Monday, 27 December 2021

Merchants of War and Peace - by Song-Chuan Chen - Summary of Arguments

Song-Chuan Chen's Merchants of War and Peace is a fine piece of historical research which explores the origin of the arguments that ultimately would be used in lobbying the Whig Government and would persuade Palmerston to send the military force that launched the First Opium War (1839-42).

Chen's thesis is that the pro- and anti- war arguments originated in the Merchant communities in the 'factories' of Canton. The 'Warlike' party (which included James Matheson and William Jardine) worked out their arguments in the Canton Register; these were opposed by the 'Pacific' party whose mouthpiece was the Canton Press. 

According to Chen, the case for war distilled down to an argument for free trade: namely that the Qing dynasty's policy of giving Canton a monopoly on external trade was protectionist, and that the only way that this was likely to change was by the British military imposing change by force. 

An important aspect of this argument was the development of a narrative that China was isolationist, which stood in stark contrast to the traditional view of China (originally propagated by Jesuits during the Ming Dynasty - 1368-1644) was that China was a 'peaceable' nation. The Warlike party were able to draw on the failed Macartney (1793) and Amherst (1816) embassies to the Qing court as evidence that China was anti-commercial and insular. Shifting public opinion from viewing China as 'Peaceable' to being 'Isolationist' was key to the Warlike narrative - and its impact has carried into the C21.

Other arguments which focused on the lack of respect for the British were secondary (e.g., whether or not the Chinese term yi should be translated as 'foreigner' or 'barbarian'; or whether Chinese officials disrespected Britain by turning their back on the portrait of the King, or by rejecting British officials). 

Chen argues that one important factor to the ultimate success of the warlike party was that the Canton merchants had up-to-date detailed knowledge of China, including being able to make a detailed evaluation of its military capability.

Chen points out that the approach of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) to foreigners was driven by internal politics: namely that the Manchu rulers feared that foreigners would side with the Han majority in a civil war. Their foreign policy was to put in place 'soft borders' to distance foreigners and thus to protect their position. The use of the term yi  was part of this distancing; as was the establishment of 'five rules' of the 'Canton system' which outlined the rigorous conditions for foreign merchants in 1757 (See pp.46-47). 

Chen draws attention to the role that the Canton merchants played in negotiating this monopoly, which reduced the number of foreign trading ports from four (Canton, Amoy, Ningbo and Shanghai) to one (Canton).

"From the Imperial perspective, the Canton system assuaged the political security fears of the Manchurian and Chinese ruling classes and, at the same time, allowed them to extract profits from the Canton maritime trade." (p.159)

On the other hand, the Pacific Party adopted a laissez-faire approach, believing in the power of commerce and that China had the right to conduct is own policy as it wished and that the British who traded in Canton should submit to the rules of the Chinese (p.34-5).

Chen's research traces how these arguments that were circulating in Canton became the key arguments in the lobbying of the British Whig Government throughout the 1830s. He cross-references the cases made in the Canton Register with the arguments that subsequently were used in the English press and in pamphlets published. Chen echoes other scholars in arguing that the tide of opinion in Parliament and wider British society began to shift in the second half the decade culminating in Palmerston's decision in 1839. 

Chen rejects the arguments of  Glenn Malancon (Britain's China Policy and the Opium Crisis 2003) that Palmerston reached the war decision on his own prior to meeting Jardine on 27th September 1839, arguing that Jardine played a key role in supplying "military intelligence, war strategy and the demands for treaty negotiation" (p.120). The correlation of the battle plan, the subsequent terms of the Treaty of Nanking and that the cabinet took the war decision just three days after the Jardine-Palmerston meeting, for Chen are too coincidental for Jardine not to have be instrumental in getting Parmerston over the line.

Chen's final analysis is that the conflict that arose in the 1830s in Canton was fundamentally the battle between the old 'profit order' by which the 'Canton system' looked after the interests of the Qing ruling dynasty, the Chinese high officials and the Canton merchants; and a new 'profit order' which looked after the interests of the the British - both Government and merchants (traders and English manufacturers). For Chen, the ultimate reason for the  Opium War came down to money:

"Profit order was central to the Chinese-British encounter in Canton, which during the hundred years from the mid-eighteenth century was arguably the most dynamic wealth-creating port in the maritime trading world." (p.159)

Note: This is not a great starting point if you want a general book on the Opium War. It is is an excellent piece of historical research, engaging with primary source material, but it is not for anyone new to this period of history.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Samantha Steed Facebook Live Talk on Early Years

 Samantha Steed talking about Early Years on Facebook Live for Kellett School in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Independent School Medallists at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics 2020 (Summer 2021)

Independent Schools continue to make a significant (disproportionate) contribution to British Sport - this is something that we should celebrate. 

The final statistics:

  • 53 women won medals for TeamGB (4 won 2 medals), 20 of whom were educated in independent schools (38%)
  • 55 men won medals for TeamGB (6 won 2 medals, 2 won 3 medals and 1 won 4 medals), 17 of whom were educated in independent schools (25%)
  • Overall, 108 competitors won medals for TeamGB, 37 of whom were educated at UK Independent schools (34%)
(school data not available for Equestrian Eventing Team)

Congratulations to the following former pupils of Independent Schools who won medals at the Olympic Games in Tokyo:

Team GB Gold Medals 

  • Cycling
    • Katie Archibald (Glasgow Academy) Madison
  • Diving 
    • Tom Daley (Plymouth College) Synchronised 10m Platform 
  • Modern Pentathlon
    • Kate French (Cobham Hall) Individual
    • Joe Choong (Whitgift) Individual
  • Sailing
    • Hannah Mills (Howell's Llanduff) 470
    • Eilidh McIntyre (Mayville High School Southsea) 470
  • Swimming 
    • Freya Anderson (Ellesmere College) 4x100m Mixed Medley Relay 
    • James Guy (Millfield) 4x200m Freestyle Relay 
    • James Guy (Millfield) 4x100m Mixed Medley Relay 
    • Calum Jarvis (Plymouth College) 4x200m Freestyle Relay 
    • Duncan Scott (Strathallan) 4x200m Freestyle Relay 
  • Triathlon 
    • Jonathan Brownlee (Bradford Grammar) Mixed Triathlon Relay 

Team GB Silver Medals 

  • Cycling
    • Katie Archibald (Glasgow Academy) Team Pursuit
  • Rowing 
    • Harry Leask (George Heriots) Quadruple Sculls 
    • Harry Leask (RGS Guildford) Quadruple Sculls 
  • Sailing 
    • Anna Burnet (Lomond) 
  • Swimming 
    • Duncan Scott (Strathallan) 200m Freestyle 
    • Duncan Scott (Strathallan) 200m Individual Medley 
    • Duncan Scott (Strathallan) 4x100m Medley Relay 
    • James Guy (Millfield) 4x100m Medley Relay 

Team GB Bronze Medals 

  • Athletics
    • Imani-Lara Lansiquot (Trinity Croydon) 4x100m Relay
    • Josh Kerr (George Watsons) 1500m
  • Diving 
    • Tom Daley (Plymouth College) 10m Platform 
  • Equestrian 
    • Karl Hester (Elizabeth College, Guernsey) Team Dressage 
  • Gymnastics
    • Amelie Morgan (Wolsey Hall, Oxford) Artistic Team
  • Hockey
    • Grace Balsdon (Kent College)
    • Maddie Hinch (King's, Taunton) 
    • Sarah Jones (Howells Llanduff)
    • Shona McCallin (Repton)
    • Hannah Martin (Ipswich School)
    • Lily Owsley (Clifton College) 
    • Izzy Petter (Cranleigh)
    • Ellie Ryer (Claire's Court)
    • Anna Toman (St Gabriel's Newbury)
    • Susannah Townsend (Sutton Valence)
    • Leah Wilkinson (Repton)
  • Shooting 
    • Matthew Coward-Holley (Felsted) Trap Shooting 
  • Rowing 
    • Thomas George (Radley) Men's Eight 
    • Charles Elwes (Radley) Men's Eight 
    • Oliver Wynne-Griffith (Radley) Men's Eight 
    • James Rudkin (Stowe) Men's Eight 
    • Thomas Ford (Grange School) Men's Eight 
    • Henry Fieldman (Latymer Upper) Men's Eight 
  • Sailing 
    • Emma Wilson (Bournemouth Collegiate) RS:X Windsurfing 

Medallists competing for other nations who were educated at UK Independent Schools: 

Gold Medals 

  • Triathlon 
    • Flora Duffy - Bermuda (Mount Kelly - then Kelly College) 

Bronze Medals 

  • Swimming 
    • Frederico Burdisso - Italy (Mount Kelly) 200m Butterfly 
    • Frederico Burdisso - Italy (Mount Kelly) 4x100m Medley Relay 

Medallists at the Paralympic Games who were educated at UK Independent Schools: 

Gold Medals 

  • Rowing
    • Oli Stanhope - GB (Hampton) PR3 Mixed 4+
  • Swimming 
    • Ellen Keane - Ireland (Mount Kelly) SB8 100m Breaststroke
    • Hannah Russell - GB (Mount Kelly) S12 100m Backstroke
  • Triathlon
    • Lauren Steadman - GB (Mount Kelly- then Kelly College) PTS5 Individual

Silver Medals 

  • Athletics
    • Kare Adenegan - GB (Bablake and King Henry VIII School) T34 100m
  • Wheelchair Fencing
    • Dimitri Coutya - GB (St Benedict's) - Team Foil
    • Oliver Lam-Watson - GB (Dulwich College) - Team Foil 

Bronze Medals 

  • Wheelchair Fencing
    • Dimitri Coutya - GB (St Benedict's) - Individual Épée
    • Dimitri Coutya - GB (St Benedict's) - Individual Foil
    • Dimitri Coutya - GB (St Benedict's) - Team Épée
    • Oliver Lam-Watson - GB (Dulwich College) - Team Épée
  • Swimming 
    • Toni Shaw - GB (Albyn School) 400m Freestyle S9 
  • Triathlon 
    • Claire Cashmore - GB (Mount Kelly- then Kelly College) PTS5 Individual 
Please contact me if you spot any errors or omissions. Many thanks 

Related posts 

Sunday, 11 July 2021

The Bomber Mafia - Malcom Gladwell: Brief Summary

The Bomber Mafia is a book about two approaches to a problem. The problem in question was 'What is the best way to end WWII by bombing?' The context was the last year of the war and the target was Japan.

Malcolm Gladwell narrates the story of two US Air Force Generals: Brigadier General Haywood Hansell and Major General Curtis LeMay both of whom, at different times, were in command of the Twenty-First Bomber Command stationed on a cluster of small islands, the Marianas, in the middle of the Western Pacific (Guam, Saipan and Tinian). The significance of these islands was that they were (just) in range for a B29 bomber to run a raid to Tokyo and other significant Japanese industrial cities.

The first General, Hansell, was a devotee of the 'The Bomber Mafia', a group within the Air Force command who believed that air power alone could win a war. They believed that the precision bombing of key strategic pinchpoints could bring the enemy to his knees (and thus to surrender). without committing thousands of troops on the ground. In the 1930s this concept was quite and ran contrary to the prevailing US military thinking which, given that it had been the case in nearly every war to date, saw ground troops as essential to military success. Furthermore, they believed that, unlike blitz bombing, precision bombing would also minimise non-combatant casualties - thus there was a moral dimension to this view. At the heart of Hansell and the Bomber Mafia's belief was that they placed enormous faith in the 'Norden Bombsight' which, they claimed could enable an airborne bombardier to drop a bomb into a pickle barrel from six miles up. Sadly this faith was misplaced and Hansell's B29 bombers never managed to effect high level precision bombing of key Japanese instillations.

For this reason he was replaced by General Curtis LeMay, who approached the problem of bombing to end the war with a more open mind. After a brief attempt at following his predecessor's approach, he switched to a totally different strategy: low level blanket bombing of cities with napalm. The results were devastating. May's first raid on Tokyo on March 9th 1945 lasted 3 hours, dropped 1,665 tons of napalm, destroyed 16 square miles of the city killing about 100,000 people.

"Probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a six hour period than at any other time in the history of man." US Strategic Bombing Survey

Further bombing raids on other cities followed with similar results.

 The irony here is that the US WWII narrative focuses on how President Truman agonised over the dropping of the two atomic bombs, but much less consideration is given to the 'on-the-ground' action of LeMay to blanket bomb significantly larger urban populations.

Hansell was a man of principle, but the fact is that he didn't get the job done.

LeMay was a pragmatist who believed that his actions would bring an early end to the war. This proved to be true. His extensive bombing campaign and the dropping of the atomic bombs brought about a Japanese surrender, preventing a costly invasion, probable partition of Japan, and enabled food supplies to be flown in saving millions of Japanese from starvation.

However, viewed from the perspective of 2021, LeMay's approach to bombing and ending wars has had its day. Today, targetted precision bombing is the norm - Hansell's dream has been realised.

Curtis LeMay won the battle. Haywood Hansell won the war.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Schools, Technology and Parents:

How should schools work with parents when things get back to normal?

A TTS webinar given on 22/06/2021


Thursday, 4 February 2021

The future of teacher and school leader recruitment

A presentation for the COBIS Bursars and Heads of HR Conference on Thursday 4th February 2021


Sunday, 31 January 2021

Flourish by Martin Seligman – a summary of key points

Martin Seligman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the founding fathers of the Positive Psychology movement, and Flourish (2011) is the summary of how he and the team at Penn have applied these principles in different contexts.

Wellbeing - The Focus of Positive Psychology

For Seligman the focus of Positive Psychology is ‘Wellbeing’ rather than ‘Happiness’. He identifies three inadequacies in authentic happiness theory: 1) happiness is inextricably bound up with being in a cheerful mood; 2) life satisfaction holds too privileged a place; 3) “positive emotion, engagement and meaning do not exhaust elements that people choose for their own sake.” (p.13-14).

Wellbeing is a construct (like ‘weather’ or ‘freedom’) – no single measure defines it exhaustively (“operationalises” it).

The focal topic of positive Psychology is the construct of wellbeing, not the entity of life-satisfaction,

Wellbeing has five measurable elements (PERMA): (p.24)

1.      P ositive Emotion (of which happiness and life satisfaction are all elements.

2.      E ngagement

3.      R elationships (Positive Relationships)

4.      M eaning

5.      A ccomplishment

“The goal of Positive Psychology in wellbeing theory is measure and build human flourishing.” p.29  Therefore Wellbeing must be buildable.

Exercises that build Wellbeing

  1. The Gratitude Letter Write a letter of gratitude to someone who did or said something that changed your life for the better(300 words)
  2. What-Went-Well (Also called “Three Blessings”) Exercise.  Every night for a week at the end of the day write down three things that went well and why they went well.
  3. Signature/ Character Strengths Survey (  Getting people in touch with their strengths, rather than just trying to correct their weaknesses.This focuses on XXX signature/ character strengths, which can be organised into clusters

a)      Wisdom and Knowledge

                                                               i.      Curiosity/Interest in the world

                                                             ii.      Love of Learning

                                                           iii.      Judgement/Critical Thinking/ Open-mindedness

                                                           iv.      Ingenuity/Originality/Practical Intelligence/Street Smarts

                                                             v.      Social Intelligence/ Personal Intelligence/ Emotional Intelligence

                                                           vi.      Perspective

b)      Courage

                                                               i.      Valour and Bravery

                                                             ii.      Perseverance/ Industry/ Diligence

                                                           iii.      Integrity/Genuineness/Honesty

c)       Humanity and Love

                                                               i.      Kindness and Generosity

                                                             ii.      Loving and Allowing Oneself to be Loved

d)      Justice

                                                               i.      Citizenship/Duty/Teamwork/Loyalty

                                                             ii.      Fairness and Equity

                                                           iii.      Leadership

e)      Temperance

                                                               i.      Self-control

                                                             ii.      Prudence/Discretion/Caution

                                                           iii.      Humility and Modesty

f)        Transcendence

                                                               i.      Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

                                                             ii.      Gratitude

                                                           iii.      Hope/Optimism/Future-Mindedness

                                                           iv.      Spirituality/Sense of Purpose/Faith/Religiousness

                                                             v.      Forgiveness and Mercy

                                                           vi.      Playfulness and Humour

                                                         vii.      Zest/Passion/Enthusiasm

“Identify which of these character strengths you have in abundance and then use them as much as possible in school, in hobbies and with friends and family.” (p.84)

The Dirty Little Secret of Drugs and Therapy (Chapter 3)

  • According to the World Health Organisaton (WHO) depression is the most costly disease in the world and the treatments of choice are drugs and psychotherapy.
  • Drugs and therapies for depression are not curative but cosmetic – they do not cure, they relieve the symptoms.
  • Seligman argues that cure comes through building the enabling conditions for life. Positive Psychology can provide a lasting cure by building ‘positive emotion, meaning, accomplishment and positive relationships’ (p.53).

Positive Education: Teaching Wellbeing to Young People (Chapter 5)

Three reasons for teaching Positive Psychology in Schools:

“Wellbeing should be taught in schools because it would be an antidote to the runaway incidence of depression, a way to increase life satisfaction, and an aid to better learning and more creative thinking.” (p.80)

  1. Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) Aims

a.       Aims

                                                               i.      to increase students’ ability to handle day-to-day problems that are common during adolescence.

                                                             ii.      To promote optimism by teaching students to think more realistically about the problems they encounter

                                                           iii.      To teach key skills (assertiveness, creative brainstorming, decision-making, relaxation and several other coping skills).

b.      Research findings:

                                                               i.      Reduces and prevents symptoms of depression.

                                                             ii.      Reduces hopelessness.

                                                           iii.      Prevents clinical levels of depression and anxiety.

                                                           iv.      Reduces and prevents anxiety.

                                                             v.      Reduces conduct problems.

                                                           vi.      PRP works equally well for children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

2.     Geelong Grammar School

a.     Teaching Positive Education

                                                               i.      “The backbone of the course was discovering and using their own signature strengths.”(p.89)

                                                             ii.      How to build more positive emotion (10th Grade)

1.      Gratitude Journal - What Went Well

2.      ABC Model: How beliefs (B) about an adversity (A) – and not the adversity itself – cause the consequent (C) feelings. Development of ‘real-time resilience’.

3.      Active-constructive responding (ACR) with a friend and the importance of a 3:1 Losada positive-to-negative ratio.

b.      Embedding Positive Education

                                                               i.      Geelong teachers embedded positive education into academic courses, on the sports field, in pastoral counselling, in music and in the chapel.

c.       Living Positive Education

3.  Positive Computing p.93

a.     “Personal Flourishing Assistant” mobile app that tags experiences to build a “positive portfolio” – e.g. four peak moments from the last week.

b. -games that build character strengths.

4.      A new measure of prosperity

a.       “The aim of wealth should not be to blindly produce a higher GDP but to produce more wellbeing.” (p.96)

Sociology, Psychology and Positive Character

Social science has highjacked society’s thinking with the philosophy that the environment, rather than character or heredity is a better explanation of what people do.

The consequence of this is four-fold:

  • Individuals are no longer responsible for their actions, since the causes lie not in the person but in the situation;
  • Social science must isolate the situations that shape crime, ignorance, prejudice, failure and all the other ills that befall human beings, so that these situations can be corrected.
  • The focus of inquiry must be bad events;
  • We are driven by the past rather than drawn to the future.

Positive Psychology has a different approach

  • The world can be bettered by identifying and then shaping character, both good and bad.

Elements of Success

Theory: Achievement = skill x effort  -  Angela Duckworth

  1. 1.      Speed – of thought, processing

a.       Achievement = skill x effort

b.      The more skilled, the faster you can go

c.       The faster, the more material on automatic, the more one knows about the task.

  1. 2.      Slowness:

a.       Speed and anxiety go together

b.      Children who process too fast - Tools of the Mind curriculum

c.       The voluntary, heavyweight processes of achievement, such as planning, refining, checking for errors and creativity.

d.      The faster the speed, the more the knowledge, and thus the more time left for these executive functions to be used.

  1. 3.      The Rate of Learning

a.       How fast new information can be deposited into the back account of automatic knowledge, allowing even more time for the slow executive processes.

  1. 4.      Effort: = time on task   *this has a multiplier effect

a.       “Deliberate Practice” = the amount of time and energy you spend on deliberate practice.

b.      Self-discipline is the character trait that engenders deliberate practice

c.       Measuring self-discipline – composite measure

                                                               i.      Eysenck Junior Impulsiveness scale

                                                             ii.      A parent and teacher self-control rating scale

                                                           iii.      Delay of gratification

d.      GRIT (the never yielding form of self-discipline) test p.121

“The real leverage that you have for more achievement is more effort.” (p.125)

Effort multiplies existing skill and knowledge.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Thursday, 12 November 2020

The Future of Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Qualifications in a post-Covid-19 world

A presentation given to the HMC Academic Deputies Conference on Friday 13th November 2020. The presentation looks at how Teaching & Learning and Assessment & Qualifications are likely to change in the post-Covid-19 world.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

They think it's all over . . . well it's not yet!

FOBISIA Webinar given on Wednesday 14th September 2020.

Preparing for Potential School Closures due to 2nd and 3rd Wave Covid-19 Outbreaks