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The Landlord Octopus, Still Stalking London
A handful of noble families own large tracts of the British capital - and have done so for centuries
The world’s eight richest billionaires own as much as the poorest half of humanity. That's 3.5 billion people. Oxfam released that figure in January this year, just before the global elite had their annual shindig in the snow at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In the previous year’s press release, it still took 36 billionaires to equal the wealth of the bottom 50%. If wealth concentration continues at this pace, next year it will only take the arm and a leg of a billionaire to own as much as half the world.
By that same logic, the previous years were incrementally egalitarian, and you would only need to go back a few decades to reach Equalhalla, a fabled past of fellowship and sharing. But history doesn’t work like that. Inequality has always existed, and, as this postcard shows, today’s One-Percenters are the Landlords of yesteryear.
The postcard shows a map of central London, attacked by that staple cartographic monster, the Land Octopus – see also #521. On its head is tattooed the term Landlordism, in reality nothing more than a synonym for feudalism, updated for the times – in this case, 1925, the year in which this postcard was published by W.B. Northrop.
By that time, the Middle Ages were long gone, but large parts of London were still owned and exploited by noble families, to the detriment of ordinary folk. As the legend reads:
LANDLORDISM CAUSES UNEMPLOYMENT
It paralyses the BUILDING TRADE;
It Pauperises the Peasantry;
12 Landlords “own” (?) London, taking £20,000,000 a year;
500 Peers “own” (?) an entire one-third of England;
4,000 Landlords “own” (?) an entire half of England;
The Land Octopus Sucks the Lifeblood of the People.
The postcard names a few of the most important London landlords, each one curled up in one of the eight arms of the evil octopus:
Ecclesiastical Commissioners Annual London Rents: £500,000
The Ecclesiastical Commissioners were a corporate body that managed the revenue of the estate of the Church of England. Since 1948, its task has been taken over by the Church Commissioners. They continue to own the freehold of Hyde Park Estate, a residential district in Paddington.
Lord Portman “owns” (?) 270 Acres. Annual Rent: £1,890,000
The Portman Estate got started in 1532, when Sir William Portman, Lord Chief Justice to Henry VIII, acquired the lease of Lileston Manor. Its current London holdings cover an area of about 110 acres (0.45 km2) in Marylebone, from Edgware Road in the west to beyond Baker Street in the east and from almost to Crawford Street in the north to Oxford Street from Marble Arch to Orchard Street in the south.
In total, the Estate spans 68 streets, 650 buildings and four garden squares – Portman Square and Manchester Square the best-known among them. The Portman Estate also owns two farming estates, Portman Burtley in Buckinghamshire and Portman Wilmaston in Herefordshire. The current owner is Christopher Edward Berkeley Portman, 10th Viscount Portman, who inherited the estate in 1999 and has an estimated personal fortune of around £1.2 billion. Apart from the Portman Estate, he also owns property in New York and Florida.
Howard de Walden “owns” (?) 292 Acres. Annual Rent: £2,900,000
In recognition for his role in defeating the Spanish Armada in 1588, Admiral Lord Thomas Howard was created a baron by Queen Elizabeth I. The baronetcy survives, but not in the original family. The current holder of the title is Mary Hazel Caridwen Czernin, baroness Howard de Walden. Her son, Peter Joseph Czernin (born 1966) is the heir apparent. With a fortune or around £4 billion, the Howard de Waldens are one of the richest families in the UK.
The Howard de Walden Estate owns, manages and leases around 92 acres of property in Marylebone, from Portland Place in the east to Marylebone High Street in the west and from Marylebone Road in the north to Wigmore Street in the south. The Estate includes Harley Street, famous for its medical practices, and the hip shopping area of Marylebone High Street.
Duke of Bedford “owns” (?) 250 Acres. Annual Rent: £2,250,000
Originally centred on Covent Garden, the Bedford Estate expanded into Bloomsbury in the late 17th century and sold the original property in the early 20th century. It is still the largest private land-owner in Bloomsbury.
The current, 15th Duke of Bedford is 54-year-old Andrew Russell, who was styled Lord Howland until his grandfather died in 2002, when he adopted the title Marquess of Tavistock. He inherited the ducal title a year later, following the death of his father. His Grace – as he is addressed – is a direct descendant of Mary, sister of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I who was beheaded in 1536. His wealth is estimated at over half a billion pounds.
Lord Northampton “owns” (?) 260 Acres. Annual Rent: £1,600,000
The title of Marquess of Northampton is mainly associated with the Compton family, which descends from Sir Henry Compton, who was one of the peers at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. Down the generations, the family also included a President of the Royal Society, an Admiral in the Royal Navy, several Members of Parliament, two Bishops, a Prime Minister.
The Compton family are major landowners in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, and currently still have substantial holdings in London, including in Clerkenwell and Canonbury. They own, among other things, the 16th-century Canonbury Tower, at various times the residence of Thomas Cromwell, Francis Bacon and Oliver Goldsmith.
The Duke of Norfolk “owns” (?) The Strand. Annual Rent: £1,500,000
A title first created by Richard II in 1397, the Duke of Norfolk is the premier Duke in the peerage of England, as well as the Earl Marshal of England, whose duties include the State Opening of Parliament, and who is one of only two hereditary peers granted automatic admittance to the House of Lords. He holds several subsidiary titles, including those of Earl of Arundel and Baron Howard of Glossop. All Dukes of Norfolk are descendants of Edward I. Historically Catholic, some previous Dukes have been imprisoned and even executed for treason.
The current Duke of Norfolk is Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 18th Duke of Norfolk. One of the ancestors of the present Duke of Norfolk had the good sense to acquire a tract of land extending from the Strand to the Thames, which was the source of much of the family's wealth. That property had since shrunk to about ten acres by the turn of the millennium.
The Duke of Westminster “owns” (?) 400 Acres. Annual Rent: £3,000,000
In 1677, the Grosvenor family acquired about 300 acres of rural land outside the bounds of 17th-century London. Over the centuries, they developed and today still own large parts of Mayfair and Belgravia – prime locations at the centre of the metropolis. These holdings have allowed the Grosvenors to acquire great wealth, and a title to go with it.
The current, 7th Duke of Westminster is 25-year-old Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor, who inherited the title in August 2016. He is worth well over £10 billion, making him the world's richest under-30, as well as the wealthiest landlord in London, and one of the richest men in the UK. A very private person, the Duke nonetheless captured some headlines when he was named godfather of Prince George, the first child of Prince William and Princess Kate, and third in line to the British throne.
Earl Cadogan “owns” (?) 200 Acres. Annual Rent: £1,500,000
The Cadogan Estate started in 1712 with the acquisition of Chelsea Manor by Sir Hans Sloane, the famous collector and physician. Via marriage, it came into the Cadogan family. The Cadogan Estate is the main landlord in Knightsbridge and Chelsea, especially around Cadogan Square, Sloane Street and Kings Road. The Estate also owns the Duke of York Barracks, presently housing the Saatchi Gallery, among others.
The Estate is the second-largest in London after that of the Duke of Westminster, and the Earl of Cadogan is also the second-richest landowner in London, after said Duke. The current, 8th Earl is Charles Cadogan, 79 years old. The Earl is a first cousin of the Aga Khan IV, was a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, chairman of Chelsea Football Club, and Governor of a school in Suffolk. His heir, Edward Charles Cadogan, holds the title Viscount Chelsea until his accession – similar to the subsidiary title of Prince of Wales for the heir apparent to the British throne.
A legend in the bottom right corner of the map reads:
Octopium Landlordicuss – Common London Landlord. This FISHY CREATURE lives on RENT. Its Tentacles grasp 5 Square Miles of LONDON. This ABSORBENT PARASITE sucks 20,000,000 a year from its VICTIMS – giving NOTHING in return. The People must destroy IT... or be destroyed.
Nothing of the sort has happened. Time chips away at some of these estates, but others grow and prosper. This map, from 2013, shows the main Estates currently still owning large parts of London, of which the reader will recognise more than a few.
The invective postcard by William Bacot Northrop, an obscure crusader for social justice, otherwise only known as the co-author of a book titled The Insolence of Office: The Story of the Seabury Investigations, does not mention two estates presented on the more recent map: the City of London Estate, which owns property both inside and out the limits of its Corporation, and the Crown Estate.
When William the Conqueror took possession of England in 1066, he did so literally - laying claim to the ownership of the entire country, and to its revenues. Those crown possessions have gradually diminished through the centuries, but until the reign of George III, the monarch paid for public and private expenditures from the returns of his domains. Though nominally still the property of the Queen, the Crown Estate today is much smaller, run independently, and its revenues go directly to the Treasury. In exchange, Parliament affords the Royal Family a 15% share of the net revenue.
Much of that revenue comes from the Crown Estate's London properties, which include the entirety or Regent Street and half of St James's. It also controls large tracts of farmland and forests, and owns more than half the UK's foreshore and most of the seabed to the 12-nautical-mile limit, grants licenses for salmon fishing in many Scottish rivers, owns golf clubs, Ascot racecourse, and co-owns several shopping centres.
Clearly, Landlordism is alive and well in the UK, and boasts quite a few more tentacles than shown on Mr. Northrop’s map.
Strange Maps #820
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to light recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
From "mutilated males" to "wandering wombs," dodgy science affects how we view the female body still today.
- The history of medicine and biology often has been embarrassingly wrong when it comes to female anatomy and was surprisingly resistant to progress.
- Aristotle and the ancient Greeks are much to blame for the mistaken notion of women as cold, passive, and little more than a "mutilated man."
- Thanks to this dubious science, and the likes of Sigmund Freud, we live today with a legacy that judges women according to antiquated biology and psychology.
The story of medicine has not been particularly kind to women. Not only was little anatomical or scientific research done on women or on women-specific issues, doctors often treated them differently.
Even today, women are up to ten times more likely to have their symptoms explained away as being psychological or psychosomatic than men. Worryingly, women are 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed after a heart attack, and drugs designed for "everyone" are actually much less effective (for pain) or too effective (for sleeping) in women.
Are these differences real or imagined? And what can the history of female medicine teach us about where we are today?
A mutilated male
Aristotle is rightly considered one of the greatest minds of all time and is recognized as the founding father of many disciplines, including biology. He was one of the most rigorous and comprehensive scientists and field researchers the world had known. He categorized a large number of species based on a wide range of traits, such as movement, longevity, and sensory capacity. His views on women, then, stemmed from what he thought of as good, proper study. The problem is that he got pretty much all of it wrong.
According to Aristotle, during pregnancy, it was the man who, alone, contributed the all-important "form" of a fetus (that is, its defining nature and personality), whereas the woman provided only the matter (that is, the environment and sustenance to grow the fetus, which was provided by the menstrual blood).
From this, Aristotle extrapolated all sorts of dubious conclusions. He ventured that the man was superior, active, and dominant, and the woman inferior, passive, and submissive. As such, the woman's role was to nurture children, run a household, and be silent and obedient — political and cultural manifestations of dodgy biology. If women did not provide a child's form and nature, how important could they really be?
Given this passivity, Aristotle argued that the woman must be associated with other passive things, like being cold and slow. The man, being dynamic and energetic, must be hot and fast. From this, Aristotle concluded that any defects or problems in childbirth can only be due to the sluggishness of the female womb. Even the positive biological aspects of being female, such as greater longevity, were put down to this cold rigidity — a lack of metabolism and spirit. Most notorious of all, since Aristotle believed that female children were themselves the result of an incomplete and underdeveloped gestation, women were simply "mutilated males" whose mothers' cold wombs had overpowered the warm, vital, male sperm.
Aristotle can still be counted as a great mind, but when it came to women, his ideas have not aged well in just how far they negatively influenced what came after. Given that his works were seen as the authority well into the 16th century, he left quite the pernicious legacy.
A wandering womb
But, how much can we really blame Aristotle? Without the aid of modern scientific equipment, physicians and biologists were left to guess about female anatomy. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and Aristotle's ideas of a troublesome uterus became so mainstream that they led to one of the more bizarre ideas in medical history: the wandering womb.
The "wandering womb" is the idea that the womb is actually some kind of roaming parasite in the body, possibly even a separate organism. According to this theory, after a woman menstruates, her womb becomes hot and dry and so becomes extra mobile. It is transformed into a voracious hunter. The womb will dart from organ to organ, seeking to steal its moisture and other vital fluids. This parasitic behavior caused all sorts of (female only) illnesses.
If a woman had asthma, the womb was leeching the lungs. Stomach aches, it was in the gut. And if it attacked the heart (which the ancients thought was the source of our thoughts), then it would cause all manner of mental health issues. In fact, the Greek word for womb is "hystera," and so when we call someone (often a woman) hysterical, we are saying that their womb is causing mischief.
The "solutions" or "remedies" for a wandering womb were as strange as the theory. Since the womb was supposed to be attracted to sweet smells, placing flowers or perfumes around the vagina would "lure" it down. On the flip side, if you smoked noxious substances or ate disgusting foods, it would "repel" the womb away. By using all manner of smells, you could make the womb move wherever you wanted.
The oddest "remedy" — and most male-centric of all — is that, since the wandering womb was said to be caused by heat and dryness, a good solution would be male semen, which was thought of as cooling and wet. And so, the ancient and highly inaccurate myth was born that sex could cure a woman of her "hysteria."
A lingering problem
We live today with the legacy of this kind of thinking. Freud was much taken with the idea of "hysteria," and although he did accept that men could be subject to it as well, he believed it was overwhelmingly a female problem caused by female biology. The woman, for Freud, is mostly defined by her "sexual function." What Freud calls "normal femininity" (the preferred and best outcome) is defined by passivity. A woman's ideal development is one which moves from being active and "phallic" to passive and vaginal.
Nowadays, Freud and Aristotle's legacy lies in just how easily women are defined by their sexuality. Given that men and women, both, are equally dependent on their biology, it is curious how much more often women are reduced to theirs. The idea that women are more emotional or slaves to their hormones than men is still a depressingly familiar trope. It is an idea that goes back to the Greeks.
If we think biology is important to who we are (as it most certainly is), we ought to make sure that the biology is as good and accurate as it can be.
People tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly.
For many people, summer vacation can't come soon enough – especially for the half of Americans who canceled their summer plans last year due to the pandemic.
But when a vacation approaches, do you ever get the feeling that it's almost over before it starts?
If so, you're not alone.
In some recent studies Gabriela Tonietto, Sam Maglio, Eric VanEpps and I conducted, we found that about half of the people we surveyed indicated that their upcoming weekend trip felt like it would end as soon as it started.
This feeling can have a ripple effect. It can change the way trips are planned – you might, for example, be less likely to schedule extra activities. At the same time, you might be more likely to splurge on an expensive dinner because you want to make the best of the little time you think you have.
Where does this tendency come from? And can it be avoided?
Not all events are created equal
When people look forward to something, they usually want it to happen as soon as possible and last as long as possible.
We first explored the effect of this attitude in the context of Thanksgiving.
We chose Thanksgiving because almost everyone in the U.S. celebrates it, but not everyone looks forward to it. Some people love the annual family get-together. Others – whether it's the stress of cooking, the tedium of cleaning or the anxiety of dealing with family drama – dread it.
So on the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2019, we surveyed 510 people online and asked them to tell us whether they were looking forward to the holiday. Then we asked them how far away it seemed, and how long they felt it would last. We had them move a 100-point slider – 0 meaning very short and 100 meaning very long – to a location that reflected their feelings.
As we suspected, the more participants looked forward to their Thanksgiving festivities, the farther away it seemed and shorter it felt. Ironically, longing for something seems to shrink its duration in the mind's eye.
Winding the mind's clock
Most people believe the idiom “time flies when you're having fun," and research has, indeed, shown that when time seems to pass by quickly, people assume the task must have been engaging and enjoyable.
We reasoned that people might be over-applying their assumption about the relationship between time and fun when judging the duration of events yet to happen.
As a result, people tend to reflexively assume that fun events – like vacations – will go by really quickly. Meanwhile, pining for something can make the time leading up to the event seem to drag. The combination of its beginning pushed farther away in their minds – with its end pulled closer – resulted in our participants' anticipating that something they looked forward would feel as if it had almost no duration at all.
In another study, we asked participants to imagine going on a weekend trip that they either expected to be fun or terrible. We then asked them how far away the start and end of this trip felt like using a similar 0 to 100 scale. 46% of participants evaluated the positive weekend as feeling like it had no duration at all: They marked the beginning and the end of the vacation virtually at the same location when using the slider scale.
Thinking in hours and days
Our goal was to show how these two judgments of an event – the fact that it simultaneously seems farther away and is assumed to last for less time – can nearly eliminate the event's duration in the mind's eye.
We reasoned that if we didn't explicitly highlight these two separate pieces – and instead directly asked them about the duration of the event – a smaller portion of people would indicate virtually no duration for something they looked forward to.
We tested this theory in another study, in which we told participants that they would watch two five-minute-long videos back-to-back. We described the second video as either humorous or boring, and then asked them how long they thought each video would feel like it lasted.
We found that the participants predicted that the funny video would still feel shorter and was farther away than the boring one. But we also found that participants believed it would last a bit longer than the responses we received in the earlier studies.
This finding gives us a way to overcome this biased perception: focus on the actual duration. Because in this study, participants directly reported how long the funny video would last – and not the perceived distance of its beginning and its end – they were far less likely to assume it would be over just as it started.
While it sounds trivial and obvious, we often rely on our subjective feelings – not objective measures of time – when deciding how long a period of time will feel and how to best use it.
So when looking forward to much-anticipated events like vacations, it's important to remind yourself just how many days it will last.
You'll get more out of the experience – and, hopefully, put yourself in a better position to take advantage of the time you do have.