Saturday, April 28

My journey begins

I’m getting tired now, more accurately bored. Plus the lack of access to a good library is doing my head in, lol. So I'm thinking about going back to research. Here is a letter which i wrote to few professors to see if there is any interest. As it so happens, I am getting about 50% interest, lol. So over the next few weeks and months, I will be meeting some professors to see if this works out. I am restricted to London universities unfortunately, there are some good schools outside London like in Cambridge, Oxford and further afield. (heh, Kannu got a shock of his life when I told him that there is a possibility that we both might be studying in the same university, he didn't like the joke, lol, if I'm not wrong, there was a movie with this theme as well).


Dear Professor X,

My apologies for contacting you out of the blue. I got your reference from the university website. This relates to my desire to explore the opportunities to read for an MPhil (part time) in History. As I noticed from the website, you have an interest in this area of Colonial Indian / British history, hence the request for a meeting.

To introduce my interest briefly: my interest is in the area of company and economic legal history. From the little that I have read about this topic, I think that when the British arrived in India and started to take / were lumbered with the judicial responsibility of adjudicating commercial disputes in places like Bengal, Madras and Bombay, they faced an unpalatable situation of trying to reconcile an inappropriate British legal tradition from the local counties; a mix between Hindu laws and various Sharia laws. Combined with the inconsistency arising between the British tradition of case law versus the common law perspectives of say Sharia, it was quite an extraordinary legal landscape that corporates faced. Starting very slowly from around 1726 but gaining much steam and traction from 1857 onwards, the legal framework in India changed significantly as the British Raj replaced the Mughal Empire's and Hindu legal systems. This seems to have been fairly well researched and well known till independence in 1947 or a even later till the  right to appeal to the UK Privy Council as the court of final appeal was repealed in 1950.

The other angle to this is the British East India Company, which was the reason for and the cause of many a development in the global company law framework. For example, the concept of Royal Charters for British firms helped the British East India Company, but the examples of the South Sea Bubble and the Tulip Mania made sure that royal charters were a very inefficient way of organising firms. On the other hand, the Sharia based partnership / profit sharing structures in Mughal India or sole proprietorships in Hindu commercial frameworks had an entirely different intellectual, social, political and historical backgrounds. When these three totally different corporate law systems collided, much legal heat and some much needed light was generated. Interestingly enough, the Economist in December 2006 identified the rise of joint stock companies in the west as one of the major reasons why western economies and societies moved ahead of the Middle Eastern economies, which were still guided by the Sharia based corporate structures.

In my early readings, I seem to have found that how this process of Indian law transformation influenced British corporate legal history and vice versa has not been researched as yet. This transformation also had an impact on the corporate legal history of all the other countries which were colonised by the United Kingdom, ranging from the West Indies to Australia.
So my preliminary research questions would be as follows:

  • What were the major areas where there were significant intellectual, legal, religious and historical differences between the imported British Legal system and the domestic Mughal Sharia legal systems in India between 1726 and 1950 relating to commercial cases?
  • How did the legal system handle three competing legal frameworks (British, Mughal Sharia with its multiple schools of Islamic jurisprudence and a very amorphous Hindu legal system) for commercial cases?
  • Due to the changes implemented in India, did any changes in British legal history happen to ensure consistency and legal equality between India and UK?
  • How did British - Indian trade get impacted with consequent angles on investor protection, consumer protection, etc.
  • What did these mean for the development of company law and
    corporate governance in the 19th and 20th century? Can we say that the corporate law developments in British India had a strong impact in British Corporate law developments?

Data is available in Indian archives (in New Delhi, Calcutta, Bhopal, Mumbai, etc.), British archives (India Office, Kew Garden, etc.). I am proficient in English, Hindi, Bengali, Sanskrit and I would also like to resume my studies in Farsi if this research goes ahead, which should allow me to research Mughal court documents in Indian archives if required.

Why the History Department and not other schools such as the Law or Business School? Unfortunately, the Law department requires prior experience / qualification in law which I do not possess. The Business Schools are not that interested in the arcane aspects of corporate law history combined with colonial history and religious law making. Religious or Islamic schools are too limiting and do not have the breadth. The History department allows one to explore all these elements with multiple dimensions.

Why me and why a part time MPhil? I am a banker with an interest in history. I am working in a bank, which has an amazing archive going back several hundred years. Just to keep my mind in gear and for it not to fall in disuse, I would like to spend some of the evenings and weekends studying this fascinating area. I have prior qualifications in mathematics (bachelor degree), financial economics &  computer science (graduate degree), but my academic exposure to history is relatively low. I would convert this missive into a formal research proposal, but thought it might be beneficial to have a preliminary chat first. I will also fund my studies personally.

If you think I have addressed this wrongly or some other professor would be more appropriate, I would appreciate it if you could let me know appropriately.  If I can provide any further information, please let me know and looking forward to hearing from you.

So I had my first meeting with a good professor at LSE. Fascinating stuff, but he has given me work to do, I need to create a proposal and that will mean hitting the BL, India Office and Kew Archives. Fun times, poking around in mouldy buildings and dusty archives. So from next weekend onwards, its fun times at the library Smile

Friday, April 27

How a wall helped urban warfare

You might want to read this first about the walls which I wrote back in 2004. Walls help, really. Pakistan is getting walled off. But here is a fascinating account of how a wall helped the Sadr City urban warfare situation. I quote:

Urban warfare has long been seen as perhaps the most difficult and demanding military task. Recent history features two approaches to it. The experiences of Russian forces in Grozny and U.S. forces in Fallujah illustrate one approach. In each case, noncombatants were told to evacuate in advance of the attack and anyone left was a de facto enemy fighter. Then these geographically remote cities were, in effect, besieged and then stormed, with attacks supported by massive firepower. The result: high casualties on both sides and rubbled cities.

An early priority was to stop the rocket and mortar attacks on the International Zone. JAM could launch these attacks quickly and almost at will. It simply required pulling a vehicle into a firing position, unloading the rocket and its firing rail, firing off the rocket, and driving back to a hide position: the work of minutes. U.S. forces quickly realized that the International Zone was at the extreme end of the 107mm rocket's range. Their solution was to push JAM fighters out of their firing positions and back into Sadr City. This approach did not stop JAM infiltration. The brigade then employed an innovative but straightforward approach: It walled off two neighborhoods south of Sadr City, including the one containing the Jamilla market where JAM got much of its resources. The wall consisted of T-wall sections, each twelve feet tall and weighing 9,000 pounds. (See photo above.) The wall became an impenetrable, nearly five-kilometer barrier that denied JAM what had been terrain and avenues of movement crucial to its operations. The fighting was particularly intense and required the brigade commander to commit Abrams tanks and Bradleys to dislodge JAM fighters and protect the soldiers building the wall.

As soon as the wall started to go up, JAM instantly recognized the threat posed to its operations and launched numerous attacks to stop its construction. The wall, in the words of one U.S. commander, became a "terrorist magnet." U.S. forces fought from a position of advantage and defeated the JAM assaults.

While the construction of the T-wall ultimately squelched the rocket attacks, by defeating JAM's fighters, U.S. forces waged an intense — and instructive — counter-fire campaign. Key to that campaign was giving the brigade commander direct access to ISR assets that he could direct almost immediately to identified firing locations without having to go through another headquarters. He could also pass intelligence rapidly and by secure communications down to the company level. He could attack enemy firing points around the clock with a formidable array of assets, including Apache helicopters, Air Force fighter aircraft, and armed Predator UASs. Brigade intelligence analysts honed their techniques over time and learned to follow JAM rocket teams to their source rather than attack them immediately. Then they could strike ammo dumps and more senior leaders, thus having a much more profound effect than they would by destroying a vehicle and a few foot soldiers.

The overall results impress. In about two months, U.S. and Iraqi forces crushed JAM, killing an estimated 700, won back significant numbers of the population, and re-established control of what had been an insurgent stronghold. U.S. killed in action numbered fewer than ten. Furthermore, the Multi- National Division Baghdad (MND-B) exploited the success of the combat gains in Sadr City with an intensive campaign of providing local security and reconstruction, all complemented by information operations.

In addition to the key lessons highlighted above, other key lessons emerged. First, persistent ISR, technical intelligence, and responsive precision strike are crucial to success, but they must be integrated at low levels. Second, ground maneuver was essential. It forced the enemy to react and enabled U.S. forces to seize control of the terrain south of Sadr City and to erect the barrier. Furthermore, capable indigenous forces were decisive in securing gains. Their presence signaled that Iraqis were in charge, not coalition forces who would eventually leave. Finally, forces must be able to transition from one type of task (counterinsurgency) to another (intense close combat) seamlessly and rapidly

Divide and conquer, in other words. It still works.

Thursday, April 26

For those who want to understand the US Debt

I know, I know, there are elements of the reserve currency bits and and and other macroeconomic stuff, but hey, this is one way of simplifying it. Go figure. And if you want to see who was responsible for converting a 6 trillion surplus into a 6 trillion deficit, read on?

Its like the entire American political class has its collecting heads up where the sun doesn't shine.

Wednesday, April 25

Managerial characteristics to live by

A great list of things to live by if you are a manager.

  • Coach privately and constructively;
  • Praise publicly and generously;
  • Always maintains a positive attitude – never lose your cool;
  • Actively foster a creative and fun work environment;
  • Listen sincerely, speak thoughtfully;
  • Hire great people and focus on developing them;
  • Care about every employee’s career;
  • Be quick to take blame if something goes wrong, but credit others when things go well;
  • Never gossip or complain about a manager or co-worker; and,
  • Try to treat every employee with respect.

And I would add one more, don't be an ass.

Tuesday, April 24

On a finger of his right hand he wore a diamond ring, one set with a ruby, or emerald

Fascinating story about Tipu’s Golden Box. I quote:

Munshi Qasim, in his account of Tipu's court, recorded that Tipu daily consulted his astrologers about the state of the stars and every Saturday unfailingly, he made an offering to the seven stars of different kinds of grain, of an iron pan full of sesame oil, a blue cap and coat, one black sheep and some money. On a finger of his right hand he wore a diamond ring, one set with a ruby, or emerald, varying every day in colour according to the course of the seven stars. The name of Tipu's astrologer is given as En Enkut Rumna.

Tipu was a bibliophile as well. His library has been described as:

Tipu maintained a superb and varied library of more than 200 volumes. They were catalogued by Charles Stewart in 1809 and published as A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Library of the Late Tippoo Sultan of Mysore, Cambridge University Press, 1809.
Stewart wrote "The library contained many curious and interesting manuscripts of which the following is a summary; Koran: 44 volumes; commentaries on Koran: 41; prayers: 35; traditions: 46; theology: 46; sufism (mystic writings): 115; ethics: 24; jurisprudence: 95; arts and sciences: 19; philosophy: 54; astronomy: 80; mathematics: 7; physics: 62; philology: 45; lexicography: 29; history: 118; letters: 53; poetry: 261; Hindi and Deccani poetry: 23; Hindi and Deccani prose: 4; Turkish prose: 2; fables: 18"
Stewart lists Tipu's books on mathematics:
Persian books:
1. Resaleh Ilmi Hesab, Thin Quarto, Common Hand, A useful treatise on arithmatic, according to the Hindu system, Author unknown
2. Muntekhab Ilmi, Quarto, Common Hand, A very excellent Treatise on Mathematics and Geometry, According to the Indian System, Author, Lutif Allah, Engineer of Dhely (sic.), A.D. 1681
3. Kholaseh a Hesab, A Treatise on Mathematics, written both in Persian and Arabic, Author, Molana Baha Addeen
Arabic Books:
4. Tahrir Aklydis, Octavo, Niskh (sic.) Character, The Elements of Euclid, Translated from the Greek by Ishak Ben Honain
(Euclid discusses the Platonic Solids in Elements)
5. Shereh Shems al Manury, Octavo, Niskh (sic.) Character
A Commentary on the Shems al Manury (or 'Sun of Truth'), A very celebrated Work on Geometry and Mathematics, Author, Muhammed Ben Ahmed al Jafery
6-7. Two volumes, Octavo, Niskh (sic.) Character, Two Esteemed Treatises on Geometry and Arithmetic, Authors unknown
On p.97, in the section on Arts and Sciences, Stewart adds the note: "It appears that Tippoo was an Encourager and Patron of the Arts; and it is stated that Forty Five Books on different Sciences were either compiled, or translated from different languages, under his immediate Inspection or Auspices. It is probable that some of our unfortunate Countrymen, who were so long detained in Captivity, and had thereby acquired a Knowledge of the Dekhany Languages, assisted him in these Pursuits."

But the best is his Gold Icosahedron Box.

"This twenty-sided gold box was found in the treasury of Tippoo Sahib at the taking of Seringapatam on May 4, 1799, and was given by General Robert Bell of the Honorable E. India Co's Madras Artillery, who was one of the Commissioners of Prizes on that occasion, to his friend Sir Charles Hopkinson, from whom it descended to his Great Nephew Hans William Sotheby, first Husband of Charlotte Cornish, whose second Husband, Ingram Bywater, sometimes Regius Professor of Greek in the University of Oxford, bequeathed it to Charles Francis Bell, a great-grandson of the above mentioned General Robert Bell, December 1914"

Monday, April 23

The flowing view of USA

This was one of the most spectacular data representations that I have seen. What it shows is now wind flows over the USA.

You can see the interactive map here. Go on, click on it. Doesn't it look like Lady America’s hair waving? Beautiful.

How to represent data is one of my jobs. For example, what I am trying to do over the past 3 years is to improve sales. When you are talking about the firm the size of ours, the sheer quantity of data is mind boggling. Putting things into context, my firm has a balance sheet which is about 4% of the world GDP. Think about the sheer number of transactions that flow through. And I have to ensure that we get sufficient data to my sales chaps so that they can keep track of what has happened, what is coming down the pipe that they know about and what might come down the future pipe. All this in 80 countries, multiple currencies, multiple products, thousands of sales chaps.

So think about it, I need to get the senior chaps around a table to manage. Its very easy to get bogged down by just looking at the history. Its safe, its blunt, nobody questions it. But that’s not what I am paid for. I am paid for how well I navigate the future, what’s coming down. Its like a gunnery officer on a battleship who is trying to hit another battleship. I might have the best possible telescope which tells me where the enemy battleship is right now. What I want to know is where it will be in 2 minutes. It will take me that long to prepare my gun and fire it, the shell to go across the water and then hit it. Where it is right now is just one data point. I need to know how fast is it going, is it turning, how is the air temperature, the humidity, the aspect ratio, a zillion other factors.

Its the same with these big firms. I cannot manage looking historically, I need to use the data to try to predict where the customer will be in “x” days so that I can modify my sales, product, customer services, etc. etc. And when you have big data of this shape, size and volume, data representation is absolutely crucial. Human beings cannot absorb too much data. Throw too much data at them and they shut down or ignore it. So you have to be careful about what you pitch. Its a fascinating area of research. Then again, this poster says it all about me trying to forecast. lol

Also see this link on big data. Another view of the same problem, tick by tick data is another big ocean to swim in. Almost 12 years back, we used to use these chaps. The amount of data that we had to manage while I was on the trading floor and try to make sense of it was ferociously big. Hairy stuff.

Sunday, April 22

‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’ patented in Turkey

lol. This is amusing. I quote from here.

The municipality of Zile in the northern province of Tokat has announced the acquisition of the Turkish patent license for the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar’s famous saying “Veni Vidi Vici” which is believed to have been uttered in district’s 4,000-year-old castle.
It took two and a half years to acquire the patent, Mayor Lütfi Vidinel said.
“The copyright of the phrase belongs to our municipality for the following 10 years. We are planning to renew it every decade. A global tobacco company is using this phrase as part of its brand logo and we are planning to contact them and ask for our copyright share for the use of the phrase. We will allocate the funds we raise for the fight against tobacco use,” Vidinel said.
In May 47 B.C., Caesar defeated Pharnaces of Pontus near the town of Zile. He claimed he captured the enemy in four hours. To inform the Roman Senate of his victory, Caesar succinctly wrote, “veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered).

I am not sure what is more amusing, the Turkish Patent Office, or this Mayor’s chutzpah (Can I use Jewish terms now for Turkish aspects?) or the idea of patenting somebody’s speech in a geographic location.