Almost until the onset of the 19th century only 2% of England’s population could vote as electoral suffrage (right to vote) and enfranchisement was based on the extent of landed possessions one held. Only those who held property above the minimum prescribed limit were eligible to vote and only land-owning elite were granted the right to represent in the parliament.
In fact, the whole society was divided into estates, the first estate constituted of a powerful group of 350 families who owned vast landed estates and held the title of the Nobility, they occupied seats in the House of the Lords. Below this group of ruling elite nobles were the 4000 families that constituted the Gentry. This group also owned vast landed estates and held the title of Knights and held a seat in the House of Commons. The law makers and its implementers were entirely drawn from landed aristocracy and women had no voting rights as the practice of the Universal Male suffrage was common. It was only at the close of the 18th century in the light of a race for global economic dominance during industrial capitalism that restrictions on women were slightly removed and anything called women’s rights came to be spoken of in the Western world.
Medieval and Modern Europe until recently were seeped in religious bigotry, that followed the concept of ‘divine rights’ and ‘indulgence’ where Catholic upper-class privilege was facilitated, and dominance of clergy was instituted. The practice of indulgence dealt with ‘sale of salvation’ where money was extracted from people with a promise of remission of their sins by guaranteeing a place in heaven through the Church acting as middlemen of God. The Church held a stake in the polity and owned large share of land, exacted heavy sums in the name of church services from commoners while leading pompous lives. Big estates were created by the rich for commercial farming from the common land of rural communities where poor farmers were ousted through parliamentary legislations with brazen laws instituted to the extent of death penalties for petty thefts with public hangings, starvation till death that were ordered to instill fear amongst the poor who were now left landless. Even after several reforms and revolutions the enfranchisement of the counties was based on the possessions one held and were categorized as £10 copyholders, £50 ‘tenants at will’ and 40 shillings freeholders who held the right to vote. In the boroughs householders occupying residences worth £10 per annum were enfranchised. In spite of many revolutions, the voting population still constituted only 3% and women continued to be ignored.
It is perhaps due to lingering memories of this dark past that the likes of Audrey feel threatened as women and play victim at the drop of a hat while they try to superimpose the Catholic fault lines of misogynistic, racist and class theories of the West on other cultures. It is paradoxical that folks concerned with section 295A and calling it as colonial hangover in India are themselves obsessed only with Indian history and not that of Pakistan or Bangladesh even while they remain unaffected by the dominant nature of Christian democracy that is advocated by the Church with all its abusive powers, alas, there are no historians employed to research rationalize or reform or even inquire into the history and role of papacy in colonial expeditions. Because all roads of reform only lead to unfinished lands of non-believers.
The heroes of equality will do good to know that the term Hero is mostly associated with person of military prowess and noble qualities meaning qualities of men from the estate of nobility (read Catholics) who were exempt from tax and a Villain was somebody from the lower classes who was outside of all estates and upon whom heavy taxes were levied. The term Villain refers to those bound to the soil of the ‘villa’, meaning slaves who served at the bungalows of the elite. Villeinage was a common practice that refers to the tenure or status of a villein in the feudal system. Villeins who were usually black slaves employed as bonded labour were tied to land and could not move away from the land without the lord’s consent. They had to pay taxes and fines that freemen (Heroes) were exempt from. The black slaves or villains were deemed as people with evil character by the whites, hence the usage of the term villain as someone with a negative character, villains are often portrayed in films as someone who is evil looking or dark. The etymology of many English terms reflects the brazen class and religious distinctions that existed in western societies. The term gentle man denotes persons belonging to the landed estate of the gentry. The estate in the term ‘real estate’ that we use today is derived from this concept of landed aristocracy where society was divided into estates on the basis of the proportion of land held to represent or to be capable of being represented.
It is the same landed classes of Britain that occupied America where 2/3 of the white population went on to own land in America as compared to 1/5 of population that owned land in Britain after wiping out the native population. These white Americans lived in constant fear of losing their fortunes as they were party and witness to the British imperial policies of curtailing popular participation previously by the gentry and knew exactly what they would be reduced to if they did not defend themselves, hence there were various resistance movements leading to the disconnection from the mother country and the King’s rule. This is the reason the declaration of freedom did not deem fit to include abolition of slavery as they held no stake in any matter.
It is perhaps this barbaric imperial past of land grabbing trait for establishing suzerainty through mechanisms of desecration and demolition of indigenous faiths that is engrained in the intrinsic belief system of white supremacism that self-proclaimed historians like Audrey casually normalize theft, bigotry and barbarism of the marauding religious fanatics of the worst order as champions of modern secularism. It is indeed intriguing that a 2019 video clip of this alleged historian has to do the rounds now, whether it is another PR work for some upcoming book of hers or the need to stay relevant for the fear of becoming redundant that these obsolete rhetoric of the lesser known author is gaining traction much like the controversies created by lesser known actors just before a release or if she is secretly electioneering for Trump by further antagonizing Hindus from a leftist platform, we do not know. But the larger question is why do white historians from the lineage of racist and barbaric slave traders continue to stick their racist white noses in oriental studies and not write about their own cringeworthy and condescendingly barbaric pasts? Is this concerted obsession with India a colonial hangover that they are hellbent on whitewashing the barbaric acts of Islamic rulers while vilifying Brahminism (read Hinduism) to keep the divide rolling, or is this dramatic secularization and all that interventionist history making by design as part of an instituted recurring foreign policy program irrespective of which party comes to power in the US. It is for this reason that we do not find any black historians writing American or European histories, nor do any Indian archaeologists, anthropologists or historians get invited in American or European lit fests to be discussing American/European socio-cultural fault lines.
It is really time that Indian Universities with Government instituted support take up research projects on the study of indigenous history and culture of European, American and other Central, East Asian countries and write their histories to enlighten their masses, and also to understand western culture and their true economic, cultural and geo-political history that aid in foreign policy, diplomacy and in building cultural relationships. Until then Aurangzeb’s fangirls can continue to be the impetus for the renaissance and reclamation of Kashi and Mathura.