The year 1922, one century ago, occurred at what some would consider to be an interesting time in history as it was when the world tried to recover from the Great War.
On the other hand however, many argue that this era pales in significance compared to the years before and to the years yet to come.
What is obvious to everyone though is that the year 1922 was a year of upheaval and great violence as well as disasters. In Swatow, China a typhoon killed more than 5, 000 people between 27 July and 3 August, making it one of the deadliest typhoons in history. In total over 50,000 people were killed as the storm passed through the region.
Imperial Powers Conquering and Falling
Much of the year was typified by old European powerhouses and monarchies struggling to hold onto power with their military muscle making a show and being flexed in the light of the "empire striking back".
For example, on 26 January Italian forces began their reconquest of Libya by occupying Misrata. In 1912 the Italians had seized the region from the Ottoman Empire, but the locals revolted which led to much of the territory reverting to local rule. Jump forward ten years and under the new Italian leader Benito Mussolini, Libya felt the full force of Italy’s military might. This reconquest and subsequent war would last ten years and see the genocide of over 225,000 Libyans, as well as the forceful removal and relocation of over 100,000 people from their homes.
While some imperial powers used their military might to maintain their empires others conceded that change was needed, and governance was progressively handed back to the local people.
This is the process that was taking place in Egypt with Great Britain ending its protectorate over Egypt on 28 February and Egyptian independence declared. In many instances though this independence would be a slow process with European nations (as was this case) maintaining control over military and diplomatic matters.
Across the world the British Empire faced numerous obstacles and pitfalls.
In Africa the British state of Southern Rhodesia, rejected the proposed union with South Africa at a national referendum, the state would eventually become part of modern-day Zimbabwe.
Also in Africa, British Togoland and French Togoland were officially established, dividing the former German protectorate of Togoland between the two European powers. This arrangement simply formalised an arrangement made years earlier under the cloud of World War One. The impact of this is still being felt today with instability in the region and the establishment of the breakaway region "Western Togoland". A story for another day - [Scroll to bottom of blog for postscript on this story or click here].
Around the same time that all of this was occurring in the colonies, Morocco revolted against Spanish rule and the Japanese withdrew from Siberia. Japanese forces had been in the Russian territory since 1918 in an effort to help the western powers provide support for White Russia against the advancing Red Army.
The rise of Dictators
I mentioned a certain infamous Italian Dictator above. Well, it was in 1922 that Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy, when his Fascist party took control on 28 October.
He would remain in power as a Dictator until after World War Two.
Notably on the same day, 28 October, the Red Army occupied Vladivostok, Russia which led to its eventual inclusion in the Soviet Russia. After the Great War, the region had been included in the Far Eastern Republic, an independent state, supported by the Soviets creating a buffer between the Soviet state and Japan. Following the rise of the anti-communists in the republic the Red Army was sent in and on 15 November it was incorporated into Soviet Russia.
The conquering of Russia's "independent" republics would become a recurring theme of 1922 and would culminate in the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on 28 December. To read more about this and one particular republic it impacted click here and check out the blog on Adyghe.
The Irish Civil War
Returning to British Imperialism, or the impact of British Imperialism during 1922, we can’t ignore one of the most commonly discussed conflicts, the Irish Civil War.
In Ireland the Battle of Dublin took place between the Irish National Army (backed by the British) and the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army who clashed in the streets of Dublin from 28 June to 5 July, effectively starting the Irish Civil War that would last until May the following year.
What were they fighting about?
The year before, in 1921, the Irish War of Independence came to an end with a treaty establishing Northern Ireland and basically the rest of Ireland under two separate systems.
While most of the country was to be a free state, but within the British Empire (like Australia for example), the northern states (today Northern Ireland) opted to remain as part of the UK – not within the union of the new Free State. The separation of the two was not popular by all as in 1918 the entirety of Ireland was declared independent not just the southern portion. Thus, this was seen as a step backward for Irish independence.
Two factions emerged within Ireland ruling party, Sinn Fein, the pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions. Just as they had done against the British in the battle for independence, the anti-treaty factions used guerrilla warfare tactics in the civil war.
One of the pro-treaty leaders and head of the provisional Government was Michael Collins on the 22 August he was shot dead. The war is rather complicated to explain (hopefully this very brief snippet sort of outlines the key points), and with Collins considered a national hero, his death had ramifications on the fate of Ireland.
The war wouldn’t end until the following year but we all know what Ireland looks like today so I’m sure you can guess what happened. The Civil War was brought to an end in early 1923 as the treaty came into effect.
The Greco-Turkish War
Across the year the violence continued. On 9th September 1922 Turkish forces entered the port city of Smyrna, capturing the city and effectively ending the Greco-Turkish War after three years of fighting.
Four days later a fire began in the Greek and Armenia part of the city and it lasted for almost two weeks. While the Muslim and Jewish sectors of the city escaped damage the opposite was the case for the Greek’s and Armenian’s who faced atrocities at the hands of the Turks.
As hundreds of thousands of Greek and Armenian refugees flooded the port to escape chaos ensued. British and American sailors attempted to maintain order during the evacuation but they also faced the wrath of Turkish forces.
In the end around 200,000 refugees were evacuated however as many as 100,000 Greeks and Armenian’s were killed with an additional 30,000 able bodied men deported to Anatolia where many died under harsh conditions.
This marked the end of Greek habitation with the population shifting to over 80% Muslim after this incident and the name of the city changed to Izmir.
At home in Turkey, the Ottoman Empire came to and end after 600 years of power, with the abdication of the last Sultan on 17 November. The Sultan’s cousin was appointed Caliph but this would be short lived as just six months later the entire royal family were expelled from Turkey.
Very Quick Celebrity and Pop Culture Highlights of 1922
On 5 January 1922 the famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton suffered a heart attack and died. He’d led an extraordinary life and despite being advised to take things easier he was on an expedition when he died. [Interestingly, earlier this year Shackleton's lost 1915 ship was found almost pristinely preserved under the Antarctic waters - again a story for another day along with more about the man whose story has so much more to it than just Antarctica!) To read more about Shackleton himself click here and pick the Antarctica image
It was also in 1922 that the famed American Actress and singer Doris Day was born. To read more about America's Sweetheart head over to the Wonder Women Page - Click Here!
Most notably in 1922 the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was formed on the 18 October and began radio service on 14 November.
Vegemite is created and debuted in an amber glass jar by Aussie Cyril Callister who was tasked by Fred Walker (owner of the company Fred Walker co.) to create a spread using the yeast not being used by breweries. It wouldn't hit shelves until 1923. Today, Vegemite is owned by Bega and remains very popular in Australia.
Pictured: Sir Ernest Shackleton, 1922 (this picture was released to commemorate 100 years since his death, courtesy BBC), Doris Day, 1957 (Unknown Source), BBC Microphone (BBC Journal) and Vegemite glass jar, 1922 (vegemite.com.au)
Feeling the effects of their defeat in the Great War, German’s experience hyperinflation as the value of their money suffers. By the end of the year one US dollar would be the equivalent of 7,000 German marks, compared to just 268 the year before.
On 4 November Archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the entrance to Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. On the 26th November, Carter and his financial backer Lord Carnarvon became the first to see inside the tomb in over 3,000 years. Though he wasn’t a well-known leader or a great leader of note, Tutankhamun would go on to become one of the most known names in Egyptian history thanks to his mostly intact tomb (well before the British got their hands on it). It wouldn't be until February 1923 that Carter would enter the sealed burial chamber.
It is interesting that this occurred in 1922 given it was the same year that Britain handed control of Egypt back to the local authorities. If you do a simple Google search for "Egypt 1922", the first thing that pops up is the discovery of Tutankhamun, NOT the developments regarding British rule.
POSTSCRIPT: The long-term impact of the breakup of Togoland - the Western Togoland Rebellion
In 1956 the people of the former British Togoland were given the decision between a union with Ghana or the possibility of a union with French Togoland.
The option of independence was never offered by the United Nations General Assembly.
Eventually British Togoland was amalgamated with Ghana.
On 1 September 2020 the Western Togoland Restoration Front declared sovereignty, thus ceding the former British Togoland (which is home to around 11 million people) from Ghana. There has been separatist violence and travel to the region has been advised against by many foreign nations.
Since 2017 Western Togoland has been an active member of UNPO, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.
From what I’ve been able to find it seems this isn’t going to be sorted any time soon with most news coverage from 2020 and little in the way of updates easy to find online.
*Where more information is provided see individual blogs or posts for further reading
Australia Through Time, 2004 Edition (Sydney: Random House, 2004)
The Visual History of the Modern World (Sydney: Funtastic, 2005)
Dateline: People, Places and Events (Sydney: Murdoch Books, 2006)
Encyclopaedia Britannica; <www.britannica.com>
National Geographic Education; <www.education.nationalgeographic.org>
History Channel (A & E); <www.history.com>
BBC World News; <www.bbc.co.uk>
"Wreck of Shackleton's Endurance Discovered", (11 March 2022), <www.smithsonianmag.com>