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The Silks Roads Summary and Guide - Chapter 18 - The Road to Compromise - Pages 352-356

”Have you checked down the back of the sofa?”

Empires are marvellous things - truly. You can lounge in your favourite chair with a cup of hot cocoa and gaze lovingly at a map of stuff you own.  The British used to do this. USED TO! By the end of the First World War, as Lord Curzon put it, the empire “is one that can no longer be sustained.” It was simply costing too much and not raising enough profit. Gone were the days when Britain and Spain and others could fill bags of gold and run like greedy children back to their homes to count it. The gigantic problem is, British people were so used to being lords over their empires. When the reality was explained to ambassadors it went something like this: “Yes, the latest is that the empire is financially ruinous and we don’t have enough money.” “Yes, we should definitely expand. I want to plant another orchard over there and increase my household staff by 62.3 (0.3 for the little child who scratches my back).” “That’s exactly why we have no money. You’re stupid.”  “Indeed, I think a new toilet seat would be just the ticket, eh? I’m sure I can pick up a carved number from an artisanal Austrian sculptor. I’ll put it on the expenses.” wink Ironically, for a nation fast running out of wonga (cash), they still actively installed and deposed rulers in Iraq, Persia, and Afghanistan…oh right…the OIL!

Feudalism…you must be joking!

No, I’m not! 😤 All of the extensive redrawing of borders and ownership in countries like Iraq by the British handed power, and lots of it, to a select few. Lords had essentially been created by British meddling. 🎩 Thus, if we view this from a local perspective, the British had taken over the country’s most valuable resource, handed MORE power to some losers who ALREADY had a bit of land, and set the country backwards by reasserting an archaic form of government. 🔄 In India, they’d done much the same by exploiting the indigenous population and their resources. 🤦‍♂️ To the British, it was purely a financial transaction to increase their wealth, but underneath, they had been cooking up a storm of discontent against themselves. 💸 Imagine if an industry (oil) was responsible for 50% of the money your country makes, and it’s not even yours!!! 😱 Not a popular move. Short-term gains can create long-term pains. 📉

Profits? Oh, we’re just humble oil corporations with debts to pay!Remember how Britain had agreed to pay royalties to the Shah in exchange for gulping down all of the Persian oil? 😲 Well, it was a lovely theory, but sleight of hand accounting and organisation meant that very little, if anything, actually got sent to the Shah. 😤 The only thing he got was a pound coin he found inside the medicine cabinet in his angry-populace-indigestion supplies (nobody knows how it got there and it remains one of history’s great conspiracy theories 🕵️‍♂️). You see, if a company makes money from oil (Anglo-Persian Oil), they’d need to pay some of it to the Shah. However, if you create a brand-new company called Bert’s Baps and declare that ACTUALLY, Bert’s Baps lent Anglo-Persian Oil £35 million last year, which happens to be the exact amount of profit that Anglo-Persian Oil made, then you’d need to pay it back. 🤔 The profit for the Shah disappears and Bert’s Baps, by some incredible coincidence, then distributes the £35 million to the investors, who by a stroke of miraculous luck, are the same people who own shares in Anglo-Persian Oil. 🎩💸 So, to sum up - money that goes into British pockets = 100%. Money that goes into Persian pockets - 0%. That’s all a bit iffy! 🧐

“How dare you insult a land of gentlemen, sir!”

When confronted with the fact that Britain was taking all the dosh, the chairman of Anglo-Persian recoiled in horror 😱, slapped his hand over his mouth 🤭 like he’d just seen a rat eating a banana in the fruit bowl, and then said the whole thing was a “painful and erroneous impression” - read, “We did nuffink wrong, guv’nor.” 😇 This teaches us a wonderfully illustrative lesson in capitalism 🎩💼. When confronted with the truth, deny, deny, deny. Over in Venezuela, George Reynolds (remember him? …. Me neither 🤷‍♂️) struck oil! 💥🛢 This sudden flood of excess supply caused the market price for oil to crash. This meant the Shah received EVEN less wonga from Anglo-Persian (let’s just call it AP from now on). The Shah threw a huge tantrum and cancelled the Knox D’Arcy Concession (I like to imagine him crying 😭 and rolling around on the floor 🤣). The British, upon hearing this, rolled around on the floor, howling and groaning in their expensive tailored suits 😂👔. Eventually, a rational woman came in and told all of the idiots to get off the floor, have a biscuit 🍪, and settle down (if ONLY more women had been more involved!!!) 🙌💁‍♀️

PluckedEventually, AP were plucked by Persia 🐔. After all, these oil fields and infrastructure WAS in Persia. If everyone started messing with equipment and labour, the whole thing would crash down 😓. So, the Persian government got a new deal with 75% of the land area for AP vanishing and a new, fixed payment implemented every year regardless of profits (OUCH! 😣). This theme is a powerful one. Imagine having a box of biscuits (we all love biscuits, after all 🍪) and you’ve put it in the living room of a family living in Norway. You don’t live in Norway. You tell the family that they can have one biscuit a week, broken into quarters to be shared between mum, dad, daughter, and the son that nobody really cares for (ear wax problem…tut tut 🤢). They’re perfectly affable people, but who in their right mind would mindlessly sit there and watch a box of delicious biscuits go begging? You know how alluring biscuits are, so you consider your options. Threaten them with guard dogs surrounding the biscuits? Expensive and they may not enjoy 2 howling, growling, prowling German Shepherds camped in their living rooms 🐶🐶. You could set up a bomb to blow when too many biscuits are taken, but bombs explode, and that won’t be popular either 💣. Aha! You promise to pay them some money every month to keep their noses out and explain that biscuits are a complicated business that they won’t understand 💸. They agree…for a while. Then, they realise one day that you can’t stop them from taking the biscuits, learning the recipe, and taking over the whole thing. So, the inevitable demise of the biscuit box, like British influence, approaches. Tick, tock ⏳.

Gertrude Bell - smarty pantsReally, this can be summed up by a short dialogue between super spy - Gertrude Bell 🕵️‍♀️ - & Ja’far al-Askari 🤵 - future Iraqi Prime Minister. Gertrude, after hiding 🫣 clandestinely under the buffet table for most of the evening, jumped out to mild applause 👏 and then said, “...Complete independence that we (the British) wish to give.” Askari replied, “My lady, complete independence is never given - always taken.” 💬🌍 BURNED!!! 🔥🎤

James Teacher =)

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