13/4/1919 Bloodbath in Amritsar as the British shoot 1,500 Indians

Tensions have been mounting in India. Nationalists there had hoped that the country’s contribution to the British war effort would lead to it being granted self-government similar to that of South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However it has become apparent that the British have no intention of loosening their hold on the country. Indeed, they have maintained and strengthened wartime emergency measures restricting press freedom and political activity.

Gandhi, the nationalists’ leader, has called for strikes and civil disobedience against the colonial authorities. He has urged his followers to avoid all forms of violence against the British. The authorities have responded by arresting Gandhi and attempting to clamp down on nationalist activity, but this has led only to further unrest.

The Punjab province is especially tense. The city of Amritsar has already seen rioting, in which a number of Britons and Indians were killed (and in one shocking incident, a female British missionary beaten and stripped before being rescued by Indians).

The British determine to restore order in Amritsar. Michael O’Dwyer, the lieutenant governor of the Punjab, sends Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer to bring the natives to heel. Indians are forced to crawl along the street where the missionary was assaulted while policemen are given carte blanche to flog anyone they take a dislike to.
Today Dyer bans unauthorised persons from entering or leaving Amritsar. He also issues a proclamation banning all gatherings in the city of more than three people. And then he hears of a large gathering taking place in Jallianwala Bagh, a public square. Some of those present are taking part in a political rally, others are relaxing after religious ceremonies at the nearby Golden Temple.

Dyer decides to teach those gathered at Jallianwala Bagh a lesson. He leads 90 soldiers to the square and orders them to open fire, without issuing a warning or an order to disperse. The result is carnage, with the soldiers firing continuously for about ten minutes, Dyer himself directing fire to the densest sections of the crowd. The bloodbath only comes to a halt when Dyer’s men have run out of ammunition, at which point they leave.

At least 379 people are killed by Dyer’s men, including an infant, and 1,137 wounded.


Amritsar, after the massacre (Guardian: The legacy of the Amritsar massacre lives on in India’s general elections)

Aftermath (Guardian: Amritsar, 100 years on, remains an atrocity Britain cannot be allowed to forget)

11/4/1919 Wilson blocks Japan’s racial equality proposal

Tensions are mounting in Paris, with Wilson and Clemenceau at odds over the future of Germany. Clemenceau wants Germany to be severely weakened, while Wilson wants to avoid future war through a more conciliatory approach that will offer the Germans the prospect of rejoining the family of nations. So poisonous have relations become that the French rejoice when the American president is struck down by a bad cold (which might perhaps be influenza). Wilson meanwhile has taken the step of having a warship in Brest readied to bring him home, in the event that the talks break down.

For now though the Americans and French manage to paper over their difference. Wilson also recovers from his illness. But now he faces new antagonists: the Japanese. As the only major non-white power at the conference, the Japanese are keen to insert a clause into the League of Nations covenant affirming the equality of all races. This is deeply problematic to Wilson, as he knows that any recognition of racial equality will cause uproar in the United States. Other nations are however more sympathetic; when Japan’s Makino presses the amendment to the covenant today, the racial equality clause passes. Nevertheless Wilson rules that the strength of opposition means that it cannot be included in the covenant.

The Japanese do not publicly contest Wilson’s ruling. Privately though they intimate that this affront may mean that they will be unable to sign the final peace treaty.

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Woodrow Wilson and Makino Nobuaki (Wikipedia: Racial Equality Proposal)

10/4/1919 Glimmers of justice for the Armenians as the butcher of Yozgat goes to the gallows

During the war the Turkish authorities attempted to exterminate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, either by violent murder or by sending them on death marches to inhospitable desert regions where they could be left to die of hunger and thirst. Now Turkey has been defeated and its capital is under Allied occupation. It will be some time before the Allies agree a peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, but in the meantime they are pressuring the Turks to pursue those who directed and perpetrated the mass killing of the Armenians. The main architects of the slaughter (the ruling triumvirate of Enver, Djemal and Talaat) have by now fled the country but persons lower down the chain are now beginning to face justice.

In trials, prosecutors are able to demonstrate that the mass murder was not accidental but directed from the centre by Enver, Djemal and Talaat, who are convicted and sentenced to death in absentia. Today justice catches up with the first of their subordinates. Mehmed Kemal was the lieutenant governor of Yozgat, responsible for the murder of thousands of Armenians. Today after his conviction by a Turkish court, he is hanged in Constantinople. Calthorpe, head of the Allied occupation of Constantinople, hopes that this is a sign that the Turkish authorities are now committed to pursuing the murderers of the Armenians. However Kemal’s funeral turns into a nationalist demonstration, with mourners hailing Kemal as a martyr to the British.

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The trial of Mehmed Kemal (I think) (Aravot: Turks continue commemorating Armenian Genocide murderers: Conference in Turkey on ‘The Armenian Question and Governor Kemal Bey’)

The Karalian family in Yozgat, before the war (Houshamadyam: a project to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian town and village life)

7/4/1919 Allenby tries to conciliate Egypt, ordering the release of nationalist leaders

When Egyptian nationalists requested that they be allowed attend the Paris Conference, the British authorities responded by arresting and deporting them. This however has caused Egypt to explode, with the country now engulfed by strikes, demonstrations, riots and acts of sabotage against the British and their local proxies. The British have responded sternly, arresting and killing large numbers of Egyptian malcontents; by now as many as 800 Egyptians have been killed by British forces. However the crackdown has failed to pacify the country.

As part of their attempts to bring Egypt to heel the British have appointed General Allenby as Special High Commissioner. Allenby quickly realises that repression has failed and that a more conciliatory approach is needed. He orders Zaghloul and the other nationalist leaders released from detention in Malta, from where they are now free to travel on to Paris if they wish. In Egypt disturbances continue, but Allenby has released the pressure and a degree of calm begins to return to the country.

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Demonstrators (Egyptian Revolution: 1919 Revolution)

6/4/1919 The red tide sweeps into Bavaria

Revolution is on the march. In Berlin Ebert‘s government has suppressed two uprisings by the Spartacists, but since then a Bolshevik-allied government has taken power in Hungary. And now news of a further revolutionary advance arrives: the declaration of a Soviet Republic in Bavaria. Following the assassination of the Bavarian republic’s first premier, Kurt Eisner, the German state has seen an upsurge of revolutionary activity. With the declaration of the Soviet Republic, the parliamentary government of Johannes Hoffmann flees Munich, leaving the capital in the hands of the radicals.

The Soviet leaders of Bavaria are drawn from the ranks of the Independent Social Democrats (the USPD, a far left splinter from the mainstream Social Democrats) as well as Bavaria’s anarchists; their leader is Ernst Toller, formerly a playwright. The Soviet government announces a programme of ambitious reforms (some might say ambitious and unrealistic reforms), as well as declaring a dictatorship of the proletariat against counter-revolutionary elements.

Perhaps the dominos are now falling and in a matter of weeks or months all of Europe will be under Soviet control. For some this is a nightmare, to others their earnest hope.

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Ernst Toller (Literaturportal Bayern: Süddeutscher König)

2/4/1919 De Valera’s new government and Ireland’s first woman minister

Irish nationalists are attempting to secure the independence of their country. The military strand of this struggle is still relatively dormant, with the ambush at Soloheadbeg in January not being followed by a general escalation in violence. However disturbances are still occurring, with a recent example being the killing of magistrate John C. Milling in County Mayo; his judgements had imprisoned members of the Irish Volunteers.

The political strand of the independence struggle is currently centred on Dublin, where Dáil Éireann, the self-declared Irish parliament, is meeting. Following De Valera‘s escape and the release of other leading Sinn Féin members, the party is now in a position to revitalise the Dáil government. Yesterday the Dáil approved De Valera’s appointment as prime minister and today it approves his cabinet. Michael Collins, who led the operation to break him out of jail, becomes the Minister for Finance, charged with rustling up money to keep the fledgling state apparatus running. And Constance Markievicz is appointed Minister for Labour; she is already the first woman elected to Britain’s House of Commons and now she is the first woman to hold ministerial office in a modern democracy.

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Éamon De Valera (Century Ireland: Introducing de Valera – The East Clare by-election and the rise of an Irish political leader)

1/4/1919 Agreement on Danzig and the Poland’s corridor to the sea

In Paris the Allies are still discussing Germany’s future frontiers. The French, particularly Marshal Foch, are still pressing for the Rhineland to be detached from Germany and turned into some kind of French protectorate, but the British and Americans are not interested.

The Allies have at least managed to reach some agreement on Germany’s frontiers with Poland. Disagreement here had been over the size of the corridor that would link Poland to the sea. The Polish delegation has pushed for a wide corridor and for the port of Danzig to be annexed to Poland. This would unfortunately leave large numbers of Germans inside Poland’s frontiers but the Poles argue that a wide corridor is necessary for their security. The French are sympathetic to the Poles, as part of Clemenceau‘s general interest in weakening Germany as much as possible, but Britain’s Lloyd George is more wary, fearing that too many Germans on the wrong side of the Polish-German frontier will sow the seeds of future conflict.

Wilson comes round to Lloyd George’s thinking, perhaps fearing the consequences for Fiume on the Adriatic if Danzig is given to Poland. Now Clemenceau is obliged to accept less generous frontiers for Poland. The corridor will be narrow, minimising the number of Germans that will find themselves living in Poland. And Danzig will be a free city, linked to Poland but self-governing. To the Poles this is a shocking betrayal. Roman Dmowski, co-leader of their delegation, becomes convinced that Lloyd George is an enemy of his country. He complains to his colleagues that the British prime minister is “the agent of the Jews”.

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Danzig and the Polish Corridor (Robinson Library)