Graphene’s been in the news a lot recently. The fear is that we British have invented it, but China and South Korea (and America) are walloping patents left, right and centre and might manufacture us out of the market. Graphene will become another on that list of things that we invented but others made money from – or, shall we say, took and ran with.
One quite effective 19th-century invention of ours, but which we fairly quickly lost interest in (at least, according to official documents…), and one which other found great currency in other countries – it’s still widely used – is the concentration camp.
We used it in the Boer War. The Boer War was ugly. Concentration camps were appalling, chiefly because of the unmitigated incompetence of anyone in establishing them or overseeing them properly. But since the British Army couldn’t even look after its horses, it’s hardly surprising that it couldn’t cope with thousands of displaced Boers and Africans.
Perhaps it’s as well that we weren’t organised, and that countless thousands died only as a result of our neglect. The concentration camp reached its most horrific proportions in better-martialled countries – Germany (where it spawned a sibling, the death camp) and the USSR – and, at present, in the faecal hell-hole that is North Korea.
The concentration camp is about the worst thing we’ve invented and exported; an invention we never patented, we have no control over its use whatever. We can only hang our heads in shame and despair.