then burnt them in the fire.
A musket ball almost severed Tongerlongeter’s arm just below the elbow. As his comrades sliced off what remained of his limb, the chief’s pain would have been stupefying. But worse was to come. We know from post-mortem records that someone, presumably using abrasive rock, ground smooth his splintered forearm bone. To stem the bleeding, Tongerlongeter simply said his kinfolk “burnt the end”, belying the true horror of cauterisation without anaesthetic.
The desperate final year
Miraculously, Tongerlongeter survived and made it to the plateau, but the momentum of the resistance waned. Oyster Bay and Big River bands made only 57 attacks in 1831. Desperate to avoid the white man’s guns, they wintered in the frigid high country.
Then, in the spring of 1831, Tongerlongeter’s people made one last foray to the east coast where they found themselves trapped on the Freycinet Peninsula by more than 100 armed white men. They were again forced to slip past the muskets at night.
Tongerlongeter made a beeline back west where his wife, Droomteemetyer, gave birth to a son. Parperermanener was the last Oyster Bay-Big River child — a delicate flame kindled from the dying embers of his people.
On New Year’s Eve 1831, Tongerlongeter’s war-weary remnant, now just 26 in number, were holed up in the remote lake country when they were approached by a small Aboriginal party. They were envoys of George Augustus Robinson’s “friendly mission”, whom Arthur had tasked with “conciliating the hostile tribes”.
Robinson’s terms were: if Tongerlongeter’s people laid down their arms they could, once order was restored, remain on their Country with a government emissary for protection. The chief was undoubtedly suspicious, but the alternative was the wholesale erasure of his people and culture.
When Tongerlongeter’s small band of survivors entered Hobart a week later, the whole town came to witness the spectacle. Spears in hand, they approached Government House, where the governor invited them in. His administration kept meticulous records — but as important as this meeting was, Arthur knew better than to document the promises he made.
Ten days later the whole party set sail for Flinders Island. They became dreadfully seasick. Severely dehydrated, Droomteemetyer would have struggled to breastfeed Parperermanener, and soon after disembarking, his tiny body went limp. For the Oyster Bay-Big River remnant, this was no ordinary tragedy. It wasn’t just that a child had died, or even that it was the child of a chief. There were no more children.
Despite the loss of his son, his arm, his country, his way of life and almost everyone he had ever known, Tongerlongeter did not give up hope. As a leader, he couldn’t, and from the outset he was proactive. By popular vote, he represented the exiles in negotiations, settled disputes, provided counsel, distributed justice, and was instrumental in a range of improvements.
In 1834, a visiting missionary identified Tongerlongeter as “the principal chief at Flinders”, where 244 Aboriginal Tasmanians were eventually exiled. When Robinson took command of the settlement in 1835, he immediately recognised the chief’s seniority, renaming him King William after Britain’s reigning monarch.
But good leadership could only do so much. During the five years Tongerlongeter was at the settlement, there were four births but well over 100 deaths, mostly from influenza. On March 21 1837, Tongerlongeter demanded they be allowed “to leave this place of sickness”; and when Robinson hesitated, he asked: “What, do you mean to stay till all the black men are dead?”
It wasn’t just that an “evil spirit” was sickening his people — Tongerlongeter never stopped advocating for their promised return to Country. When that failed, he supported Robinson’s plan for their removal to Victoria, even if the fledgling settlement’s only appeal was that it was not Flinders Island. Some eventually made that journey, but Tongerlongeter was not among them.
The two men could scarcely have been more different. One led the largest empire on Earth; the other led a small nation of hunter-gatherers. One dispossessed millions of indigenous peoples; the other determinedly resisted dispossession. One died in the comfort of a lavish castle, the other in a draughty hut on an accursed island far from home.
King William was just a character Tongerlongeter played so his people might have a voice.
If he had anything in common with the British monarch, it was that his death produced a comparable tide of shock and sorrow, albeit confined to a shrinking settlement on a tiny island at the edge of the known world.
The Black War, as everyone at the time understood, was just that — a war. Yes, it was a small guerrilla war, but so were most wars throughout history. It’s impossible to overstate its significance for Tasmania and its peoples. The impacts of subsequent wars pale by comparison, and yet these overseas conflicts and their heroes monopolise our commemorative spaces.
How can this be? Almost all those who fought alongside Tongerlongeter were killed in action — not as helpless victims, but as warriors. Theirs was the most effective frontier resistance campaign in Australian history, killing at least 182 invaders and wounding another 176. No less intimidating were their efforts to sabotage the invasion by spearing thousands of sheep and cattle, and burning dozens of homes and crops.
And the impact of their resistance was felt beyond Tasmania. Governor Arthur later wrote it had been “a great oversight that a treaty was not […] made with the natives”, and a chastened Colonial Office took steps not to repeat that mistake. New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi, for instance, was due in no small part to Tongerlongeter and his warriors, who taught the British Empire a lesson in the true cost of “free land”.
Tongerlongeter should be recognised as one of our nation’s greatest war heroes. He should be celebrated by politicians and school children alike, and yet almost no one has ever heard of him.
Tongerlongeter showed the “extreme devotion to duty” and “self-sacrifice” that would later make a soldier eligible for the Victoria Cross. He and his warriors fought year after year in the face of staggering odds.
It’s not that these heroes should receive posthumous medals, but they should receive the respect accorded to those who do. Their skin was black, and they wore no uniform, but if the men and women who sacrificed everything in defence of their country do not exemplify our highest virtues, then who does?
It is an Australian quirk that we don’t officially commemorate or memorialise our frontier wars or those who fought in them. When contrasted against memorials to overseas campaigns, this sends a stark message: our country values these foreign conflicts more than those fought on this country, for this country. And it implies our war heroes are all white.
Other countries are far ahead of us in this regard.
A statue of the Chilean Mapuche leader Caupolicán has commanded an imposing position in the centre of Santiago since 1910. Samuel Sharpe, the leader of the Jamaican slave rebellion, was declared a national hero in 1975. And outside the presidential palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s government recently erected a 15-metre bronze statue of indigenous guerrilla fighter Juana Azurduy.
Momentum for commemoration in Australia is building. Aboriginal community groups and elders, with the support of RSL Tasmania, Reconciliation Tasmania and the Hobart City Council, are planning to install a Black War memorial in Hobart’s Cenotaph precinct. When erected, it will be the first of its kind in Australia.
Tongerlongeter and many other heroes of The Black War are buried at the Wybalenna Cemetery on Flinders Island. But rather than being overlooked by an impressive memorial, only thistles adorn their unmarked graves. How Aboriginal people are commemorated or memorialised is the prerogative of their descendants, but admiration for warriors like Tongerlongeter has the potential to transcend race, culture and creed.
Daniel Mansfield, UNSWOur modern understanding of trigonometry harks back to ancient Greek astronomers studying the movement of celestial bodies through the night sky.
But in 2017, I showed the ancient Babylonians likely developed their own kind of “proto-trigonometry” more than 1,000 years before the Greeks. So why were the Babylonians interested in right-angled triangles? What did they use them for?
I have spent the past few years trying to find out. My research, published today in Foundations of Science, shows the answer was hiding in plain sight.
Many thousands of clay tablets have been retrieved from the lost cities of ancient Babylon, in present-day Iraq. These documents were preserved beneath the desert through millennia. Once uncovered they found their way into museums, libraries and private collections.
One example is the approximately 3,700-year-old cadastral survey Si.427, which depicts a surveyor’s plan of a field. It was excavated by Father Jean-Vincent Scheil during an 1894 French archaeological expedition at Sippar, southwest of Baghdad. But its significance was not understood at the time.
It turns out that Si.427 — which has been in Turkey’s İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzeleri (Istanbul Archaeological Museums) for several decades and is currently on display — is in fact one of the oldest examples of applied geometry from the ancient world. Let’s look at what makes it so special.
A brief history of Babylonian surveying
The ancient Babylonians valued land, much as we do today. Early on, large swathes of agricultural land were owned by institutions such as temples or palaces.
Professional surveyors would measure these fields to estimate the size of the harvest. But they did not establish field boundaries. It seems those powerful institutions did not need a surveyor, or anyone else, to tell them what they owned.
The nature of land ownership changed during the Old Babylonian period, between 1900 and 1600 BCE. Rather than large institutional fields, smaller fields could now be owned by regular people.
This change had an impact on the way land was measured. Unlike institutions, private landowners needed surveyors to establish boundaries and resolve disputes.
The need for accurate surveying is apparent from an Old Babylonian poem about quarrelling students learning to become surveyors. The older student admonishes the younger student, saying:
Go to divide a plot, and you are not able to divide the plot; go to apportion a field, and you cannot even hold the tape and rod properly. The field pegs you are unable to place; you cannot figure out its shape, so that when wronged men have a quarrel you are not able to bring peace, but you allow brother to attack brother. Among the scribes, you (alone) are unfit for the clay.
This poem mentions the tape and rod, which are references to the standard Babylonian surveying tools: the measuring rope and unit rod. These were revered symbols of fairness and justice in ancient Babylon and were often seen in the hands of goddesses and kings.
Babylonian surveyors would use these tools to divide land into manageable shapes: rectangles, right-angled triangles and right trapezoids.
Earlier on, before surveyors needed to establish boundaries, they would simply make agricultural estimates. So 90° angles back then were good approximations, but they were never quite right.
Right angles done right
The Old Babylonian cadastral survey Si.427 shows the boundaries of a small parcel of land purchased from an individual known as Sîn-bêl-apli.
There are some marshy regions which must have been important since they are measured very carefully. Sounds like a normal day at work for a Babylonian surveyor, right? But there is something very distinct about Si.427.
In earlier surveys, the 90° angles are just approximations, but in Si.427 the corners are exactly 90°. How could someone with just a measuring rope and unit rod make such accurate right angles? Well, by making a Pythagorean triple.
A Pythagorean triple is a special kind of right-angled triangle (or rectangle) with simple measurements that satisfy Pythagoras’s theorem. They are easy to consturct and have theoretically perfect right angles.
Pythagorean triples were used in ancient India to make rectangular fire altars, potentially as far back as 800 BCE. Through Si.427, we now know ancient Babylonians used them to make accurate land measurements as far back as 1900 BCE.
Si.427 contains not one, but three Pythagorean triples.
Crib notes for surveyors
Si.427 has also helped us understand other tablets from the Old Babylonian era.
Not all Pythagorean triples were useful to Babylonian surveyors. What makes a Pythagorean triple useful are its sides. Specifically, the sides have to be “regular”, which means they can be scaled up or down to any length. Regular numbers have no prime factors apart from 2, 3 and 5.
Plimpton 322 is another ancient Babylonian tablet, with a list of Pythagorean triples that look similar to a modern trigonometric table. Modern trigonometric tables list the ratios of sides (sin, cos and tan anyone?).
But instead of these ratios, Plimpton 322 tells us which sides of a Pythagorean triple are regular and therefore useful in surveying. It is easy to imagine it was made by a pure mathematician who wanted to know why some Pythagorean triples were usable while others were not.
Alternatively, Plimpton 322 could have been made to solve some specific practical problem. While we will never know the author’s true intentions, it is probably somewhere between these two possibilities. What we do know is the Babylonians developed their own unique understanding of Pythagorean triples.
This “proto-trigonometry” is equivalent to the trigonometry developed by ancient Greek astronomers. Yet it is different because it was developed in response to the problems faced by Babylonian surveyors looking not at the night sky — but at the land.
Ian Hall, Griffith UniversityThis piece is part of a new series in collaboration with the ABC’s Saturday Extra program. Each week, the show will have a “who am I” quiz for listeners about influential figures who helped shape the 20th century, and we will publish profiles for each one. You can read the other pieces in the series here.
Jawaharlal Nehru was not just the architect of modern India and the country’s first prime minister. He also played a central role in the discrediting of European imperialism and gave a voice to people across Asia and Africa struggling for self-determination and racial equality.
An unlikely revolutionary, Nehru was born in 1889 into wealth and privilege. His father was a Kashmiri, a high caste Brahmin and a successful barrister, able to fund the best education for the young Jawaharlal the British system could offer.
After attending Harrow School and Cambridge University, Nehru, too, became a lawyer and could easily have settled into a comfortable life.
Instead, Nehru was swept by the enigmatic Mahatma Gandhi into the campaign against British rule in India. For the next 25 years, he dressed in homespun cotton, endured long terms in prison and campaigned relentlessly for the cause.
Successes and failures
Once the British were overthrown and he rose to power, Nehru quickly set about ensuring his vast, impoverished and hugely diverse country was governed by democratically elected leaders and the rule of law.
In parallel, he tried to make India economically self-reliant, so that it could no longer be exploited or manipulated by foreign powers.
Perhaps inevitably, given the scale of the challenges involved, the results of these efforts were mixed.
Nehru’s hopes for a peaceful transition from British rule were dashed by the horrific violence that accompanied partition — the division of the British colony into the separate states of India and Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands died in clashes between Hindus and Muslims, and millions more were displaced and traumatised.
Nehru did succeed in the herculean effort of transforming India into a constitutional democracy, but his ambitious plans to modernise the economy proved harder to realise.
To be sure, India avoided mass famines like those that ravaged Bengal in mid-1940s and China during the so-called “Great Leap Forward” in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But most Indians did not see major improvements in their standard of living.
A vision for a post-colonial world
Where Nehru really shone was on the world stage. Urbane, well-read, charismatic and eloquent, he was convinced India had a special role to play in international politics, despite its poverty and relative weakness.
And to ensure that happened, Nehru served as his own foreign minister and ambassador-at-large.
Initially, Nehru’s principal concern was the struggle against European imperialism, especially in Asia. Britain, France and the Netherlands all reasserted control over their colonial possessions in the region after the second world war. In response, Nehru and Gandhi rallied anti-colonial leaders, holding the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947 to chart the way forward for the continent.
In Nehru’s view, Asia’s newly liberated or soon-to-be liberated states should show the world a different way to conduct international relations.
They need not be suspicious of each other’s intentions, nor greedy for each other’s territory, he argued. And they should not waste their scarce resources on building armies or atom bombs. Committed to social and economic development and to treating others with mutual respect, they could — and should — create a more just and peaceful world.
He campaigned against nuclear weapons, calling in 1954 for the superpowers to halt their tests of increasingly destructive bombs. This paved the way for a partial ban on testing in 1963.
He called for an end to racial discrimination, most notably in South Africa. He also commissioned India’s diplomats to offer their services to mediate in a series of disputes, including the Korean war and France’s disastrous attempt to cling to its colonial possessions in Indochina.
The birth of non-alignment
Throughout, Nehru made the case for what became known as “non-alignment” — perhaps his greatest contribution to the 20th century world.
India and other post-colonial states, he argued, had no good reason to take sides in the Cold War and plenty of reasons to maintain cordial relations with both the US and Soviet Union.
Allying with one or the other was too costly and compromising. It brought obligations to build armies and fight distant wars. And it meant renouncing the ability to criticise your ally when it did things with which you disagreed.
Non-alignment annoyed Cold Warriors in both Moscow and Washington. But it proved popular elsewhere, especially among newly independent states.
It helped inspire a series of major meetings intended to promote African and Asian cooperation in the shadow of US-Soviet competition, including the Bandung Conference in 1955, as well as the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970s.
Today, 120 states belong to the movement, though India’s interest in the bloc has waned as it has grown stronger and wealthier.
Nehru helped delegitimise imperialism and usher in a new world no longer dominated by the Europe powers. He laid out principles that he hoped would encourage mutual respect in international relations – principles eagerly embraced, if not always followed, by other post-colonial leaders.
It is ironic, then, that arguably Nehru’s greatest failure – the one that irreparably tarnished his leadership and broke his health – concerned foreign policy.
Convinced China would abide by the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” agreement it struck with India in the mid-1950s, Nehru failed to anticipate a military conflict over the long-disputed frontier. When Mao Zedong ordered a surprise attack in 1962, India’s forces were humiliated. And to Nehru’s dismay, neither the UN, nor the superpowers, intervened.
To critics, the Sino-Indian war exposed Nehru’s naivety and the limits of non-alignment. It compelled India to retrench and rearm, and laid bare his dream of an Asia free from “power politics”.
India has travelled far since Nehru’s time and left much of his legacy by the wayside. It now possesses the world’s second largest military – after China – and a nuclear arsenal. It has forged a strong security partnership with the United States.
But New Delhi still remains wary of alliances or anything that might compromise independence of voice or action. And it is as convinced today as when Nehru was in power that India is destined to play a special role in the world.
In early colonial Australia, horses were at a premium. In the 1790s, policing of convicts and bushrangers in the confined region of the Sydney basin was conducted on foot by night watchmen, constables and the colonial military.
By 1801, the then Governor King formed a Body Guard of Light Horse for dispatching his messages to the interior and as a useful personal escort.
By 1816, at the height of the Sydney Wars of Aboriginal resistance, the numbers of horses in the colony had grown.
Their importance as mounted reconnaissance and for use by messengers was critical to Governor Macquarie’s infamous campaign, which ended in the Appin Massacre of April 17, 1816.
The horse as a key element of occupation
Along with firearms and disease, the horse was a key element in occupying Aboriginal land and controlling the largely convict workforce on the frontier.
In the early 1820s, west of the Blue Mountains, the use of horses in the open terrain of the Bathurst Plains was critical in capturing escaped convicts and bushrangers, as well as defending remote outstations against attacks from Wiradjuri people.
Early intrusions into Wiradjuri land were not so much by British colonists, but by the animals they brought with them. In what is now recognised as “co-colonisation”, cattle and sheep did a lot of the hard yards for the British, often well before they arrived in Aboriginal lands.
In 1817, Surveyor General John Oxley thought he was well beyond the limits of settlement when, as he wrote:
to our great surprise we found the distinct marks of cattle tracks [that] must have strayed from Bathurst, from which place we were now distant in a direct line between eighty and ninety miles.
From a colonial cavalry to mounted police
During the first Wiradjuri War of Resistance between 1822 and 1824, calls were made to the colonial authorities for the formation of a civilian “colonial cavalry” to assist the beleaguered and overstretched military forces. My (Stephen Gapps) forthcoming book, developed in consultation with Wiradjuri community members in central west region of NSW, The Bathurst War, looks in deeper detail at this period.
It was hoped colonial farmers would be their own first line of defence against Aboriginal warrior raids on sheep and cattle stations.
Governor Brisbane wrote to London that in 1824 a mounted force was becoming “daily more essential [for the] vital interests of the of the Colony”.
But by August that year, heavily armed and mounted settlers, overseers and their armed convict workers had decimated Wiradjuri resistance before a formal cavalry militia was established.
After possibly hundreds of Wiradjuri people had been massacred by heavily armed and mounted settlers, a “Horse Patrol” was created in 1825, which soon formally became the Mounted Police.
The Mounted Police were critical during a spree of bushranging soon after — a largely unanticipated side-effect of arming of convict stockworkers to defend themselves against Wiradjuri attacks in 1824.
By the 1830s, the force had proved useful as a highly mobile quasi-military unit in combating Aboriginal resistance as well as bushranging.
As the colony continued to expand with an insatiable desire for running cattle and sheep on Aboriginal lands, three regional divisions were based at Bathurst, Goulburn and Maitland.
After conflict between colonists and Gamilaraay warriors on the Liverpool Plains, commander Major Nunn led a Mounted Police detachment on a two-month campaign around the Gwydir and Namoi Rivers, resulting in the Waterloo Creek Massacre on January 26, 1838. Armed colonists soon followed suit, ending in the Myall Creek Massacre in June that year, where colonists killed at least 28 Aboriginal people (possibly more).
The Mounted Police’s military functions came with heavy expenses, which included uniforms, equipment and barracks. During the 1840s, a Border Police force of ex-convicts equipped only with a horse, a gun and rations was created and attached to Commissioners of Crown Lands.
It was funded by a tax on squatters (whose interests they protected) and proved a much cheaper policing option for the frontier.
The Native Mounted Police
By 1850 the “Mounted Police” were disbanded. Another relatively cheap and what proved to be a tragic, if remarkably successful, option had been found — the creation of a “Native Mounted Police” force of Aboriginal men with British officers.
The troopers were provided with uniforms, guns and rations. By the 1860s, particularly in Queensland, the main problem on the frontier was not policing colonists but stopping Aboriginal resistance. So arming Aboriginal fighters was part of a tried and tested British method of exploiting existing hostilities by rewarding those who collaborated and punishing those who resisted.
As Bogaine Spearim, Gamilaraay and Kooma man, activist and creator of the podcast Frontier War Stories has noted, the Queensland Native Mounted Police (NMP) were not only feared by bushrangers such as Ned Kelly, but known for their violence toward the Aboriginal population of Queensland.
The NMP united incredible bush skills with military capability. Their legacy has been the focus of a recent project by Australian researchers Lynley Wallis, Heather Burke and colleagues.
The role of animals in colonisation and policing
From 1850, the colonial police force (and then from 1862, the NSW Police force) incorporated mounted police as mobile units in mostly remote locations.
But they also found them useful in urban areas, especially with growing numbers of strikes, political disturbances, protests and riots in the rapidly industrialising cities in the late 19th century.
The use of horses in crowd control has a long history in policing, which itself has a long history in warfare. Among the other issues this presents, we might also consider horses’ long suffering histories of being placed in the front lines of conflict.
Like the inexorable march of sheep and cattle as part of the invasion of Aboriginal lands, understanding the role of animals in colonisation and policing is crucial to a broader understanding of Australian history.
Binoy Kampmark, RMIT UniversityThis piece is part of a new series in collaboration with the ABC’s Saturday Extra program. Each week, the show will have a “who am I” quiz for listeners about influential figures who helped shape the 20th century, and we will publish profiles for each one. You can read the other pieces in the series here.
The idea of a global institution has captivated thinkers since Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. But a body set up to create and maintain world peace and security needs the right people to make it work.
When the United Nations was created in 1945, old sentiments — seen in the disbanded League of Nations — threatened to prevail. Would the UN and its leadership simply comply with the great powers of the day?
Dag Hammarskjöld was the UN’s second secretary-general from 1953 to 1961. He showed that defiant independence in this role was possible.
Hammarskjöld was born in Jönköping in south-central Sweden in 1905, the fourth son of Sweden’s first world war prime minister Hjalmar Hammarskjöld.
In 1953, he reflected on his family’s influence on his career.
From generations of soldiers and government officials on my father’s side I inherited a belief that no life was more satisfactory than one of selfless service to your country — or humanity.
After doing degrees covering literature, linguistics, history, economics and law, he entered the Swedish civil service in 1930, ending up in Ministry for Foreign Affairs. In the late 1940s he represented Sweden at the newly formed United Nations.
A new secretary-general
In 1953, he succeeded Norway’s Trgve Lie as UN secretary-general — easily securing enough votes for the job. At this point, the international state system was in crisis. The Cold War and the Iron Curtain threatened the paralyse the entire organisation.
Hammarskjöld’s approach and lasting legacy was to develop the secretary-general’s political role. He took executive action, which filled power vacuums as the colonial system broke apart after the second world war.
Two concepts underpinned this approach. The first was intervention to maintain international order — thereby transforming the UN from a static international body to a more engaged one.
These interventions including “preventative diplomacy” – trying to stem conflict from developing and spreading — fact-finding missions, peacekeeping forces and operations, technical assistance and international administration.
Fledgling states could rely on UN assistance till they were self-functioning. Doing so would preserve the independence of decolonised countries and forge an international system with “equal economic opportunities for all individuals and nations”.
a universal organisation neutral in the big power struggles over ideology and influence in the world, subordinated to the common will of the Member Governments and free from any aspirations of its own power and influence over any group or nation.
Indeed, the second key concept was a firm commitment to neutrality when maintaining international order. This was considered a vital element for an international organisation dedicated to global governance.
In practice, Hammarskjöld negotiated the release of United States soldiers captured by the Chinese volunteer army during the Korean War and attempted to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. He was also instrumental to facilitating the withdrawal of US and British troops from Lebanon and Jordan in 1958. In such conduct, he defined the secretary-general’s office in international diplomacy and conflict management and ensured the lingering role of peacekeeping operations.
Making waves — and enemies
But the expansion of this type of intervention by the UN was not welcomed by the traditional powers. Reflecting on the role played by Hammarskjöld during the Suez Crisis, Sir Pierson Dixon, British Ambassador to the UN, observed the secretary-general could no longer be considered a “a symbol or even an executive: he has become a force”.
Hammarskjöld sought to shield the newly-independent nations from the predatory aims of the Great Powers. His enemies included colonialists and settlers in Africa who were determined to maintain white minority rule.
In September 1961, Hammarskjöld was on a peace mission in the newly independent Congo. But while flying from Leopoldville, former capital of the Belgian Congo, to Ndola in Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia),
his plane crashed. Everyone on board, including the secretary-general, was killed.
The crash has never officially been recognised as a political assassination. But there have always been deep suspicions, making it one of the great unresolved mysteries of the 20th century.
As former US president Harry Truman told reporters immediately after the crash, Hammarskjöld
was on the point of getting something done when they killed him. Notice that I said ‘when they killed him.’
Hammarskjöld’s legacy was so profound as to encourage a range of theories as to why he died. In 1992, Australian diplomat George Ivan Smith and Irish author Conor Cruise O’Brien, both UN officials in 1961 in Congo, opined the secretary-general had been shot down by mercenaries in the pay of European industrialists.
In her 2011 book, Who Killed Hammarskjöld? Williams examined the possibility of an assassination or a botched hijacking. Noting details were still murky, she concluded:
his death was almost certainly the result of a sinister intervention.
Peacekeeping, neutrality, independence
To this day, Hammarskjöld’s legacy endures through the continued deployment of UN peace keeping operations with the aim of promoting “stability, security and peace processes”.
His shaping of the general-secretary position is also marked: an international, neutral figure tasked, however successful, with using preventative diplomacy, promoting peace and securing an environment where states can develop on their own terms.
Correction: an earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Susan Williams to say Hammarskjöld’s death was “most certainly” the result of a sinister intervention. It has been amended to “almost certainly”. The piece has also been amended to correct Truman was the former US president at the time of the crash, not the current president.