Sunday 28 August 2016

The Internet Manifesto

It is Tim Berners-Lee who is credited with the innovation of the World Wide Web.  He took existing computer systems, their data stores and connections and provided a means of linking them together.  Thank you Tim from the billions of us who have cause to be grateful for your foresight.  This post could not have been written without it.

His great great grandfather was the Rev. Charles Lee, interesting how the Anglican clergy crop up in the families of so many of our leading thinkers and doers.  What has been forgotten is that for a time in the 1860's as incumbent of Holy Trinity Church in St. Pancras he was the local vicar of Karl Marx, who lived just round the corner.

I doubt if he saw much of Karl in church, but I could be wrong.  Perhaps some of his sermons, he was keen on social justice, may have inspired some of Karl's later thinking on the needs of the working classes.  I wonder what Karl would make of the internet and the power it has given to the people, should they care to use it properly?

It was in the 1860's that Karl had a legacy which enabled him to move to a rental a little more upmarket within the general petit bourgeoisie.  His near neighbours at Grafton Terrace had included a noted sculptor, Alfred Head Baily, whose more famous father, Edward Hodges Baily (Wikipedia) 1788-1867, has one work atop Nelson's Column, that of Nelson.  Edward was buried at Highgate as was Marx.

After the move to Maitland Park Villas one next door neighbour, Henry Goddard was a Doorkeeper at the House of Lords, cue any number of bad jokes. On the other side was Edwin Willis, one of the family firm of organ builders, the best in their business.  Anyone viewing the Royal Albert Hall on TV will see one of theirs in its full glory.  "Land Of Hope And Glory" and "Rule Britannia" in musical form.

I have this vision of the Willis's singing hymns ancient and modern round their family organ while the Marx's try to counter the noise with "Prussian Glory" or "Die Wacht Am Rhein" on their piano.  But it is interesting that in all four Census Returns, Karl and Jenny are Prussian and never German whereas Engels in the two seen is German and not Prussian.

The Marx family like the great majority of people at this time, were renting; owning property then as now could as easily become a liability rather than an asset. Their home at Maitland Park Villas was on an estate for which the freeholders were a Maitland family. Whether this had the system of leaseholds common at that time is not known.

But if so, then the Marx family and the others would pay their rent to the leaseholder owners who would have a ground rent to pay to the freeholder.  It was this system in many areas where shorter leases were common that had the effect that when the leases were running out, at the end they became slum districts.  But it could be that the Maitland's kept full control.

As for the Maitland family, the one in the time of Marx would have been Ebenezer Fuller Maitland, items on the web, notably the History of Parliament under the Fuller Maitland name.  He was an MP and a City man, a director of the South Seas Company, believe it or not, the legacy company after its more famous predecessor of a century and more before.

His father was also an Ebenezer Maitland, also a leading City man and a director of the Bank of England.  One wonders about Charles Dickens "Christmas Carol" and Ebenezer Scrooge but this may be pushing it a little too far, albeit that in his time Dickens had a great deal more influence that Marx.  But the Maitland's were involved in charity provision as were many others of their ilk.

The 1860's were a crucial time in business history in that after a great many ups and downs and ruined shareholders, Parliament legislated to create limited liability, triggering vast changes in the nature and purpose of ownership and shareholding.  At a more practical level the discovery of compounding in steam engines drove rapid expansion in sea and rail transport.

Marx relied on others for much of his information, notably Friedrich Engels and the convention is that there perceptions were reliable.  But too often I am not seeing that at all. One idea is that Marx lived in near slum conditions.  This is a nonsense.

Even when at Dean Street in Soho, it may have been a full house but the others there would not have been living in a slum.  It is very possible that in later decades the addresses may have gone down market but in the time of Marx looking at the neighbours etc. and who they were these were not slums by any standard.

Also, one is left to wonder at how much Marx may have understood about the immediate world he lived in and what it was about.  The Round Room Library at the British Museum where he worked may have been full of worthy journals on poverty and the like for him to write his works but it was not his immediate domestic situation.

There was extensive poverty and bad housing conditions in many urban and rural districts together with all the health implications and troubles that arose.  But there was also a great deal of effort among many groups and agencies to tackle it albeit in a way and on the basis of beliefs that were very different.

In the 21st Century we have allowed the followers of Marx and Lenin to dictate their interpretation of history pushing a rapidly changing and developing society and economy into a strait jacket of thinking.  They have made a bedlam of history and perhaps like Marx, cannot understand what is around them or the way it is changing.

1 comment:

  1. I agree - they cannot understand what is around them or the way it is changing. We live in interesting times.