Изображения страниц

dared, but the Government order is that wheat is to be cheap'—and the plain statement of fact will be supported and amplified by the lurid details which the imagination of an oriental market may be trusted to produce. The Indian peasant is at all times credulous; just now he is ready to believe even more than he is told. The incursions of hostile airships were last winter the common talk of Central India, and the country thrilled to the news that the German fleet had anchored in the Jumna off Agra ; while the recent disturbances in the Panjab were in part based on the reported arrival of the German army within two days' march of Karachi. In this atmosphere inherent improbability either counts for nothing or is a guarantee of truth; and it is to be feared that both the actions and the motives of Government will be misrepresented in a way that Englishmen can scarcely realise.

The practical result may be twofold. In the first place holders of wheat may decide not to sell; in the second place cultivators may be discouraged from sowing wheat next season. So far as can be judged the withholding of stocks will not take place on such a scale as to produce a very serious effect on the market. The peasants in any case need a certain amount of money; they had not on the whole a successful year in 1914; and, owing to low prices, the cotton-crop, which is important in a large part of the wheat area, brought much less money than usual. The need for money is therefore probably greater than is commonly the case at this season; and, if distrust of the Government increases the strength of the ever-present impulse to hoard, the hoarding is most likely to be done in silver and gold, the commodities recommended by the tradition of the country as the safest resource in times of difficulty and uncertainty. The question of the next crop is more doubtful. The present need for wheat was foreseen in India last September; and, as seed-time approached, cultivators were urged by the authorities in some British provinces and by the rulers of some Native States to sow wheat in preference to other crops, such as oil-seeds, the need for which was less likely to be urgent. That these recommendations did not fall on deaf ears may be inferred from the figures recently made public of the area sown with wheat for 1915, which was considerably larger than in any previous year. It may be questioned whether similar recommendations for the next sowings would be equally effective if made by a Government which is known to have interfered to reduce the price at which the crop could be sold, and the nature of whose interference has been magnified and distorted by the currents of popular rumour.

Now it is very possible that the Empire's need for wheat may


more urgent next summer than this. No wise civilian would prophesy regarding the course of a war where so many surprises have already been manifest; but it is obvious that this result may follow in various circumstances. The main sources of the world's wheat supply are: (a) Central and Eastern Europe, (b) North America, where the crop ripens in the autumn, (c) South America, (d) India, and (e) Australia, where the harvest takes place in the season which we know as the spring. If, as is probable, the 1915 crop in Europe should prove to be below the normal, the demand for wheat in the summer of 1916 may be very great; and, if Central Europe is then in a position to importwhether as conquerors or as conquered is immaterial to the argument—the call on Australia, India and South America to keep the world going till the autumn may be more urgent than any similar call since the establishment of oversea commerce on modern lines. On the other hand, it is not easy to imagine any combination of circumstances in which the demand next summer would be much less than usual; and the conclusion may be drawn that it is important for the Empire, perhaps for civilisation, that the Indian crop of 1916 should be as large as possible.

To secure this result, organisation will be necessary, no less than to secure an adequate output of munitions

But the organisation will take longer, because the yield at harvest depends primarily on the area sown. In India the wheat area is governed, first of all, by the weather in August and September. If the weatherconditions in those months are favourable, a large variety of crops is sown during October and November; and organisation is wanted to secure not only that the culturable land is fully occupied, but that it is

of war.

[ocr errors]

occupied by the most important crops. The Indian peasant cannot watch and forecast the market like an English or American farmer; and in existing circumstances this can be done for him only by the Governments, which can advise him, or in some Indian States even order him, what crops to sow, and can lend him the capital that he needs in order to follow the advice or obey the order.

It is at next seed-time, then, that the consequences of the action already taken by the Indian Government may become apparent. If that action, or the distorted popular idea of that action, has rendered the peasants distrustful, they will curtail their sowings of wheat and will not respond readily to any measures that the Government may take to increase the area under the crop. If this turn out to be the case, India in 1916 will have less to contribute to the world's needs, and her peasants will have lost what may be an unequalled opportunity of improving their own position. If, on the other hand, the authorities succeed in their immediate aim without seriously shaking the confidence of the peasants in their ulterior motives and in the future of the crop, then the undoubted advantages which have been secured in 1915 will be pure gain, and not merely a temporary profit to be set off against the greater losses and difficulties of the ensuing year; and they will have fully earned the credit which they will doubtless enjoy for the successful conduct of one of the most delicate economic enterprises that could be undertaken.


[ocr errors]


SOME three thousand years ago there lay at the mouth of the Hellespont a great army, convoyed by a great navy, fighting for the possession of the land. They met with a stubborn resistance. Near the shore stood a strong castle, fortified by all the arts of the 12th century B.C.; the remains of the walls still surprise the most thoughtless visitor to Troy by their size and construction, But the castle was taken in the end; its parapets were overthrown, though the stone substructures were by their very massiveness spared for us to see; its houses were razed, and little has been left of them but the rare fragments of broken pottery which enable the archæologist to say with confidence that the fall of the castle took place about 1200 B.C.

This at least is authentic history, so far as it can be gathered by scientific deduction from material relics which can be seen and handled. A further conclusion lies close at hand; and all recent enquiry tends to strengthen it—that this castle was the famous Troy, and that the war in which it finally fell was that known by its poetic fame as the Trojan War. The details of the story, as told in the Iliad' and worked out by the fancy and imagination of later generations of poets, are the embroidery; but the broad fact is that soon after the year 1200 B.C. the fortress of Troy was taken and sacked by Greek invaders from the west.

It is no mere coincidence that after the lapse of more than thirty centuries the War of Troy should have come round again, and that a new · Agamemnon' should be sailing the same waters where the king of Mycenæ landed his confederate army; that blood should be flowing among the hills and valleys in full sight of Troy, and even on the banks of the Scamander itself. It is only too likely that batteries have been erected on the very hill of Hissarlik, and that the precious remains which the Achaians spared for us have now been destroyed for ever by the orders of German engineers. Turks and Germans are fighting for the same object as Trojans and Lycians; the aim of both alike is to keep the ships of the west from commerce with the Black Sea. The Black

Sea or Euxine trade is one of the essential economic needs of the world at large; and those who can stop it are always in a commanding position, which must needs be disputed if they choose to exercise their power. It is very rarely that it has been worth their while to do so ; the tolls which in one form or another can be derived from it are so abundant that an actual stopping of the passage is economically suicidal.

The king of Troy was able to close the Straits to ships if he chose-by what means we shall discuss later. But the remains of his castle show that he was rich; therefore he did not permanently block the way. His plan was, by preventing the ships of the west from sailing up, to force other ships to bring their wares from the east, and to barter them with the west under the walls of his fortress. That was the source of his wealth and power. But it was a power intolerable to the enterprising Greeks, just as it is intolerable for us that all the world should be cut off from the rich granaries of Russia and the Danube plains. The Achaians fought, and we are fighting, to insist that this all-important waterway shall not be closed against the needs of the human race.

The Black Sea trade has been important to the wellbeing of mankind from the very earliest ages. The shores

. of the great inland sea are to us, as they were already in pre-historic days, the birthplace of raw materials of the highest importance. Though the oil of Baku must not be forgotten, it is as one of the great cereal areas of the world that we think of the plains that surround the northern and north-western shores. From Sulima, Galatz, Braila, and the other ports of the Danube, from Odessa and Nikolaieff, from Varna, Burgas and Kustendje, come vast quantities of wheat, maize, barley and oats. It is by cutting off these supplies that Turkey struck her worst blow at the west before she had fired a single shot. The only outlet for these immense supplies is through the Dardanelles; and the power which is able to close the Straits can throttle at once an important part of the food of the world.

But, whatever the Black Sea and the Dardanelles mean to us, all that and more the Euxine and the Hellespont meant to the ancient world. To them the Euxine

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »