Abyssinian Roundup

–A new study of the Italo-Ethiopian War examines charges that the Italian side systematically bombed hospitals. This is “Between Sovereignty and Race: The Bombardment of Hospitals in the Italo-Ethiopian War and the Colonial Imprint of International Law” appearing in the current edition of the State Crime Journal (2019, v. 8, issue 1, p. 104). It is written by Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon. According to the abstract:

Italy’s war crimes during the 1935–1936 invasion of Ethiopia have been broadly documented by different historians of Italian colonialism. However, its systematic bombardment of medical facilities operated by different Red Cross Societies is much less known. Relying on archival materials, we show how the fascist regime presented these attacks as legitimate reprisal; it was, the Italians claimed, the Ethiopian forces who had violated international law, particularly the principle of distinction, when they used medical facilities to hide…

The full text of the article remained unavailable on JSTOR and two other subscription services but, according to a Google search, there is apparently a reference to Waugh’s reporting of the war. My guess would be that this refers to his discussion of the Abyssinian government reports of the bombing of the hospital at Adowa. Waugh conveyed these allegations to the Daily Mail in which they duly appeared (4 October 1935; EAR, p. 183). The Abyssinian government also asserted that a Swedish or American nurse working at the hospital had been killed in the Italian bombardment. These reports made it into the foreign press. Waugh and his chums investigated the incident further and found no hard evidence of such a casualty and considerable evidence to the contrary. Cables soon arrived from home bases imploring: “Require earliest name life story photograph nurse upblown Adowa” to which Waugh & Co replied: “Nurse unupblown.” Waugh in Abyssinia, pp. 158-61. Perhaps the new article has now established that she was indeed upblown. Waugh, however, wrote that when he later visited Adowa, that city “was completely unscarred by the war and apparently thoroughly happy” (p. 250). He is not, however, an entirely reliable source. (See update below.)

–A blogger has read Waugh’s Remote People, which was based on his earlier trip to Abyssinia, and finds some of his conclusions worth reconsidering. This is D. Dalrymple on the weblog Idlings. The post begins by recalling stories of Halie Selassie visiting Disneyland in 1967 and wonders how he reacted to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Fantasyland with its dizzying ride on spinning teacups. That would have been about 8 years before Selassie’s death in 1975 (2 years after he was deposed) and shortly after Waugh’s in 1966.

The blogger then considers Waugh’s views on colonialism which prominently feature in that book:

By what pass for today’s standards, Waugh is defiantly unwoke. He makes no apologies. Along with his maleness and whiteness, that makes him a part of The Problem. I suppose I am too. History is full of appalling violence and the destruction of one group by another in endless rounds. But like Waugh, I consider it a misreading of human nature to hope for better, or to imagine that sin is the province of any one race or people. Waugh writes:

“There is one general principle which we may accept; that the whole of history, from the earliest times until today, has been determined by the movements of peoples about the earth’s surface; migratory tribes settled and adapted their cultures to new conditions; conquest, colonisation, commercial penetration, religious proselytizing, topographical changes, land becoming worked out, pastures disappearing, harbours silting up – have preserved a constant fluidity of population.”

He continues:

“It is useless to pretend that, suddenly, at the beginning of the Boer War, the foundation of the Third International, or at this or that time in recent history, the piano stopped and the musical chairs were over, the lava stream cooled and congealed, and the whole process was at an end, for no other reason than that the enlightened people of Northern Europe – having lost their belief in revealed religion and falling back helplessly for moral guidance on their own tender feelings – have decided that it is Wrong.”

Dalrymple concludes that, nothwithstanding the general weight of opinion, Waugh got it about right. Thanks to Dave Lull for sending this link.

–Another blogger (christopherbellew.com) on a perambulation around London ran across a memorial fountain next to St James’s, Piccadilly and wondered if it might have some connection to a character in Scoop. This is dedicated to:

Julius Salter Elias [who] rose from humble origins to be a newspaper proprietor and Labour politician. He was created Viscount Southwood and when he died in 1946 the title died with him. His ashes are buried beside the elegant fountain in the garden beside St James’s Piccadilly…

Seems a bit of a stretch.

–In another allusion to Scoop, the Spectator reposts a 2004 profile about Conrad Black on the occasion of his being pardoned by Donald Trump:

Black became the kind of newspaper proprietor whom Evelyn Waugh’s Lord Copper would have respected as a social and business equal. He had an undeniable physical presence, with hairy knuckles and paddle-like hands which he would use expressively. Conrad Black was always fond of the sound of his own voice, and with good reason: he often had interesting things to say.

I don’t think Waugh ever suggests that Lord Copper had his hand in the till but probably wouldn’t have put it past him. On the latest episode of BBC’s Have I Got News for You, panelist Ian Hislop wondered whether being pardoned by Donald Trump wasn’t the equivalent of being found guilty of the charge?

UPDATE (25 May 2019): A reader has sent a link to the full text of the academic journal article referred to in the post. In fact, it does not mention Waugh’s reporting about the bombing of the Adowa hospital but rather one at Dessye. This is discussed in a subsequent post.




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