Coincidence or Conspiracy? Pointers from History

When you read history, a study that has been discouraged/abandoned in schools you start to notice patterns in events. It resembles a wave pattern – periods of cultural wealth and success succeeded by huge population loss through war or natural disaster. Cultures rise and fall.

Perhaps this is just a natural tide in human affairs and when you look more closely at particular events, explanations become apparent. Explanations up to a point. But there always seems to be something missing. Reading history has an unsettling effect. Your mind is tweaked in the same direction as a detective trying to get to the bottom of a crime. Is what is obvious the full and real explanation? Are events actually what they seem or has something important been concealed? Does the explanation fully explain what happened or have we just been given a plausible account, with further questions quietly discouraged?

In human life there are always these gaps in our understanding. Our minds may be satisfied with the seemingly logical/rational explanation, but our instincts for survival are more highly tuned. We sense something is missing and it makes us uneasy.

In the area of spiritual beliefs our ignorance and therefore uncertainty is so profound that some thinkers have described our collective religious beliefs as “The God of the Gaps”.

Perhaps conspiracy theorists are the God of the Gaps where our historical knowledge is unsatisfactory or incomplete.

Conspiracy theorists have pointed to the Irish famine and argued that it was started deliberately, which could only have happened if “people in charge” knew something the rest of the world was unaware of – in that particular case the use of seagull guana’s use as a fertilizer with potato blight, potatoes being the subsistence crop of the very over-populated Irish.

Other conspiracy theorists have pointed to the Great War, the causes of which have always been controversial for historians and mystifying to common sense thinkers everywhere – suggesting the intention was to cull the growing European populations, a possible political threat to the ruling classes.

Oddly conspiracy theorists have left the Highland Clearances alone. Instead this blatant calamity which caused mass migration from the Highlands of Scotland directly caused by the motivation for profit of the ruling elite to get rid of their inconvenient population is routinely treated as an historical non-event, as if it was not very significant.

So you read history, you start to discern patterns and you realise that often historical explanations, like religious explanations, do not fully cover the situation. And this is the ground on which conspiracy theories grow.

Like the detective trying to uncover the facts, where the evidence might well be non-existent or concealed, you resort to reasoning backwards, from effect to likely cause.

Take just the three events mentioned. The Highland Clearances, the Irish potato famine and the Great War. What do they have in common? One common factor is population growth, specifically population growth of the working population, either outstripping their subsistence resources leading to political unrest with the potential of an uprising against the ruling class or just an increase in such numbers that that alone represented a threat.

Now look at the end result of each of these disasters. The Highland Scots, always militant and quick to rebellion were driven out of the country.

The huge Irish population through death and mass emigration was reduced to a sustainable level and not likely to man a popular uprising against their English masters and exploiters.

The Great War put the majority of the male population of Europe under the direct military control of their state’ ruling classes – no Russian revolution here!

Each of these catastrophic events served the same purpose – maintaining the status quo. The ruling class remained the ruling class and their position was protected from a mass political uprising from the oppressed majority.


Isn’t it just these kind of coincidences which make the dedicated detective take a closer look, especially at the beneficiaries of the disasters.