When London Was Capital of America by Julie Flavell is an account of the relationship between London and the Americas around the time of the American Revolution: it's a popular book but written by a historian. Combines the big picture with the stories of figures both well-known and obscure.
At that time North America had no really large cities: even New York and Boston were pretty small. London functioned as a social and cultural capital as well as a political one. Well-off Americans would send their children and young people to be educated in London, making useful contacts and acquiring the good Manners that were all-important in the Eighteenth Century.
The British stereotype of Americans at the time was of a rich, decadent, slave-owning plantation-owner. The alternative stereotype of the hard-working down-to-earth Yankee, though it may have originated with Benjamin Franklin, didn't really take hold till much later. Despite the stereotype, white Americans were seen essentially as a kind of rural Britons, with only moderately different accents.
Also interesting was that even during and after the American Revolution, it wasn't taken particularly seriously in Britain. Few Americans were imprisoned, the painter Benjamin West even continued to be the court painter to the king despite blatant rebel sympathies. Many Britons seem to have assumed that there would be some kind of settlement in which the rebel colonies would return to British rule.
The individual stories include the Stephen Sayre who acted as a kind of social-climbing gigolo, ascending from a poor New York background through affairs with aristocratic women. Also interesting is the slave Robert Laurens (formerly Scipio) who seems to have shrewdly persuaded his master to bring him to London and gradually worked out his escape into freedom.
(The position of slaves was very ambiguous up till the Somersett court case of 1772. Before then, slave-owning was not covered by any British law, but personal slaves brought from the Americas were nevertheless held by force on British soil. The judge in this case reluctantly ruled that imprisoning slaves on British soil was not legally enforceable, effectively freeing slaves in Britain.)
Overall, an interesting history book, worth a read.
What I'm Watching
Saw the Muppets movie at the cinema. The muppets, mostly living in obscurity, have to put on a telethon to rescue their theatre and studios from a property developer.
Quite fun and entertaining. Has very large doses of nostalgia. Not sure if the muppets are really as obscure to kids as is depicted here: Sesame Street's been running continually, and there's been a steady stream of movies. I liked Eighties Robot a lot though.
Overall, good retro fun.
Was glad to find Girl B and I actually have something in common from our childhoods as they showed the Muppet Show in Germany too.
Saw Picasso and Modern British Art at Tate Britain. Was a bit skeptical of this in advance, since Picasso didn't actually have much connection with Britain, but it was actually pretty good. They have some British artists worth looking at, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon for instance, and show alongside the relevant Picassos. There's some of content from when Picasso worked with the Ballet Russes which visited London: costume designs and some costumes.
The Picassos are the highlight of course: they have some pretty major works there. Worth seeing again though I've seen a few on various holidays.
Overall, good exhibition, well worth seeing. The Migrations exhibition, also at Tate Britain, was also unexpectedly good. Basically uses the theme of foreign artists settling in Britain to round up some very good works, for instance Van Dyck and Whistler. However quite a few of these are normally on display for free, so if you don't have a Tate card you might feel a bit ripped off for the ticket.
Socioeconomics. What EU can learn from Sweden about budgets. Hedge fund boss Ray Dalio's ideas. Britain's jobs machine is working. School for quants. Walking slowly when primed with old age words study criticized, response.
Local. Polish food in London.
Articles. More older viewers in cinemas. Copyright battle turns into an all-out war against your right to create and share your own home-made content , Lack of transparency in advice. Government shared services cost-saving scuppered by localism, volunteerism.
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