Margaret (pling) wrote,

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Making of Modern Britain; Sahara with Michael Palin

The fourth episode of Making of Modern Britain dealt with the 20s - I'd assumed (after dnky's comment last week reminded me) that it'd start with the influenza epidemic in 1918, but that wasn't mentioned at all. This programme seemed a little more confused than the previous ones, with less of a clear "story" to it. I guess there were two main strands - one of which was the rich & powerful living it up. So we looked at the rise of nightclubs, parliamentary scandals about the sale of peerages, artists/it girls/politicians having glamourous (and somewhat debauched) parties in country houses. The other strand was the working class rising up at various times & in various places over the decade. The most obvious and "successful" of those was Ireland where they did succeed in getting independence for the bulk of Ireland; at the cost of thousands of lives & it's yet another of those points where you look at it & think "oh, that's the cause of the trouble". Not that there's one cause, the British/Irish history seems full of those, screw up after screw up, generally brutal & unpleasant on at least the British side if not both. This particular one not only generated the IRA but also intra-IRA conflicts between those who compromised & those who saw that compromise as betrayal punishable by death. Less successfully for the workers involved there was also a strike/uprising in Glasgow & the general strike of 1926 - both of which were put down by the army, I'd not realised quite how much sending in of troops in tanks to put down the masses there had been. The 1926 strike also had volunteer strike breakers, often rather upper class, doing the essential jobs that the workers weren't doing - which generated some sympathy for the workers once the volunteers realised just how unpleasant reality was for other people!

And our antidote to the doom & gloom of the realities of early 20th Century Britain was once again Michael Palin's trip through the Sahara. This episode started out with him in Timbuktu, and distinctly underwhelmed with it. The reputation of the city is from its medieval golden age (of Islamic scholars & the salt trade which made it rich), but these days it is poorer, and no longer a seat of learning. He then trekked across the desert with tribesmen going to collect salt, as part of the salt trade that still exists. First he visited a tribal gathering/festival of several nomadic peoples (I think there was more than one set of tribes), which included a partner choosing rite where the young men dressed up & danced & the young women picked out the one they thought was best ... a bit like birds of paradise. And a great reminder that standards of beauty are cultural! Then off into the open desert - which looked like something I very much do not want to do. It might be beautiful & peaceful & back to basics, but I'm a great fan of creature comforts and not being out in that heat!
Tags: africa, britain, history, tv
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