Sikunder Burnes: A Question Answered 69


When researching Alexander Burnes, one of the questions which kept nagging at me was whether he had any children by any of his Indian partners. I was unable to identify any individual Indian partners, other than the fact he had by the end of his career a harem of women from Kashmir. It would have been unusual if he did not have Indian partners right from the beginning of his career in India, but I could not establish that. Besides Burnes was unusual, as the story of his love for, and legacy to, the prostitute Emma Graham reveals.

Since the book was published I am very pleased to have been contacted by direct descendants of the Burnes family, now living in the United States. The family tradition of naming the eldest son James has continued down to the present day, and Mr James Burnes has provided me with photographs of a whole line of James Burnes’s.

But what is more he tells this rather heartwarming story. He recently sent away for a DNA ancestry test, of the type that identifies, among other things, others who have done the test and to whom you are related. The result threw up a senior Indian engineer, now retired and living in the United States, as a distant cousin. Contacted, the gentleman was delighted and said there was a family tradition that his great great grandmother had been the partner of Alexander Burnes.

Historians of course cannot generally give too much credit to that kind of oral history, but the DNA evidence validates it. Establishing family relationship by such DNA tests carries a high degree of certainty. While the ethnic group/origin profiling aspect of these tests is more open to criticism, I rather like it because it proves beyond dispute that we are all mongrels and that notions of ethnic purity are utter nonsense. Nadira found unexpectedly that her ancestry includes Jewish and Inuit, which is rather lovely.


69 thoughts on “Sikunder Burnes: A Question Answered

  • Steven Douglas Keith

    Brilliant Craig! Thanks for the upload. You are summing up so succinctly the work I have dedicated, certainly the last two years to. I am a Scot, living for twenty years in India, married to an Indian of Nepali origin, with the blessing of a wonderful son. The complexity of humanity never ceases to make me.
    Please, take a look at my work at. twentythirstcenturynet.worpress.com , perhaps ‘Names from the Near East’ is most appropriate.
    Thanks again. Wonderful story.

  • Muscleguy

    Jewish I can get but I would bet that the ‘Inuit’ is really ‘North East Asian’ which would be more understandable. Individual Inuit males have turned up in kayaks in places south. Edinburgh for e.g. and are likely to be the source of the silkie legend but I doubt any of them padelled up and down the rivers of Eurasia.

    I expect old Genghis is to blame.

    • craig Post author

      The Inuit is a very small percentage and is separate from the Mongolian/Chagatai type DNA which is of course in the majority. Of course no knowing how it came about or what it exactly means.

      • Shatnersrug

        Humans move about, and procreate as they go, I can’t imagine it would take much for all genetic fingerprints to move all around the world from the 16th century onwards it only takes one person with some Inuit to pass it on to many. I doubt it has much to do with the ancient world at all and a lot to do with modern (last 400 years of) trade and conquest

      • Muscleguy

        When Alaska was Russian they educated and promoted Inuit into the local administration and the continuing family connections across the Bering state continued.

        When the Americans bought Alaska they fired all the Inuit administrators and started patrolling the Strait and restricting trips. This modern idea that all the Inuit live East of the Bering Strait is a modern conception. Prior to European incursion and control in the area the locals would have considered that their people lived on both sides of the Strait.

        There’s your Inuit connection, the designation is a recent one which ignores long term family connections. Add in populaton and memory loss by introduced diseases suffered by lots of indiginous peoples and you have the modern world.

        It’s similar to the idea that the Scotti ‘invaded’ Scotland from Ireland when in fact excavation at Dalriada shows continued, developing culture consistent with a long range integrated culture all along the Western Atlantic seaboard all the way down to Northern Iberia. These people had no conception of ‘Irish’ or ‘Scottish’, just Family.

        • Paul Greenwood

          Alaska was sold because Tsar Alexander owed the Rothschilds a maturing bond for the cost of liberating the serfs and needed cash. Further the British were using Vancouver as a naval base and Russia thought by getting the Americans into Alaska it would clip the wings of the Royal Navy

  • Alan

    Amazing that a DNA test can establish the religious affiliation of Nadira’s ancestor(s). I wonder if I have Christian DNA?

    • glenn_nl

      “I wonder if I have Christian DNA?”

      Why – do you feel particularly prone to primitive sky-spook delusions? Do you have a very child-like gullibility?

      • Shatnersrug

        I think you missed Alan’s sarcasm in implying that Jewishness is merely a religion. Of course Judaism is a religion, Jewishness has a fair amount of genetic lineage because of former closed communities ie Chardi or Ashkenazi, however that is decreasing in the modern age.

        • nevermind

          One supposes that the ME semites have.mixed for many centuries before 1946.

          As have Europeans, we have more gens in common than politicians can divide.

          I shall have a Duvel citra and contemplate

  • Republicofscotland

    I wonder how many other British military officers of the Victorian era, had illegitimate children with colonials. Their descendants now roaming the planet unaware of their heritage, quite a few I’d imagine.

  • phenom

    It’s frighteningly easy to track someone down via DNA, scientist reveals

    Erlich uses the example of law enforcement tracking down a protester who unwittingly left DNA at a political demonstration. All genetic data should be encrypted, he says, and only transferrable with the express consent of the owner. Unfortunately, given how many years such data has been floating around unprotected, passed between companies without a care for privacy, it is far too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

    https://www.rt.com/usa/441142-dna-privacy-warning-genealogy/

  • Pete

    Craig, do you have any idea which DNA testing company this guy used? I know they’re very variable in quality of work. Problem is that you need a reasonable understanding of genetics to interpret the result. There is for example no such thing as “Inuit DNA”, “Jewish DNA” etc. There are certain mutations that are more or less common in different ethnic groups. Stephen Oppenheimer’s book “The Origins of the British” explains it all in depth and traces the origins of the main pre-Norman elements of the British population.

    As regards Nadira’s Inuit ancestors, I suspect that they passed through Central Asia a long time before they got anywhere near the Arctic.

    I’ve done loads of family history research on my own folks. Unfortunately it wasn’t till after my mum had died that my dad mentioned that her family had been rumoured to “have a touch of the tar brush”. These kind of secrets make family history both fascinating and frustrating.

    • Paul Greenwood

      Yes but it when you look at HLA alleles that it gets interesting especially with respect to proclivity to infections and side-effects from certain drugs. The UK has one of the more closed-loop HLA characteristics and different [adverse] reactions to certain medications that do not have quite such a negative impact on others. That is why travelling the world is not quite so clever when you are treated with medications ill-suited to your chromosomal characteristics and why doctors are not well-informed about gene-specific side-effects.

  • Republicofscotland

    The trailblazer James McCune-Smith, was of African-American descent, but he and his wife also had European ancestry.

    MCune-Smith, was the first African-American to hold a medical degree and graduated at the top in his class at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. After his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in that nation.

  • Sharp Ears

    I wonder how Nadira and her friend got on with their plan to make a film about the Rohingya people in Bangladesh. I joined the crowd funding but have heard nothing since.

  • Hatuey

    The history of British India is a subject that I am particularly interested in but I didn’t know a thing about this Burnes chap until very recently. It strikes me that his story conjures up in some an unhealthy Kiplingesque romanticism.

    Of course, I want no part in that romanticism and vehemently oppose it. The experience of British involvement in that region, from the Indian perspective, was drenched in blood, poverty, and misery. The statistics tell the real story;

    1) Indian economic output in 1700 accounted for over 30% of global output (the statistic GDP didn’t exist then as a measure). In 1947, Indian GDP was less than 2% of global GDP.

    2) The Bengal famine of 1770 resulted in 10 million dead. Bengal, for those who don’t know, was the hub of British involvement in India, the region where the British started and had most influence. This is just one famine of many. But, it is noteworthy and damning that not one famine has occurred in Indian since the British left.

    3) At the height of Empire in 1905, when wealth extraction was conducted most efficiently (thanks to technology like railways), life expectancy for the average Indian was around 20 years. One of my favourite historians, Vinay Lal, actually puts it under 20 years for males.

    I’m sorry, then, that I can’t share in the celebrations of Burnes. The truth is that I wish he and so many others from these parts had never set foot in the region. And, most importantly, I am sorry to those who suffered as a consequence of our ancestors being there, and somewhat ashamed too.

    • Pete

      Hatuey, firstly, you’re wrong, there were certainly famines in India in the 1960s, long after independence, the one I most remember from seeing news reports in the 1960s was in Bihar.

      Secondly, hasn’t it occurred to you that the increased disparity between Indian and British GDP might be at least partly to do with British GDP rising rather than India’s falling? Quite a lot happened in this country between 1700 and 1947.

      Thirdly, do you think there were no famines in India before 1770? I doubt that any country could have done much to alleviate a famine in those days- they didn’t have the means of transport to get food to where it was needed.

      Fourthly, if you think that your White Guilt is of the slightest benefit to any Indian or African or anybody else then you need to give your head a shake. They don’t need it.

      You are of course correct that the Empire exploited India and deliberately retarded her development, notably by the destruction of the native cotton weaving industry to benefit Lancashire mill owners.

      Anyway, independent India can now apparently afford nuclear weapons, but they still clean blocked sewers by sending Dalits down there to clean away the shit with their bare hands. Strange priorities but who am I to judge?

      • Hatuey

        Pete, you’re simply wrong but let us define what a famine is so that you better understand my point.

        Famine in a technical sense is arguably a situation where through drought or some other factor there is a severe shortage of food. In a sense you are correct that famines occurred after 1947, but not in the sense that I used it above involving the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions.

        The Bihar famine you mention, technically a famine since there was a severe shortage of food, is actually a good example. The effects of it were limited and mitigated by the response and infrastructure that the Indians had at their disposal, thanks to independent democracy. Consider;

        “The late 18th and 19th centuries saw increase in the incidence of severe famine.[fn 3] These famines in British India were bad enough to have a remarkable impact on the long term population growth of the country, especially in the half century between 1871–192”

        Note that there’s huge controversy over the definition of famine in Bihar in 1966-1967, so much so that Paul Brass wrote a study which put s lot of emphasis on the politicisation of the crisis entitled “The Political Uses of Crisis: The Bihar Famine 1966-1967”
        http://www.paulbrass.com/files/Prb_06_the_poli.pdf

        In short, the crisis was exaggerated for political reasons and wasn’t a famine at all but a minor regional food shortage caused by crop failure. Doing so, calling it a famine, allowed apologists for empire to refute the point I am making here, that no famine occurred in India since the British left.

        We can validate this impartially and scientifically by getting away from words and looking at data. Thus, deaths as a consequence of the so-called Bihar Famine amounted to a relatively piffling 2000 or so.

        Note that many including Wikipedia refer to it as a drought and not a famine;

        “The Bihar drought of 1966–7 was a minor drought with relatively very few deaths from starvation as compared to earlier famines .[1] The drought demonstrated the ability of the Indian government to deal with the worst of drought related circumstances.[2] The official death toll from starvation in the Bihar drought was 2353, roughly half of which occurred in the state of Bihar.[117] No significant increase in the number of infant deaths from famine was found in the Bihar drought.[24”
        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Famine_in_India#Bihar_drought

        The point I am making isn’t about famine per se, though, or how we define it, it’s about democracy and empire and the cold attitude of Britain during crises that impacted the lives of millions, many of which were left to die of starvation. A very similar example of this callous disregard can, of course, be found closer to home in the annals of Irish history.

        In all the many and varied cases of famine under British colonial rule that resulted in millions dead, across the world, there are important commonalities; 1) no actual shortage of food, and 2) disgracefully poor handling and crisis management, amounting to a cold disregard for human suffering.

        Just as there was no shortage of food in Ireland during the famine, with millions of tonnes of beef and other foodstuffs being exported throughout the crisis (to England), there was no shortage in India during their many famines that resulted in many millions dead.

        But Rule Britannia, nevertheless.

        • Pete

          Hatuey, I don’t need you to educate me about the Irish Famine, my great great grandparents were Irish peasants from Roscommon who were evicted during said Famine and came to England as refugees. As regards how many people died in Bihar, I don’t regard any number of avoidable deaths as “piffling”, even if it’s “only” 2000. The “infrastructure that the Indians had at their disposal” was not “thanks to independent democracy,” it was thanks to the world’s largest railway network which was organised by the British Raj, albeit built and staffed by Indians. There was also a good deal of help from other (mostly European) countries, prompted by those images of starving children which I still remember more than 50 years later. As Craig could tell you better than I, the British Empire did both good and evil, and was created and maintained by men whose motivations ranged from superhuman selflessness to demonic cruelty and greed. Many other Empires have done as much or more harm than the British Empire, few have done as much good. Real history is much more complex than your comic book version. and the study of history should never be an excuse for hatred or self hatred, especially the latter.

          • Hatuey

            I don’t see how drawing comparisons with the Irish famine is trying to educate you any more than talking about anything else is trying to educate you. Maybe I could be equally moronic and accuse you of trying to educate me but that would be even more far-fetched based on what you are saying.

            Everything you say about British imperialism is straight from the apologist’s handbook. On that basis, I’ll withdraw from this conversation immediately. The points you make though are not only factually wrong, I regard them as morally wrong.

          • Hatuey

            Btw, I said “relatively piffling”. You do understand what relatively means? Relative to the tens of millions who died in Indian famines under British rule, 2000 is a piffling amount.

            The big difference, of course, apart from the gargantuan body count, is that Britain shouldn’t be managing Indian famines. How India manages its famines is indian’s business.

            Can anyone imagine what the reaction would be if the situation was reversed and tens of millions were left to die in Britain because Indians had invaded to gorge on our resources?

          • Jen

            @ Hatuey: For what my opinion is worth, I have read some Great Courses books on the history of India and British India in particular, and in my reading I was impressed by how the Mughal imperial administration (and other pre-colonial states on the Indian subcontinent) dealt with agricultural crises and food shortages caused by irregular monsoons or the failure of monsoons to arrive when they should. The Mughals relaxed the tax obligations of those parts of their empire worst hit by harvest failures and distributed grain from food stored from previous years of plenty.

            On the other hand, the British taxed the Indians very heavily, in the form of grain supplies, and in years when the monsoons failed, expected and forced Indian farmers to continue paying their tax obligations, no matter that such an onerous demand was leading to mass suffering and starvation.

            This is the context that the famines in India occurred and explains why famines started to become a regular phenomenon after the 1770s, and during the second half of the 19th century through to the mid-20th century.

          • Hatuey

            Jen, that’s interesting. The British as I understand it were perceived by various rulers in India as being good at handling and raising taxes though and that partly explains British expansion, right?

            A lot of books talk about the efforts Britain made to respond to famines, it’s commonly given as a reason for the railways, but with those views it’d be hard to explain the millions who died of hunger during the Second World War. Again, food supplies were plentiful but the British wouldn’t use them to save lives, preferring instead to sell them to Australia under the guise of the war effort. If I remember right, Australia didn’t especially need the food.

            All this whilst 100s of thousands of Indians were serving and fighting in the British army against japan and Germany, an honour that Britain charged India for.

            There’s some brilliant Vinay Lal lectures on YouTube that I’d recommend.

      • Jo1

        Pete
        You are remarkably kind on the subject of British rule in India….well, to the British at least.

    • Republicofscotland

      “unhealthy Kiplingesque romanticism.”

      Indeed Hautey, the Great Boer war inspired Kipling to write more than two dozen poems, including the Absent Minded Beggar, which began:

      “When you’ve shouted Rule Britannia, and when you’ve sung God Save the Queen. When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth, will you kindly drop a shilling in my little tambourine.”

      The Daily Mail published it in a issue, Mark Twain, said “It thrilled the world” the fervent British public, full of patriotism for the empire gave generously to aid the British in the war. Kipling himself even formed a volunteer company from men in the village of Rottingdean.

      • Bayard

        RoS, if you actually read the poem you would see that the poem is an appeal for those not fighting in the Boer War to contribute to look after the dependants that the soldiers left behind, so that they wouldn’t return to find “That we sent ’em (his children) to the workhouse while their daddy hammered Paul,”. So the British were not giving generously to “aid the British in the war”, but to help the families of the soldiers in the days before the welfare state.

        Kipling is often cast as a jingoist, when actually, much of what he wrote was anti-war, like “Mesopotamia” ( https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57430/mesopotamia-56d23af3008a7 ). Similarly Canute is usually cast as someone who failed to hold back the tide, whereas in reality, he got his feet wet in order to demonstrate that he wasn’t able to do that very thing.

    • Paul Greenwood

      Do tell us about the Muslim invasion of India. Perhaps the Portuguese or French invasion could be an additional footnote ?

      • Hatuey

        Nobody else who invaded India took India from being the world’s biggest economic producer to third world status. Actually, worse than that, I can’t think of another example of that happening in any country anywhere in all history.

        • Paul Greenwood

          Really ? You don’t think Industrialisation in The West simply increased global GDP and left China and India in its wake ?

          Since Europe let so many people from Asia and Africa inside its borders its share of global GDP has shrunk at an alarming rate not only in UK

          • Hatuey

            Paul, let’s stick to hard facts, that way you don’t need to suffer my opinion any more than I need to suffer yours.

            The fact is that GDP as a statistic didn’t exist until the 1930s, so we can dismiss that point immediately, even if I think have a rough idea of what you are trying to express which I shall address below.

            You say global GDP increased. Economic production has steadily increased more or less uninterrupted since antiquity and probably before. It’s noteworthy that you think increased production somehow justifies imperialism though, and I’ll take that on board.

            The last 500 years, starting from the day Cortez landed on the shores of South America can straightforwardly be defined with two words — exploitation and slaughter. I don’t think the exploitation is any more justified than the slaughter simply because it enriched Europeans or increased global GDP but that’s a value judgement.

            Your last paragraph strikes me as simply racist. Maybe I misunderstand the point you are trying to make and someone else can chip in. If it is as I understand it, then there’s not much point in commenting except to say that I oppose racism.

          • Bayard

            “The fact is that GDP as a statistic didn’t exist until the 1930s, ”

            That is complete nitpicking, as you go on to point out, both you and Paul know what you are talking about, which you term as “economic output”

            “Economic production has steadily increased more or less uninterrupted since antiquity and probably before.”

            While that isn’t true, there being periods of history where economic production actually decreased, most notably around the time of the Black Death, it also does not imply that economic production has increased in all countries at all times. It is quite possible, as Paul suggests, that the very rapid increase in economic production in Europe and its colonies and ex-colonies caused by the industrial revolution, would cause those countries, not only India, that remained largely agrarian, to represent a smaller slice of that economic output, when measured across the globe. It is quite possible that India’s economic output rose too, in fact I note that you don’t say it didn’t, just not as fast as that of the industrialised countries.

            Before you come out with the same snide remarks as you did above, I am in no way defending imperialism, just attacking your dodgy use of statistics.

          • Hatuey

            Bayard, it isn’t nitpicking. GDP is quite controversial when you look at how it’s calaculated. You assume as Paul does that it reflects the health of an economy but it isn’t that simple.

            I’d like to see a source that corroborates your claim that economic production fell in say Europe as a consequence of the Black Death. That might be tough. But in regards to economic production generally increasing, I used the phrase “more or less” for a reason. There are period where it fell measurably and these are recorded but I’ll let you find those for yourself.

            It won’t, on the other hand, be difficult to find sources that corroborate the claim that Europe got steadily wealthier as exploitation in the colonies increased, deepened, and exploitation became more efficient.. Of course, it did and that’s the whole point of colonialism.

            I assume you are aware that some (just about all, actually) historians believe that the pace of Europe’s industrial revolution and development during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries was largely driven by colonial gains and exploitation? Where, out of interest, do you think the wealth came from that built cities like London and Liverpool?

            Using your standard, slavery was great because it resulted in increased production. And nobody would dispute that slavery resulted in increased economic production. What good is increased economic production to the slaves though, or the Indians for that matter, if life for them is increasingly miserable and their lifespans are shortening as a consequence?

            As for my dodgy use of statistics, I’d love to spend more time on here talking about statistics. It’s a subject I’m genuinely interested in. What part in particular do you regard as dodgy? The GDP stuff? Top economists have won prizes for outlining the flaws in GDP.

          • Bayard

            Since Paul’s point would have been equally valid if he had said “Really ? You don’t think Industrialisation in The West simply increased global economic output and left China and India in its wake ?” means that dismiss it on the grounds that the concept of GDP didn’t exist before the 1930s is nitpicking. So are your points about the flaws in measuring GDP, for the same reason.

            “I’d like to see a source that corroborates your claim that economic production fell in say Europe as a consequence of the Black Death. ”

            Well, since I only gave that as an example, and you concede that there were times that economic output decreased, there’s not much point in quoting sources.

            As to your point about the West increasing their economic output at the expense of the colonies, I would agree with that, after all, as you say, that was the point of having colonies. However, that is not to say that economic output would have increased in the colony if it had not become a colony in the first place. States like China, which was not colonised by the West, had no industrial revolution, in the C17th and 18th ,despite, in the case of China, having everything in place for one. Similarly, it is hard to see any industrialisation occurring in Africa if the countries there had remained unmolested by the European powers. Civilised, they would probably have become, but industrialised seems very unlikely. Thus it is fairly safe to surmise that India, if say the Great Rebellion had succeeded, would have remained a feudal and agrarian economy and its economic output would not have increased anything like that of the West in the same period.

          • Hatuey

            No Bayard, I addressed his point about the relative growth of the European / British economies. If I was to break into your house and take all your money and possessions, would your wealth relative to mine increases or decrease? It’s the same thing.

            For someone that appears to want to pay attention to detail, you seem to miss a lot.

            The point about GDP is probably too complicated to explain but it points to India actually being in a much worse position relative to where it was before British colonisation. In other words, gdp makes India look stronger than it actually was in 1947.

        • craig Post author

          I am unclear whether you have actually read Sikunder Burnes, Hatuey. It is very difficult to write history of Imperialism without falling into the traps of romanticism or blanket condemnation. I was very conscious of this throughout the process and hope to have succeeded in fairness and judgement. If you haven’t read it, I think perhaps you should or refrain from comment on it.

          • Iain Stewart

            With respect, Hatuey made no mention of the book, nor did he comment on it. He merely said,”The history of British India is a subject that I am particularly interested in but I didn’t know a thing about this Burnes chap until very recently. It strikes me that his story conjures up in some an unhealthy Kiplingesque romanticism.”
            Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing how the French translators manage the title without giving the (misleading?) impression that the subject is testicles.

          • Hatuey

            I agree, Craig. I haven’t read it and I haven’t commented on it.

            I also agree that it’s difficult to avoid falling into traps when discussing imperialism which is why I stand squarely on the solid ground of condemnation.

            I guess I lack moral and intellectual agility.

          • Squeeth

            “Blanket condemnation”? like someone pointing out that post-war Poland got a buna factory and some chemicals works out of the nazi genocides? Come off it Craig.

        • Pete

          I think you’ll find that many Hindu Indians, rightly or wrongly, dislike and fear Muslims more than they dislike and fear the British. Which is why their nukes are pointed at Pakistan, not the UK.

          • Hatuey

            Brilliant point, Pete, but what’s it got to do with …. oh forget it.

            I know when I’m licked.

        • Jo1

          Hatuey
          “I guess I lack moral and intellectual agility.”

          Personally I think you’ve played a blinder!

    • Alison Duncan

      Hatuey – ‘that Burnes chap’ was one of the sons of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard, internationally respected for the works he produced during his relatively short life.
      I think we should not judge people who lived in different times, under different political situations, by the standards (such as they are) of today. People did not have the same choices or ability to speak out as we have today.

      • Ally

        Oops…i may have jumped to a conclusion about which Burnes/Burns was the subject of discussion….!!

      • Hatuey

        Of course, I’m familiar with the argument that we can’t make moral judgements about the past. It comes up a lot when we discuss slavery, imperialism, and other dark episodes in our history. Strangely, it never comes up when we are discussing the concentration camps.

        It must be difficult to think like that and know when you can and can’t make moral judgements. It isn’t a problem I have, though, since I condemn gas chambers, slavery, and all the other “bad” stuff equally. Where is the cut-off point for you? I’m genuinely interested.

        As for Burns the poet, I’m not a fan so I won’t comment on his poetry. I struggle with poetry and don’t understand what it’s for. Anything that makes people happy without harming others is a good thing though and I’m not one for maliciously slating people when it comes to that sort of thing.

        It puzzles me that you want to celebrate Burns and talk about how respected he is though when you said we should refrain from making judgements about the era. It seems within your selectiveness you are adding an additional filter.

        I’m not saying you’re an apologist for empire but apologists for empire do this a lot; on one hand say we can’t judge because things were different back then, whilst on the other hand arguing that railways in India were a good thing, etc.. The upshot of that reasoning is that we can only talk about the arguably good things imperialism resulted in.

        • Bayard

          “Strangely, it never comes up when we are discussing the concentration camps.”

          Ah, yes the “concentration camps” that the British are supposed to have invented, despite the fact that the sort of concentration camp that the British used in the Boer War, which was a camp for the internment of civilians for the duration of the war had been used previously by the Spanish in South America and, of course, never mentioning that they were not extermination camps like the later Nazi “Konzentratzionslagern”, which is what most people think of when hearing the term.

    • Paul Greenwood

      Until 1858 it was not “British India” it was “The John Company”. The British “Raj” had to take over once The Company failed just as it did on other parts of the world where Private Enterprise failed – Rhodesia for example.

  • Johnny Rottenborough

    it proves beyond dispute that we are all mongrels and that notions of ethnic purity are utter nonsense

    Ethnic purity can mean life or death.

    Mixed-race patients struggle to find match in bone marrow donor

    If Nick Glasgow, 28, were white, he would have a nearly 90 percent chance of finding a matching bone marrow donor who could cure his leukemia. But because the bodybuilder is one-quarter Japanese, his doctor warned him the outlook was grim. Glasgow’s background would make it almost impossible to find a match, which usually comes from a patient’s own ethnic group.

    • Pete

      There is no such thing, scientifically, as ethnic purity. Every race originated in combinations or offshoots of other races. Also, in terms of numbers potentially affected infectious diseases are a far greater health threat than transplant rejection, and as the article says, the more different racial origins you have, the more disease-fighting antibodies. Anyway, any animal breeds will tell you that crossbreeds are healthier than thoroughbreds. Inbreeding has been recognised as unhealthy for a long time, and the most inbred areas of America, for instance, are not known for their good health or superior intelligence.

      • Utterheb

        Pete, inbreeding may indeed be unhealthy in the most inbred areas of America – and I concede that they may very well be not renowned for their intelligence or good health. But… they do make for excellent banjo players!

  • laguerre

    DNA Ancestry companies are obviously a bit hit-and-miss. If they happen to have someone related in their database, or in publicly available databases, then the link is good, as Craig says. If they don’t, they’re a bit wild, with lots of errors.

    • Paul Greenwood

      Why would anyone in his right mind share DNA with an Internet firm ? No doubt Facebook is busy monetising that too !

  • Adrian Parsons

    “While the ethnic group/origin profiling aspect of these tests is more open to criticism, I rather like it because it proves beyond dispute that we are all mongrels and that notions of ethnic purity are utter nonsense.”

    Nice demolition of nationalism.

    • Herbie

      “Nice demolition of nationalism.”

      Not really. Not at all, in fact.

      Nationalism these days is economic nationalism. That’s the key. It’s not ethnic nationalism.

      • Paul Greenwood

        Why “nationalism” is related to “ethnic purity” says too much about yourself ! When Soviet troops fought 1941-1945 they fought for “rodina” against a common enemy as a multiplicity of ethnicities. When the USA fought it did so with military formations segregated by race until EO 9981 in 1948.

        Even the Waffen-SS which was a Party organisation rather than an Army unit fought with multinational components from Alsace, Croatia, India, Sweden, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Ukraine, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Latvia, Estonia……….so it is hard to see your “ethnic purity” argument as holding water.

        National Identity is based on core common values and beliefs

  • fwl

    Sikunder Burnes was a fascinating character as also, so it would appear, was his brother James, as Craig explains in his interesting intro to the current Dr Burnes’ book on the Knight Templars. I also would like to know the mystery behind James’ sudden elevation. If Craig discovers the answer then I hope he informs us here or perhaps Craig might be persuaded to prepare a revised edition of Sikunder in a few years once further facts have come to light. If so it would be good if he could rev it up a bit. I found Sikunder just too restrained, which I was surprised by as both Murder and the Orangemen are intense and riveting, and also Craig’s blogging temperament is if anything too polemic. I appreciate that Craig exercised scholastic judgment, but the book needs a little fizz and there is fizz in the story. Maybe by the time of a second edition it will have fermented. I don’t mean to be critical as I am glad I purchased it and recommend it to others.

  • Rhisiart Gwilym

    “Jewish and Inuit”! Lovely indeed. Reflects the exotic inputs into my own mongrel ancestry, despite being as Cymreig as you are Scottish, Craig. True of every one of us, of course. As you say, notions of ethnic purity are utter nonsense; especially when you reflect that counting backwards sixty generations or so makes clear that every single person alive today has more direct ancestors even than the total of the current bloated global population overshoot; many more! 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etcetera. And that’s only six generations back… 🙂

  • Jonangus Mackay

    Race is a 19th Century construct which fails to withstand elementary arithmetical examination. Casting a sceptical eye over a family tree that goes back to 1394, I realised that, going back that far merely, I have literally hundreds of thousands of forebears. We’re all partly ‘Jewish’—it’s just that some of us are more Jewish than others.

    NB: However, as orthodox sects such as the Satmar repeatedly insist—correctly in my view, & contrary to the Zionist heresy—a Jew is correctly to be identified by his or her religious practice, not by ‘racial’ category.

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