The Umayyad Caliphs, 661-750
The dynasty starts with Muawiya (ruled 661-80), who had been governor of Syria. Uthman had also been an Umayyad, but is classed as one of the four Rightly-Guided caliphs. Shia Muslims believe that the succession should have gone through Ali.
Muawiya had fought against Byzantium and had a well-trained army to set against the anarchic Bedouin who had followed Ali.
The Shia vilify Muawiya. They believe that his conversion to Islam was superficial, that he was motivated by lust for power and that he secured it by force. They point out that he is the only Sahaba Caliph (companion of the Prophet) who was not regarded as righteously guided by the Sunni. (He was related to the Prophet, like the others.)
His son and heir Yazid I is hated for his actions towards the house of Ali, in particular for sending forces against Ali’s son Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala in 680.
The great administrators of the dynasty, Muawiya I, Abd al-Malik (ruled 685-705) and Hisham (ruled 724-43) took over many of the systems of the Greeks and Persians.
In 661-71 the Arabs conquered Tokharistan (Bactria), which the Persian Empire had won from the Ephthalite Hun Empire. This put the Islamic state astride the overland route between India and China via the Oxus-Jaxartes basin.
They had completed the conquest of North Africa by 698.
In 706-15 they conquered Transoxiana and Khwarezm, which had been the Turkish steppe-dwellers’ share of the Ephthalite Empire. They consolidated their position there in subsequent decades.
In 710-12 they extinguished the Visigothic Kingdom in Spain.
In 711 they conquered Sind and the southern Punjab, up to and including Multan.
On four fronts, they were defeated.
In order to conquer Asia Minor and take Constantinople, they needed naval command of the Mediterranean. In 669 Muawiya built a fleet. In 674-8 and in 717-18 the Arabs besieged Constantinople by sea and land and were defeated.
In 677 they gained a temporary foothold in the Lebanon. In 741 they were brought to a halt along the line of the Amanus range in southern Turkey. They did eventually carry their frontier beyond the Amanus to the Taurus.
In 732 they failed to conquer Carolingian France. Before reaching the Loire, they were checked at Poitiers.
In 737-38 they failed to conquer the empire of the Khazar nomads, between the Volga (which flows into the Caspian) and the Don (which flows into the Sea of Azov).
The Umayyad caliphs faced the opposition of Shiite Arab tribesmen of Iraq and that of pious elements in Medina who favoured the claims of Ali’s descendants, the Imams of the Shia (Shiʿat Ali or party of Ali).
The masses of non-Arab peoples in the conquered territories, the Mawali, began to stir and to resent their position as second-class citizens.
In 750 the Umayyads were overthrown by a revolution which began in Khurasan in eastern Persia, led by Abu Muslim Khorasani. One of the few members of the Umayyad family to survive was Hisham’s grandson, Abd al-Rahman, who escaped to North Africa and continued the Umayyad line in Spain.
See Clifford Edmund Bosworth, The Islamic Dynasties, A Chronological and Genealogical Handbook, Edinburgh University Press, 1967, revised 1980. There have been subsequent revisions. It contains complete lists of rulers. I am partly following it in this series, but leaving out most diacritics used in romanisations of Arabic.
Umayyad Moque, Damascus, picture: studyblue.com
Archive for the 'Central Asia' Category
The Mongols invaded Japan in 1274, and again in 1281, after the completion of their conquest of the Sung Empire in 1279. On both occasions Japanese valour was assisted by storms that made havoc of the invaders’ ships. In 1274 the Mongols’ expeditionary force was small, and it broke off its attack after only one day’s fighting. In 1281 the invading force was on a large scale, and the attack was kept up for two months. The repulse of these two Mongol assaults on Japan had as momentous an effect on mankind’s history as the repulse of the two Persian assaults on European Greece in the fifth century B.C. [492-90 and 480-79] and as the failure of the two Muslim Arab sieges of Constantinople [674-78 and 717-18].
He could have added: “and as the failure of the two Turkish sieges of Vienna” (1529 and 1682-83).
The Persians never set foot on mainland Greek soil again, nor the Mongols on Japanese. The Arabs never returned to the walls of Constantinople, nor the Turks to the walls of Vienna.
Mankind and Mother Earth, A Narrative History of the World, OUP, 1976, posthumous
Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia, OUP, 1980, on early European explorations of the Taklamakan Desert
Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet, OUP, 1982
Setting the East Ablaze: Lenin’s Dream of an Empire in Asia, OUP, 1984
The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia, OUP, 1990
On Secret Service East of Constantinople: The Great Game and the Great War, OUP, 1994, on plots by the Germans to raise Central Asia against the British during the First World War
Quest for Kim: In Search of Kipling’s Great Game, OUP, 1996, travelogue about the locations of Kipling’s novel
“Vevey . [Bracket in Toynbee. Real date a Monday, perhaps earlier rather than later, between September 27 and November 8.]
“There is a perfect little woman here, mother of a fair-haired child, niece of Gortschakoff. She smokes cigarettes, very small, very elegantly. She told me that Ignatieff never by any chance told the truth. It is a proverb in Russia: ‘II ment comme Ignatieff’.
“She was mentioning the overthrow of previous civilisations by barbaric forces; and we came to the conclusion that it was unlikely that the Tartars, who seem the only available barbarians, would stamp out the civilisation, extended as it is over the World. She expressed her belief that the dark force is developed with the brightness of prosperity all-pervading now; and then suggested that what could provide a force strong, ignorant, barbarian, and widespread, is the lower populations of the various nations of Europe grouped in some such society as the International inbred with communistic and destructive notions” (Journals and Letters of Reginald Viscount Esher, ed. by M. V. Brett, vol. i (London 1934, Nicholson & Watson), p. 34). This passage [which is from the Journals] was brought to the present writer’s attention by his friend J. L. Hammond on the 3rd September, 1934.
This elegant smoker, casting a shadow during the belle époque, might have been the wife of the diplomat Nikolay Girs. The Ignatieff must have been the ambassador to Constantinople at the time, Nikolay Pavlovich Ignatyev.
Esher was the twenty-three-year-old son of Sir William Brett, first Baron Esher 1885, Viscount 1897. See James Lees-Milne, The Enigmatic Edwardian, The Life of Reginald, 2nd Viscount Esher, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1986. The 5th Viscount lives.
Vevey is a beautiful town, sloping towards Lake Geneva.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924), Hashish, Oriental Symphonic Poem, opus 53, 1913. State Academic Symphony Orchestra, Evgeny Svetlanov. Echoes of Scheherezade.
The choice of Ecbatana [modern Hamadan, western Iran] for the summer residence of the Achaemenian Court was doubtless partly due to the coolness of its climate and partly to its historic prestige as the former capital of the Median Power which the Achaemenian Empire had supplanted. Under the Achaemenian régime, even after its reorganization by Darius I on a narrower political basis, the Medes were second only to the Persians in the hierarchy of imperial peoples.
Ecbatana was also on the road which linked the Tigris-Euphrates basin with the Oxus-Jaxartes basin, passing across the northern part of the Iranian plateau. In other words, the part of the Silk Road connecting Mesopotamia with Sogdiana or Transoxiana.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
Dr Omar Ashour, Director, Middle East Graduate Studies Programme, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, The World Tonight, BBC Radio 4, August 14: “Chile 1973, Argentina post-1976, in Algeria 1992, in Tajikistan 1992, in Spain 1936.”
He wasn’t allowed to continue. Wikipedia list of “incidents involving direct voter fraud or in which the results were procedurally contested, massively or violently protested, or recognized as fraudulent by a reliable international organization”. That covers elections, like the recent one in Zimbabwe, which were contested by those with legitimate grievances, but not counter-coups of the kind that has been staged in Egypt.
List of coups d’état and coup attempts.
Has Egypt had a civil war since pharaonic times? It is hard to imagine one in that old country, but also hard to imagine any way out of this impasse.
United States Presidents and control of Congress: historical charts.
Artemis (Diana to the Romans) sent Iphigeneia to Tauris (Crimea) after rescuing her from the human sacrifice that Iphigeneia’s father, Agamemnon, was about to perform on her. Iphigeneia became a priestess at her temple. Here, she was forced by the Taurian king Thoas to perform human sacrifices on any foreigners who came ashore. (Euripides, Goethe. Campra, Gluck, Piccinni.)
The Scythians expelled the Cimmerians in the interior during the seventh century BC (both were Indo-European). The Cimmerians who survived in the southern coastal regions became known as the Tauri and gave their name to the peninsula.
Were Cimmerians participating in a Greek cult? Was Artemis originally Cimmerian? Tauris and its inhabitants’ custom of killing Greeks are described by Herodotus.
In the fifth century BC, Greek colonists began to settle along the Black Sea coast. Dorians from Heraclea founded the port of Chersonesos outside modern Sevastopol. Ionians from Miletus landed at Feodosiya and Panticapaeum (the latter also called Bosporus, after the strait between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea).
In 438 BC, the Archon of the Ionians assumed the title of King of the Cimmerian Bosporus. This Bosporan Kingdom came to dominate the other colonies in the peninsula. It supplied Athens with wheat, honey and other commodities. The last of that line of kings, Paerisades V, hard-pressed by the Scythians, put himself under the protection of Mithridates VI, the king of (Greek or Greco-Persian) Pontus, in Anatolia, in 114 BC.
After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic Wars (88-63 BC), Pontus was defeated. From 63 BC until AD 370, when it was overrun by Huns, the Cimmerian Bosporus was a client kingdom of Rome.
A few centuries after the Hunnic invasion, the Bosporan cities enjoyed a revival, under Byzantine or Bulgarian protection. Other powers: Khazars (Turkic converts to Judaism), Kievan Rus, Kipchaks and Cumans (Turkic), Genoese, Mongols, Crimean Tatars (Turkic), Ottoman Turks, Russian Empire.
The main line of Sunni Caliphs – Rightly Guided, then Umayyad, then Abbasid – came to an end when the Mongols conquered Baghdad in 1258.
A surviving member of the Abbasid house was installed at Cairo under the patronage of the newly formed Mamluk Sultanate three years later.
In 1517 the Ottoman Turks took the last nominal Abbasid Caliph at Cairo into custody and transported him to Constantinople.
When he died, the Caliphate was virtually in abeyance. The first time Caliph was used as a political instead of symbolic religious title by the Ottoman Sultans was in the peace treaty with Russia at the end of the war of 1768-74, as a way of allowing the Turks to retain moral authority in territory they had ceded, notably the Crimea.
Around 1880 Sultan Abdul Hamid II reasserted the title as Russia expanded into Central Asia. His claim was fervently accepted by the Muslims of British India.
The Khilafat movement (1919-24) was a vain pan-Islamic protest campaign launched by Muslims in India to persuade the British government to protect the Ottoman Empire and the Caliphate. The Ottoman Sultanate was abolished in 1922, the Caliphate in 1924.
At the time when the present chapter was being written, it looked as if this had really been the end of the Caliphate, for an immediate attempt on the part of the Hāshimī King Husayn of the Hijāz to assume the office (on the eve, as it turned out, of his own ejection from his ancestral patrimony by Ibn Saʿūd) was – in spite of the Sharīf’s unimpeachable Qurayshī lineage and his sovereignty, at the moment, over the two Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina – as dismal a failure as most of his other enterprises. Nor did any practical action result from a Caliphate Congress held at Cairo on the 13th-19th May, 1926.
Yet, even if this forecast were to prove correct – though, in the light of previous history, it would not be safe to sign a death certificate for so resilient an institution as the Caliphate until it had been in abeyance for at least a quarter of a millennium [footnote: Its latest interregnum had lasted from the death of the last Cairene ʿAbbasid Caliph Mutawakkil in A.D. 1543 to the drafting of the Russo-Turkish Treaty of Küchuk Qaynārja in A.D. 1774.] – the marvel would be, not that the Caliphate should have petered out at last, but that, on the strength of having been an effective sovereignty over a span of less than two hundred years, [footnote: From the death of the Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632 to the death of the ʿAbbasid Caliph Amīn (imperabat A.D. 809-13), in a civil war with his brother and supplanter Ma’mūn (imperabat A.D. 813-33) over the heritage of their father Hārūn-ar-Rashīd (imperabat A.D. 786-809).] it should have been able within that time to acquire a prestige sufficient to keep it alive, and twice revive it, [footnote: i.e. at Cairo in A.D. 1261 and at Constantinople in A.D. 1774.] for another eleven hundred years [footnote: Reckoning from the death of the Baghdādi ʿAbbasid Caliph Amīn in A.D. 813 to the deposition of the Constantinopolitan ʿOsmanli Caliph ʿAbd-al-Mejīd in A.D. 1924.] during which it never emerged from the state of political impotence into which it had begun to decline in the reign of Hārūn-ar-Rashīd’s son Ma’mūn (imperabat A.D. 813-33).
The revival of the Caliphate is often predicted today, in Brummie, Indonesian and other accents.
Ma’mūn is written thus in the OUP text, not as Maʿmūn.
At times in Muslim history there have been rival caliphs, notably those of the Ismaili Shia Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa, 909-1171.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
For the Primitive Muslim Arabs’ feat of conquering the Oriental provinces of the Roman Empire with one hand and the whole of the Sasanian Empire with the other hand simultaneously, between A.D. 632 and A.D. 643, see [reference given to an earlier part of the work]. In these twelve years of conquest the Arabs emulated the achievement of the Macedonians in 334-323 B.C. without quite equalling it. While the larger part of the area conquered was the same, the Arabs fell short of their Macedonian predecessors both on the north-west and on the north-east. On the north-west they did not win any permanent foothold in the Anatolian Peninsula; on the north-east they did not begin the conquest of the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin until more than half a century, or complete it until more than a century, had passed since their occupation of the north-eastern frontier fortresses of the Sasanian Empire in A.D. 643-51.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
There was no North-East Frontier Province so-called, but the Burma-Yunnan border was the Raj’s northeast frontier from the fall of Mandalay in 1886 to Burma’s separation from India in 1937. In the north, on the Burma side, were the Kachin Tracts. In the south were the Shan States. Those British names do not do justice to the complex ethnographic map of Burma.
Now India’s northeast frontier is Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China. If you take Arunachal away, it is Assam. Arunachal borders Tibet and Burma. So would Assam but for Arunachal: the buffer was established by the McMahon line in 1914. Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, to the south of Arunachal, border Burma.
I saw a novella in a real bookshop recently about life in the Kachin country: Last Chukker by JK Stanford (the Wikipedia entry needs an editor), Faber and Faber (no less), mcmli. 1951.
“Few writers have attempted to describe the north-eastern frontier of Burma, where it marches with Yunnan, in all its loveliness and savagery. Fewer still have woven a real knowledge of this land, little known even before the Japanese War, into a tale of smuggling and polo, of mystery and murder, of wild beasts, and even more dangerous men.
“The author of The Twelfth, who knew Burma well for over eighteen years, has crowned the vivid story of Jeremy Gayner (naturalist and ex-policeman and the bankrupt outcast of the European community) with a climax which will thrill even those who have never seen polo played.
“Last Chukker is an unforgettable vignette of the Burma which came to an end so abruptly in 1941.”
How can one resist an invitation to a lost world? I bought, read and enjoyed it.
Stanford saw active service in both wars, and between the wars was a civil servant in Burma, including in the Police Department.
M.F.M.M., Obituary, Lt.-Col. J.K. Stanford, O.B.E., M.C., Scottish Birds, Vol 7, No 1, spring 1972:
“He was one of that admirable band of servants of the British Empire who passed the few hours of leisure they had in enriching, or even founding, the ornithology of the remote areas where they were stationed, and it is as an authority on Burmese fauna that J.K.’s name will largely survive.”
Until twenty years ago, one read obituaries of these Empire naturalists in the Telegraph.
He wrote many books, mainly in his retirement in England. The first, The Twelfth (1944, revised 1964), written in the North African desert, was a comic fantasy of English sporting life about a character called George Hysteron-Proteron. Later came Ladies in the Sun: The Memsahibs’ India, 1790-1860 (1962). His bird knowledge is evident in Last Chukker.
The nineteen year-old Orwell joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma in 1922 and stayed until ’27. Perhaps Stanford met him. Perhaps Orwell reported to Stanford. Orwell’s maternal grandmother lived at Moulmein. He was posted in various places, ending in Katha, which became the setting for Burmese Days (1934). That was furthest north he got. He arrived in Burma during a crime wave which had turned it into the most violent corner of the Empire.
Emma Larkin quotes a memoir by Stanford (Reverie of a Qu’hai, and Other Stories, 1951, apparently a memoir) in her book about Orwell in Burma, Secret Histories, John Murray, 2004:
“‘Everyone had realised what an astounding assortment of malefactors – murderers, dacoits, thieves, robbers, house-breakers, forgers, coiners, blackmailers, and so on – each district possessed. They seemed to spring up like dragon’s teeth, till there were scarcely enough columns in the criminal game-book.’”
We meet them in Last Chukker. One wonders how much of that savagery was a result of British interference with Burmese life.
Last Chukker has illustrations (drawings by Maurice Tulloch). I wish more books did, but publishers are too lazy and mean to commission them. “What is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?”
Beyond the Raj, to the north and east, were desert, ice and green: Sinkiang (Xinjiang, Chinese Turkestan), Tibet and Yunnan. Which, come to think of it, are the colours of the Indian flag, not that that is its official symbolism.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and India border Xinjiang.
India, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma border Tibet.
Burma, Laos and Vietnam border Yunnan.
Click to activate. Maps will open in a new window.
Downloading the active file to your desktop should allow controlled navigation.
Not complete, obviously. Some dates are exact, some arbitrary. They are not for the most part the starting dates of dynasties.
The file has to be used with a lot of caution, but it does show a few simple things. For example, the Zhou origins of the Chinese state around the Yellow River. The extension of power south of the Yangtze after the Qin unification. The absorption of Hainan by the Han. The first Chinese expansion into the Tarim and Dungarian basins (Xinjiang) under the Tang (the area was not re-absorbed until the Qing or Manchu; not even the Mongols included it). The first inclusion of Manchuria under the Jin, ancestors of the Manchus. How Yunnan was not sinified until the Mongol invasion, even if the Eastern Jin had absorbed it briefly. The inclusion of Mongolia and Tibet by the Mongols (Yuan) and then again by the Qing. The absorption of Taiwan by the Qing. The Qing concession to Russia of territory beyond the Amur.
The Ming conquest of Vietnam lasted about twenty years (1407-27). It appears as part of China in the map here, which is dated 1410. Had earlier Chinese dominations been only in the north?
The confusing thing about Chinese dynasties is that Western and Eastern or Northern and Southern refer to successive incarnations of a dynasty, not simultaneous states of a divided dynasty.
The apparent triumph of our Western Political Nationalism in the Islamic World since the beginning of the twentieth century of our era – and, conspicuously, since the outbreak of the general war of A.D. 1914-18 – is a remarkable testimony to the assimilative power of our Western Civilization and to the inability of the Islamic Civilization to hold its own against it. For the Pan-Islamic Movement, which was set in motion under the patronage of the Ottoman Sultan-Caliph ʿAbd-al-Hamīd (imperabat A.D. 1876-1909) as an attempt to enable the Islamic World to repel the Western offensive, was not only good strategy on its merits (on the principle that “union is strength”); it was also in the true line of the Islamic tradition; for, from the time of the Hijrah, which was the crucial event in the career of Muhammad and in the history of the institution that he founded, Islam had been a unitary society which embraced both the two Western social fields of Church and State; and, after the founder’s death, the unity of Islam in its political aspect had been incarnated in the Arab Caliphate [...]. Thus the Pan-Islamic attempt to restore the political unity of Islam, under the historic aegis of a Caliphate, in face of a formidable external menace to the Islamic Society’s very existence, might have seemed a promising stroke of statesmanship; and the rapid rout of Pan-Islamism by an irresistible outbreak of Nationalism in the Muslim ranks is a surprising denouement.
A Study of HIstory, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
For the East Roman Empire, the seventh century was a time of almost continuous troubles. The mutiny in 602 and the murder of the Emperor Maurice plunged the Empire into anarchy. In 604 the Persians started to invade the Empire’s Asian provinces, while the Slav Völkerwanderung from the north bank of the lower course of the Danube swamped the whole of the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. The Empire had hardly begun to recover from the last and worst Romano-Persian war of 604-28, when the Arabs launched their assault in 633. The climax of this assault was the Arab siege of Constantinople in 674-8, and this peril had only just been surmounted when, in 680-1, the Eurasian nomad Bulgars established a permanent foothold on the south bank of the Danube.
At the first Arab siege, napalm or Greek fire was first used. There was a second Arab siege in 717-18. The Bulgars were not Slavs, but by the tenth century had become slavicised.
The founder of the First Bulgarian Empire in 681 was Asparukh.
Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous
Owing to the tendency of the parochial states of a broken-down civilization in its Time of Troubles to sharpen their weapons in fratricidal conflicts with one another and to take advantage of this dearly bought increase in their military proficiency to conquer neighbouring societies with their left hands while continuing to fight one another with their right hands, most universal states have embraced not only a fringe of conquered barbarians but substantial slices of the domain of one or more alien civilizations as well. Some universal states, again, have been founded by alien empire-builders, and some have been the product of societies within whose bosoms there has already been some degree of cultural variety even on a reckoning which does not differentiate between march-men and the denizens of the interior of the same social world. [...]
No other universal state known to History appears to have been as homogeneous in culture as Japan under the Tokugawa régime. In “the Middle Empire” of Egypt, in which a fringe of barbarians on the Nubian glacis of its Theban march was one element of variation from the cultural norm of the Egyptiac Society of the age, there was another and more positive feature of cultural diversity in the Empire’s culturally Sumeric provinces and client states in Palestine and Coele Syria. As for “the New Empire”, which was a deliberate revival of the original Egyptiac universal state, it accentuated the pattern of its prototype by completing the assimilation of the barbarians of Nubia and by embracing the domain of an abortive First Syriac Civilization in Syria and North-Western Mesopotamia; and this culturally tripartite structure – in which the cultural domain of the civilization through whose disintegration the universal state has been brought into existence is flanked by culturally alien territories annexed at the expense of both barbarians and neighbouring civilizations – appears to be the standard type.
For example, in the Mauryan Empire, which was the original Indic universal state, an Indic cultural core was flanked by an alien province in the Panjab, which had been at least partially Syriacized during a previous period of Achaemenian rule after having been partially barbarized by an antecedent Völkerwanderung of Eurasian Nomads, while in other quarters the Mauryan Empire’s Indic core was flanked by ex-barbarian provinces in Southern India and possibly farther afield in both Ceylon and Khotan as well. The Guptan Empire, in which the Mauryan was eventually reintegrated, possessed an ex-barbarian fringe, with an alien Hellenic tincture, in the satrapy that had been founded by Saka war-bands in Gujerat and the North-Western Deccan, and a Hellenized fringe, with a Kushan barbarian dilution, in the territories under its suzerainty in the Panjab. In a Han Empire which was the Sinic universal state, the Sinic World proper was flanked by barbarian annexes in what was eventually to become Southern China, as well as on the Eurasian Steppe, and by an alien province in the Tarim Basin, where the Indic, Syriac, and Hellenic cultures had already met and mingled before this cultural corridor and crucible was annexed to the Han Empire for the first time in the second century B.C. and for the second time in the first century of the Christian Era. In the Roman Empire, which was the Hellenic universal state, a culturally Hellenic core in Western Anatolia, Continental European Greece, Sicily, and Italy, with outlying enclaves in Cilicia, in Syria, at Alexandria, and at Marseilles, was combined with the domain of the submerged Hittite Civilization in Eastern Anatolia, with the homelands of the Syriac and Egyptiac civilizations in Syria and in the Lower Nile Valley, with the colonial [Carthaginian] domain of the Syriac Civilization in North-West Africa, and with ex-barbarian hinterlands in North-West Africa and in Western and Central Europe as far as the left bank of the Rhine and the right bank of the Danube. [Footnote: Leaving out of account the late-acquired and early-lost Transdanubian bridgehead in Dacia.]
There are other cases in which this standard cultural pattern has been enriched by some additional element.
In the Muscovite Tsardom, a Russian Orthodox Christian core was flanked by a vast ex-barbarian annex extending northwards to the Arctic Ocean and eastwards eventually to the Pacific, and by an Iranic Muslim annex consisting of the sedentary Muslim peoples of the Volga Basin, the Urals, and Western Siberia. This pattern was afterwards complicated by Peter the Great’s deliberate substitution of a Westernized for a traditional Orthodox Christian cultural framework for the Russian Orthodox Christian universal state, and by the subsequent annexation of additional alien territories – at the expense of the Islamic World on the Eurasian Steppe and in the Crimea, the Caucasus, and the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin, and at the expense of Western Christendom in the Baltic Provinces, Lithuania, Poland, and Finland.
In the Achaemenian Empire, which was the original Syriac universal state, there was an antecedent cultural diversity, within the Syriac core itself, between the Syrian creators of the Syriac Civilization and their Iranian converts, and a geographical gap between Syria and Iran that was still occupied by the dwindling domain of the gradually disappearing Babylonic culture. The Achaemenian Empire also embraced the domain of the submerged Hittite culture in Eastern Anatolia, the best part of the domain of the Egyptiac Civilization, fringes torn from the Hellenic and Indic worlds, and pockets of partially reclaimed barbarian highlanders and Eurasian Nomads. Moreover, after its life had been prematurely cut short by Alexander the Great, its work was carried on by his political successors, and especially by the Seleucidae, whom it would be more illuminating to describe as alien Hellenic successors of Cyrus and Darius. In the Arab Caliphate, in which the Achaemenian Empire was eventually reintegrated, the Syriac core – in which the earlier diversity between Syrian creators and Iranian converts had been replaced by a cleavage, along approximately the same geographical line, between ex-subjects of the Roman and ex-subjects of the Sasanian Empire – was united politically, by Arab barbarian empire-builders, with barbarian annexes – in North-West Africa, in the fastnesses of Daylam and Tabaristan between the Elburz Mountains and the Caspian Sea, and on the fringes of the Eurasian Steppe adjoining the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin – and with fragments of alien civilizations: a slice of the new-born Hindu World in Sind; the potential domain of an abortive Far Eastern Christian Civilization in the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin; an Orthodox Christian diaspora in Syria and Egypt; and a fossil of the by then elsewhere extinct Babylonic Society at Harran.
In the Mongol Empire, which was a universal state imposed by alien empire-builders on the main body of the Far Eastern Society in China, the annexes to a Chinese core were unusually extensive – including, as they did, the whole of the Eurasian Nomad World, the whole of Russian Orthodox Christendom, and the ex-Sasanian portion of a Syriac World which by that time was in extremis. The Mongols themselves were barbarians with a tincture of Far Eastern Christian culture. In the Manchu empire-builders, who subsequently repeated the Mongols’ performance on a less gigantic yet still imposing scale, there was the same tincture in a more diluted form; and the Chinese universal state in its Manchu avatar once again embraced, in addition to its Chinese core, a number of alien annexes: a “reservoir” of barbarians in the still unfelled backwoods and still virgin steppes of Manchuria, the whole of the Tantric Mahayanian Buddhist World in Tibet, Mongolia, and Zungaria, and the easternmost continental outposts of the Islamic World in the Tarim Basin, the north-western Chinese provinces of Kansu and Shansi, and the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
In the Ottoman Empire, which provided, or saddled, the main body of Orthodox Christendom with its universal state, the alien ʿOsmanli empire-builders united an Orthodox Christian core with a fringe of Western Christian territory in Hungary, with the whole of the Arabic Muslim World except Morocco, the Sudan, and South-Eastern Arabia, and with pockets of barbarians and semi-barbarians in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, the Mani, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and on the Arabian Steppe. In the Mughal Empire, which was the Ottoman Empire’s counterpart in the Hindu World, the pattern was simpler, since, apart from the Iranic Muslim empire-builders and their co-religionists who had been deposited in the Hindu social environment by earlier waves of invasion from the Middle East and Central Asia [since the twelfth century], the Mughals’ only [sic] non-Hindu subjects were the Pathan barbarian highlanders on the north-western fringe of their dominions. When, however, the Mughal Rāj was replaced by a British Rāj, the pattern of the Hindu universal state became more complex; for the advent of a new band of alien empire-builders, which substituted a Western element for an Islamic at the political apex of the Hindu universal state, did not expel the Indian Muslims from the stage of Hindu history, but merely depressed their status to that of a numerically still formidable alien element in the Hindu internal proletariat, so that the Hindu universal state in its second phase combined elements drawn from two alien civilizations with a Pathan barbarian fringe and a Hindu core.
There had been other universal states in which, as in the Mughal Empire, the cultural pattern had been less complex than the standard type yet not so simple as that of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Empire of Sumer and Akkad, which was the Sumeric universal state, included no representatives of an alien civilization – unless Byblus and other Syrian coast-towns are to be counted as such in virtue of their tincture of Egyptiac culture. On the other hand, the Sumeric Civilization itself was represented in two varieties at least – a Sumero-Akkadian and an Elamite – and in no less than three if the domain of the Indus Culture should prove also to have been included in “the Empire of the Four Quarters of the World”. Moreover, the Babylonian Amorites, who eventually restored a polity that had been first constructed by the Sumerian Ur-Engur (alias Ur-Nammu) of Ur, were not merely marchmen but marchmen with a barbarian tinge. So, on a broader and a longer view, the cultural pattern of the Sumeric universal state proves to have been less homogeneous than might appear at first sight. “The thalassocracy of Minos”, again, which was the Minoan universal state, probably included representatives of the continental Mycenaean variety of the Minoan culture as well as the creators of that culture in its Cretan homeland, even if it did not embrace any representatives of an alien civilization.
In the Central American World, two once distinct sister societies – the Yucatec Civilization and the Mexic – had not yet lost their distinctive characteristics, though they had already been brought together by force of Toltec arms, when the task, and prize, of establishing a Central American universal state was snatched, at the eleventh hour, out of the hands of barbarian Aztec empire-builders by Spanish representatives of an utterly alien Western Christendom. In the Andean World the Empire of the Incas, which was the Andean universal state, already included representatives of the Kara variety of the Andean culture [...] before the indigenous Incan empire-builders were suddenly and violently replaced by Spanish conquistadores from Western Christendom who turned the Andean World upside-down, with a vigour reminiscent of Alexander the Great’s, by proceeding to convert the indigenous population to Christianity and to variegate the social map by studding it with immigrant Spanish landlords and self-governing municipalities.
The Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy, which served as a carapace for Western Christendom against the assaults of the ʿOsmanlis, and which, seen from the south-east, wore the deceptive appearance of being a full-blown Western universal state, set itself, like the Tokugawa Shogunate, to achieve domestic cultural uniformity, but lacked both the ruthlessness and the insularity which, between them, enabled the Japanese isolationists for a time to put their policy into effect. In pursuing its aim of being totally Catholic, the Hapsburg Power did succeed, more or less, in extirpating Protestantism within its frontiers; but the very success of its stand, and eventual counter-attack, against the Ottoman embodiment of an Orthodox Christian universal state broke up the Danubian Monarchy’s hardly attained Catholic homogeneity by transferring to Hapsburg from Ottoman rule a stiff-necked minority of Hungarian Protestants and a host of Orthodox Christians of divers nationalities, most of whom proved unwilling to accept the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome, even when the yoke was proffered in the easy form of Uniatism [union with Rome and retention of local rites], while, among those who did accept this relatively light burden, the rank and file remained nearer in heart and mind to their dissident Orthodox ex-co-religionists than they ever came to be to their fellow Catholics who were of the Latin Rite.
The [post-Assyrian] Neo-Babylonian Empire [or Chaldean Empire], which was the Babylonic universal state, similarly forfeited its cultural purity – and thereby worked unwittingly for the eventual extinction of the Babylonic Civilization itself – when Nebuchadnezzar conquered and annexed the homeland of the Syriac Civilization west of the Euphrates; and the impress of the indigenous Babylonic culture became progressively fainter as the domain which Nebuchadnezzar had bequeathed to a short line of native successors was incorporated first into the barbaro-Syriac Empire of the Achaemenids and then into the Hellenic Empire of the Seleucids.
Our survey has shown that, in the cultural composition of universal states, a high degree of diversity is the rule; and, in the light of this fact, it is evident that one effect of the “conductivity” of universal states is to carry farther, by less violent and less brutal means, that process of cultural pammixia that is started, in the antecedent Times of Troubles, by the atrocities that these bring in their train. The refugees, exiles, deportees, transported slaves, and other déracinés of the more cruel preceding age are followed up, under the milder régime of a universal state, by merchants, by professional soldiers, and by philosophic and religious missionaries and pilgrims who make their transit with less tribulation in a more genial social climate.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The military vs the militant.
Though Hūlāgū Khan was a pagan under the influence of a Nestorian Christian wife [...], he did not take the ʿAbbasid Caliph’s life without some searchings of heart:
“The awe with which the institution of the Caliphate was regarded, even in these days of its weakness, may be realised by the fact that, cruel and bloodthirsty savage though Hūlāgū was, even he hesitated to put to death the Successor of the Prophet, for the Muhammadans who accompanied him in his army in the expedition against Baghdad had warned him that, if the blood of the Khalīfah was shed upon the ground, the World would be overspread with darkness and the army of the Mongols be swallowed up by an earthquake” (Arnold, op. cit., p. 81). [Arnold, Sir T. W.: The Caliphate (Oxford 1924, Clarendon Press) [...].]
He killed the last Abbasid there nevertheless. Three years later, in 1261, the Mamluk sultans appointed a nominal Abbasid Caliph in Cairo. In 1517, the Abbasid Caliph of Egypt, Al-Mutawakkil III, was transported to Constantinople, and Sultan Selim I announced himself to be a Caliph.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
The Mauryas and the Guptas alike retained their seat of government at Pataliputra (the latter-day Patna), which had previously been Magadha’s parochial capital. [Magadha was ancient Bihar.] Standing, as it did, at the junction of the Ganges with the Jumna and with two other tributaries, Pataliputra was the natural administrative centre for the Ganges Basin [...].
After the derelict domain of an enfeebled Mauryan Empire had been overrun by the Euthydemid Bactrian Greek prince Demetrius in the second decade of the second century B.C., the conqueror transferred the seat of government from Pataliputra to a new site far along the Great North-West Road connecting the former Mauryan capital with Demetrius’s own former capital at Bactra (Balkh) on the Central Asian side of the Hindu Kush. Demetrius’s New Taxila [it was called Sirkap] lay near the old city of the same name, in the neighbourhood of the latter-day Rawalpindi, which, before the foundation of the Mauryan Empire, had been the capital of a parochial Indian state; and it commanded the approaches, on the Indian side, to the difficult section of the highway in which a traveller had to negotiate the three successive obstacles of the River Indus, the Khyber Pass, and the main chain of the Hindu Kush.
This neighbourhood was the natural location for the capital of a Power which was seeking to “abolish the Hindu Kush” by uniting the Ganges-Jumna Basin with the Oxus-Jaxartes Basin. The Greek warlord Demetrius’s pioneering essay in this audacious defiance of physical geography proved ephemeral. The Bactrian Greek Power had no sooner overrun the Mauryan Empire than it was broken up by fratricidal warfare which opened the way for Nomad invasions of its dominions on the Indian as well as the Central Asian side of the Hindu Kush; but, when, after more than two centuries of kaleidoscopic political changes, the momentary achievement of the Greek empire-builder Demetrius was repeated in the first century of the Christian Era by the Kushan empire-builder Kadphises I and was perpetuated by Kadphises’ successors, the seat of government of this reconstituted political union of North-Western India with Central Asia came to rest not far from the spot originally selected for it by Demetrius. The capital of the Kushan Empire was planted at Peshāwar [then called Purushapura], on the Great North-West Road between the Indus and the Khyber Pass.
After the Mauryan Empire had been re-established by the Guptas, history repeated itself. The Guptas, like their predecessors, ruled the Indic World from Pataliputra; but, when the Guptan Empire collapsed in its turn and was momentarily restored by the Emperor Harsha (imperabat A.D. 606-47), this last of all the rulers of the Indic universal state [after this, in Toynbee’s terminology, the society is no longer Indic, but Hindu] placed his seat of government, not at Pataliputra, but at Sthanesvara [now called Thanesar] on the banks of the Upper Jumna, above the site of Delhi, covering the north-western approaches to the Ganges Basin from the quarter from which Hun and Gurjara Nomad invaders had swept down on the Guptan Empire from the Eurasian Steppe in the preceding chapter of Indic history.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
Byron’s main source seems to have been Voltaire. (Liszt based his rather tiresome symphonic poem on Byron.)
“The poem opens with a framing device: Mazeppa and the Swedish King Charles XII, together with their armies, are retreating from the Battle of Poltava, where they were defeated by the Russians. Exhausted and war-weary, the two men set up camp for the night. The King admires Mazeppa’s horsemanship, and Mazeppa offers to tell him how he learnt this skill. The poem then switches to the first person. Mazeppa describes his youth and his service as a page to King John II Casimir in Poland. He becomes acquainted with Theresa, a beautiful woman who ‘had the Asiatic eye’. She is married to a Count who is thirty years her senior. Mazeppa falls passionately in love with her, is unable to control his passions, and they meet at night and consummate their love.
“However, the Count’s men catch them together and bring him to the Count. The Count orders an unusually cruel punishment: Mazeppa is to be tied naked to a steed, which is then to be taunted and set loose. Stanzas 10 to 18 recount the steed’s flight across Eastern Europe, emphasizing the pain, suffering and confusion that Mazeppa feels. However, the horse has seemingly limitless energy. Mazeppa nearly dies twice. In Stanza 13, he describes himself ‘full in death’s face’, but is restored when the horse swims through a river. Stanza 18 concludes with a description of ‘an icy sickness’ and his vision of a raven flying overheard, ready to feast on his corpse. However, in Stanza 19, Mazeppa awakes to find himself in bed, with his wounds being tended by a Cossack maid. In the final stanza, Mazeppa’s narrative ends. The poet-narrator describes Mazeppa preparing his bed for the evening. King Charles is already asleep.
“There are historical sources which verify that the Orthodox Ivan Stepanovych Mazepa, his historical name, served in the Polish Court to John II Casimir. However, it is unclear why he left Poland in 1663 and returned to his homeland in what is now Ukraine. There is no historical evidence that Mazepa was exiled from Poland because of a love affair, or that he was punished by being strapped to a wild horse.”
After Poltava, Mazeppa, as I write it, arrived with Charles XII at the Turkish fortress of Bendery, within modern Moldova. Mazeppa died there a few months later.
Géricault, c 1820, private collection; crossing the river; the body has the animal immediacy of a cave painting
Charles XII [...] defiantly courted death in the trenches before Frederiksten in A.D. 1719 [...].
He was invading Norway – and died in 1718, not ’19. Denmark-Norway was one of Russia’s allies in the Great Northern War of 1700-21 (Sweden and others vs Russia and others).
Charles had already led Sweden to its major defeat by Russia in the Battle of Poltava (Russian Empire territory in the Ukraine) in 1709. This was the occasion on which the Dniepr Cossack Mazeppa, who been helping the Russians to suppress a rebellion of the Don Cossacks, unwisely switched sides and supported Sweden.
Peter the Great’s callow peasant army had won its spurs in A.D. 1709 at Poltava, in the Ukraine, against Charles XII’s far-ranging Swedes [...].
The Battle of Poltava, orchestral passage in Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa; the opera is after Pushkin’s narrative poem Poltava, which was an answer to Byron’s Mazeppa; performers not stated
With peace in 1721, Protestant Sweden and Catholic Poland-Lithuania (1385-1795) ceased to be major powers. Russia gained its Baltic territories and became the greatest power in Eastern Europe.
Voltaire published his Histoire de Charles XII in 1731. Charles ought to have been a hero in Cold-War America.
Between A.D. 1494 and A.D. 1952 the only other actor of a leading part in the Western power game who had lost his life in battle had been one of Charles XII’s predecessors on the throne of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus. Napoleon, like Francis I, had died in his bed; Hitler had died in his bunker.
The great-power century for Sweden had begun with Gustavus Adolphus. He died in 1632 at the Battle of Lützen in Saxony, near Leipzig, during the Thirty Years’ War (Sweden and others vs Holy Roman Empire and Spain).
For Toynbee, 1494, the date of Francis I’s invasion of Italy, was the beginning of modern international power relations in Europe: the age which ended in 1945.
A Swedish militarism that had been rampant since Gustavus Adolphus (regnabat A.D. 1611-32) had disembarked his expeditionary force on German soil on the 27-28th June, 1630, had been extinguished by a subsequent and consequent Swedish experience of being bled white by Charles XII (regnabat A.D. 1697-1718).
Gustavus Adolphus was a hero in Protestant Germany. My grandfather had an engraving of him hanging in the hall of his house in Baden-Württemberg.
Gustavus Adolphus in a Polish coat, Matthäus Merian the Elder, 1632, Skokloster Castle, Stockholm
Charles XII, David von Krafft workshop or circle, 1724 (posthumous), location?
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (passages not contiguous)
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote) (third extract)
Attack on the Sufi Sidi Yahia mosque in Mali. Sufis venerate saints. Salafi fundamentalists don’t like that. This is something like the destruction of the sixth-century Buddhas of Bamiyan in central Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2001.
Timbuktu was an important centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th centuries. The city played a major role in spreading Islam in West Africa. As somebody has said, Mali is threatening to become the Afghanistan of Africa.
BBC slide show. BBC radio’s The World Tonight has a segment on this today, starting 34 minutes in.
Not my footage, I hasten to add. With Tajik Air from Khorog (Tajik Pamirs near Afghan border) to Dushanbe (Tajik capital). More at uncorneredmarket.com.
Pamir song. Different source.
Click. (Strange spelling of Uzbekistan.) The Hindu Kush is a western extension of the Pamirs. On Aksai Chin, see this post.
Both images Wikimedia Commons.
Maps of the Silk Road differ and are often approximate if not inaccurate. Nor is there one Silk Road. I’ll take this one, which appears to be in the public domain, as a simple reference. It shows the main route from Chang’an, now Xi’an, in Shaanxi province, going north and south of the Taklamakan desert or Tarim Basin. The westernmost city in modern China here is Kashgar or Kashi. From there the road passes through Tajikistan (and perhaps Kyrgyzstan) into Uzbekistan – in other words, through Sogdiana – and from there into Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria.
This does not show an alternative southern route which began west of Kashgar and passed through Bactria, north of the Hindu Kush, before rejoining the main route north of Merv.
Another road left China to cross the Karakoram into what is now Pakistan.
The Silk Road is not a steppe route. It runs south of the steppe. It is a mountain and desert route.
Buddhism entered China on the Silk Road via the Kushan Empire in the first century of the Christian era.
I hold the Fates bound fast in yron chaines,
And with my hand turne Fortune’s wheel about,
And sooner shall the Sun fall from his Spheare,
Than Tamburlaine be slaine or overcome …
The God of war resignes his roume to me,
Meaning to make me Generall of the world;
Jove, viewing me in armes, lookes pale and wan,
Fearing my power should pull him from his throne.
Where ere I come the fatall sisters sweat,
And griesly death by running to and fro,
To doo their ceassles homag to my sword …
Millions of soules sit on the bankes of Styx,
Waiting the back returne of Charon’s boat,
Hell and Elysian swarme with ghosts of men,
That I have sent from sundry foughten fields,
To spread my fame through hell and up to heaven …
Nor am I made Arch-monark of the world,
Crown’d and invested by the hand of Jove,
For deeds of bounty or nobility;
But since I exercise a greater name,
The Scourge of God and terrour of the world,
I must apply my selfe to fit those tearmes,
In war, in blood, in death, in crueltie …
I will persist a terrour to the world,
Making the Meteors, that like armed men
Are scene to march upon the towers of heaven,
Run tilting round about the firmament,
And breake their burning Lances in the aire,
For honor of my woondrous victories.
[Footnote: Marlowe, Christopher: Tamburlaine the Great, ll. 369-72; 2232-8; 2245-9; 3824-30; 3875-80.]
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
Newish Granta-format quarterly published by the UK-based Muslim Institute.
I worried about the title at first, but I suppose the implication is fair.
Issue 4: forthcoming on Pakistan
Review by Robin Yassin-Kassab at Pulse of Alex Strick van Linschoten, Felix Kuehn, editors; Mirwais Rahmany, Abdul Hamid Stanikzai, translators; Faisal Devji, foreword; Poetry of the Taliban, Hurst & Co.
“What is so interesting is that the Taliban’s official face and past practice has been so fiercely anti-Sufi, anti-historical, and seemingly anti-culture. This book provides an entirely different outlook. Indeed, in their rich memory of 19th century British invasions, of Afghan folklore and Islamic heroism, the Taliban poets seem more awake to history than we are.”
“Of this city of Rome you could not say either that it was left unfortified with a Lacedaemonian bravado or that it was enclosed in fortifications of a Babylonian magnificence. … You have not, however, you Romans, neglected to build walls; only you have run them round your empire and not round your city. You have placed them in the uttermost parts of the Earth; yet they are magnificent walls which are worthy of you and are a sight for the eyes of all who live within their shelter – though it would take an intending sight-seer months or even years to reach them if Rome itself were the starting-point of his journey; for you have pushed your way beyond the outermost circuit of the Inhabited World and there, in no-man’s-land, you have drawn a second circuit with a more convenient tracée which is easier to defend – for all the world as though you were simply fortifying a city. … This circuit is utterly impregnable and indestructible at every point; it outshines all others; and no system of fortifications that was ever constructed before bears any resemblance to it.” [Footnote: Aristeides, P. Aelius: In Romam, edited by Keil, B., in Aelii Aristidis Quae Supersunt Omnia, vol. ii (Berlin 1898, Weidmann), pp. 114-15 (Or. XXVI, §§ 79-84).]
Dura-Europos was founded in 303 BC by the Seleucids. It controlled the river-crossing on the route between the other newly-founded cities of Antioch and Seleucia (which was further east, on the Tigris). In the later 2nd century BC it came under Arsacid Parthian control. The Romans captured it in 165, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, roughly at the time Aristides was writing, and abandoned it after a Sassanian siege in 256-7 (the Persians may have used poisonous gases). It was then covered by sand and mud. American archaeologists discovered it in the late nineteenth century.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
Açoka has left us a notice of the philosophic missions which he sent to the realms of five of Alexander’s successors in the second generation, but no record of his emissaries’ activities has come to us from their mission field, and, whatever their fortunes may have been, they made no discernible effect upon the history of Mankind. In seeking to propagate the philosophy of Siddhārtha Gautama beyond the western limits of his own Mauryan Peace, Açoka was unlucky in his generation, for the Achaemenian Peace, which had proved so conductive a medium for Judaism and Zoroastrianism, and had perhaps conveyed to the Hellenic World the Zoroastrian and Indic elements that are to be found in Orphism, had been broken up by force of Macedonian arms two generations before Açoka’s time, and the anarchy that racked the Syriac and Hellenic worlds, with little intermission, from this break-up of the Achaemenian Peace to the establishment of the Roman Peace was particularly unpropitious for missionary work.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
The contact of China with [...] medieval Western Christendom during the brief period when the Mongol universal state extended continuously from the coasts of China to the coasts of the Black Sea and the Baltic was a curiosity of history which, like Alexander’s raid on India, had no lasting effect.
This refers to Alexander’s crossing of the Indus. His effect on the right bank of the Indus was lasting, and his Bactrian successor Demetrius made a more lasting impact in northwest India.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
In the encounter between the world and the West that has been going on by now for four or five hundred years, the world, not the West, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the West that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the West; and that is why, in the title of this book, the world has been put first.
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
In writing both the world and the west into my title, and writing the two words in that order, I was doing both things deliberately, because I wanted to make two points that seem to me essential for an understanding of our subject. The first point is that the west has never been all of the world that matters. The west has not been the only actor on the stage of modern history even at the peak of the west’s power (and this peak has perhaps now already been passed). My second point is this: in the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the west that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the west; and that is why, in my title, I have put the world first.
Let us try, for a few minutes, to slip out of our native western skins and look at this encounter between the world and the west through the eyes of the great non-western majority of mankind. Different though the non-western peoples of the world may be from one another in race, language, civilisation, and religion, if we ask them their opinion of the west, we shall hear them all giving us the same answer: Russians, Moslems, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, and all the rest. The west, they will tell us, has been the arch-aggressor of modern times, and each will have their own experience of western aggression to bring up against us. The Russians will remind us that their country has been invaded by western armies overland in 1941, 1915, 1812, 1709, and 1610; the peoples of Africa and Asia will remind us that western missionaries, traders, and soldiers from across the sea have been pushing into their countries from the coasts since the fifteenth century. The Asians will also remind us that, within the same period, the westerners have occupied the lion’s share of the world’s last vacant lands in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South and East Africa. The Africans will remind us that they were enslaved and deported across the Atlantic in order to serve the European colonisers of the Americas as living tools to minister to their western masters’ greed for wealth. The descendants of the aboriginal population of North America will remind us that their ancestors were swept aside to make room for the west European intruders and for their African slaves.
This indictment will surprise, shock, grieve, and perhaps even outrage most of us westerners today. Dutch westerners are conscious of having evacuated Indonesia, and British westerners of having evacuated India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon, since 1945.
That was all the territory Britain had lost by 1952, except for Palestine and concessions in China. We lost none, except Sudan (which was an Anglo-Egyptian “condominium”) and a military base at Suez, between Ceylon on February 4 1948 (which completed our evacuation of the subcontinent) and Ghana on March 6 1957.
1952 was also a year of direct British and American interference in the internal affairs of Iran.
British westerners have no aggressive war on their consciences since the South African war of 1899-1902, and American westerners none since the Spanish-American war of 1898. We forget all too easily that the Germans, who attacked their neighbours, including Russia, in the First World War and again in the Second World War, are westerners too, and that the Russians, Asians, and Africans do not draw fine distinctions between different hordes of “Franks” – which is the world’s common name for westerners in the mass. “When the world passes judgment, it can be sure of having the last word”, according to a well-known Latin proverb. And certainly the world’s judgment on the west does seem to be justified over a period of about four and a half centuries ending in 1945. In the world’s experience of the west during all that time, the west has been the aggressor on the whole; and, if the tables are being turned on the west by Russia and China today, this is a new chapter of the story which did not begin until after the end of the Second World War. The west’s alarm and anger at recent acts of Russian and Chinese aggression at the west’s expense are evidence that, for westerners, it is today still a strange experience to be suffering at the hands of the world what the world has been suffering at western hands for a number of centuries past.
The lectures introduced ideas which would be developed in the eighth volume of the Study.
In the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west [...], has had the significant experience
is the most striking sentence. These views were shocking, as he says, to many listeners in 1952. They seemed defeatist.
I have taken this from a transcript on the BBC website, not from the printed book: there may be differences. The transcript probably shows what was printed in The Listener. I have made the use of upper case in references to world wars consistent.
The lectures were published in book form as
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
The trade between the Greek settlements on the north shore of the Black Sea and the Royal Scythians had its [medieval] counterpart in a trade between Venetian and Genoese settlements on the same coast and the Golden Horde. During the Mamlūk régime in Egypt, when the Mamlūks were importing their slave-successors from the Great Western Bay of the Eurasian Steppe and not, as in the second phase, from the Caucasus, the Venetians were the principal carriers of this valuable human freight.
A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
Modern, like Ancient, Greece was assailed in her infancy by a conqueror from the east, and, unlike Ancient Greece, she succumbed. Turkish nomads from the central Asiatic steppes had been drifting into the Moslem world [including Iran] as the vigour of the Arabs waned. First they came as slaves, then as mercenaries, until at last, in the eleventh century, the clan of Seljuk grasped with a strong hand the political dominion of Islam. As champions of the [Abbasid] caliph the Turkish sultans disputed the infidels’ encroachment on the Moslem border. They challenged the Romaic Empire’s progress in Armenia, and in A. D. 1071 – five years after the Norman founded at Hastings the strong government which has been the making of England – the Seljuk Turk shattered at the battle of Melasgerd [Manzikert] that heritage of strong government which had promised so much to Greece.
Melasgerd opened the way to Anatolia. The Arab could make no lodgement there, but in the central steppe of the temperate plateau the Turk found a miniature reproduction of his original environment. Tribe after tribe crossed the Oxus, to make the long pilgrimage to these new marches which their race had won for Islam on the west, and the civilization developed in the country by fifteen centuries of intensive and undisturbed Hellenization was completely blotted out. The cities were isolated from one another till their commerce fell into decay. The elaborately cultivated lands around them were left fallow till they were good for nothing but the pasturage which was all that the nomad required. The only monuments of architecture that have survived in Anatolia above ground are the imposing khans or fortified rest-houses [caravanserais] built by the Seljuk sultans themselves after the consolidation of their rule, and they are the best witnesses of the vigorous barbarism by which Romaic culture was effaced. The vitality of the Turk was indeed unquestionable. He imposed his language and religion upon the native Anatolian peasantry, as the Greek had imposed his before him, and in time adopted their sedentary life, though too late to repair the mischief his own nomadism had wrought. Turk and Anatolian coalesced into one people; every mountain, river, lake, bridge, and village in the country took on a Turkish name, and a new nation was established for ever in the heart of the Romaic world, which nourished itself on the life-blood of the Empire and was to prove the supreme enemy of the race.
This sequel to Melasgerd sealed the Empire’s doom. Robbed of its Anatolian governing class and its Anatolian territorial army, it ceased to be self-sufficient, and the defenders it attracted from the west were at least as destructive as its eastern foes. The brutal regime of the Turks in the pilgrimage places of Syria had roused a storm of indignation in Latin Europe, and a cloud gathered in the west once more. It was heralded by adventurers from Normandy, who had first served the Romaic Government as mercenaries in southern Italy and then expelled their employers, about the time of Melasgerd, from their last foothold in the peninsula. Raids across the straits of Otranto carried the Normans up to the walls of Salonika, their fleets equipped in Sicily scoured the Aegean, and, before the eleventh century was out, they had followed up these reconnoitring expeditions by conducting Latin Christendom on its first crusade.
Manzikert is the traditional English spelling. The modern Turkish is Malazgirt. The victor was the third Seljuk sultan, Alp Arslan. His Byzantine opponent was Romanos IV Diogenes.
Greece, in The Balkans, A History of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, Rumania, Turkey, various authors, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1915
The Ballets Russes, that solar flare, weren’t the first Russian dancers to reach the West. The Degas exhibition now on at the Royal Academy in London makes it clear that there was a vogue for Russian dancing in Paris in the 1890s. Did the Imperial ballet ever tour?
There is a pastel of some red-booted Russian, actually Ukrainian, dancers who are obviously dancing the gopak. Also some film.
Here is a gopak from Mussorgsky’s unfinished opera, Sorochintsy Fair, after Gogol.
It’s called Sorochinsky there (Albert Coates, LSO), I don’t know whether wrongly. Anyway, I find poetry in “Sorochintsy Fair”. Gopak comes from hopaty (гопати), to jump. Tchaikovsky put a gopak or Cossack Dance into the first act of his Ukrainian opera Mazeppa, after Pushkin. There’s a famous trepak in the Nutcracker. It’s usually called “Russian Dance”, but is also Ukrainian. Is there an etymological connection there with “trip”?
Anyone who thinks Degas ballet pictures have no more to tell them, and when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, needs to go to that exhibition if they can. It’s entering its last seven days and is an amazing piece of exhibition-making. The last main room, assembling many of his late pastels, would alone have been a major event. It won’t be reassembled in my lifetime. The last important pastel is from 1903. When you look at those works, it is impossible to believe that he had been born in 1834.
Cold rehearsal rooms in Paris and St Petersburg. Degas painted one at the Salle Le Peletier, the old opera house, several years after it had burned down.
The exhibition is called Degas: Picturing Movement. We are shown the cinematic experiments of Marey in France and Muybridge in England.
What happened to stockiness?
Also fascinating experiments of others, especially the photosculptures of François Willème.
We are given a glimpse of the low life of Marie van Goethem, the Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. Her face is beautifully-rendered.
Is there a lack of humanity in Degas?
Russians are the world’s best dancers. Go to any authentic club in Moscow. I saw proof in a disco in Almaty in 1996, where I went with a Kazakh of Korean ancestry called Vlad.
Tchaikovsky’s dance music is evidence. Deportation of Koreans in the Soviet Union.
At the end of the exhibition is a 10- (15-?) second clip of Degas in a street in Paris in 1915 shot by Sacha Guitry. I could watch it forever.
Philip Walker, foreignpolicy.com, June 24.
The transit of the Far Eastern [Han dynasty] invention of paper across the conductive expanse of the Arab Caliphate [...] was impressively rapid. Reaching Samarqand from China in A.D. 751, the use of paper had spread to Baghdad by A.D. 793, to Cairo by A.D. 900, to Fez (Fas), almost within sight of the Atlantic, by about A.D. 1100, and to Jativa in the Iberian Peninsula by A.D. 1150.
It might pedantically be pointed out that Cairo was not founded until 969. But Fustat is in effect now old Cairo.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
We have watched the Confucian litterati surviving the dissolution of a Sinic universal state embodied in the Han Empire and eventually regaining their monopoly of an imperial civil service after a ghost of the Han Empire had been raised by the Sui Dynasty and kept on foot by the Sui’s successors the T’ang; and in the same contexts we have also observed that, in achieving this remarkable recovery of lost ground on the plane of public administration, the Confucians were winning a political victory over Taoist and Mahayanian Buddhist contemporaries and rivals. The reestablishment by T’ang T’ai Tsung, in A.D. 622, of an official examination in the Confucian Classics as the method of selecting new recruits for the imperial civil service signified that, in this political field, the Taoists and Buddhists had let slip an opportunity for supplanting the Confucians which had seemed to be within the grasp of these upstart competitors for public office during a post-Sinic interregnum, when the prestige of the Confucians had been damaged by the collapse of the universal state with which they were identified, while, in a defunct Han Empire’s former northern provinces, which had been the cradle of the Sinic culture, Taoists and Buddhists were enjoying the political patronage of barbarian rulers of local successor-states who found the Mahāyāna more attractive than Confucianism and who would have been glad in any case to recruit their civil servants from any non-Confucian community that might be qualified for office by possessing the necessary standard of education, rather than place themselves in the hands of Confucians whose loyalty they sagely doubted.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
An episode from the early Qing dynasty that is relevant today: Robert Barnett, New York Review of Books, April 6.
Buddhism arrived in Tibet in the seventh century. Tibetan Buddhism was important from the eleventh century in Central Asia, especially Mongolia and Manchuria. It was introduced into China by the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Manchu Qing dynasty.
This episode is from 1679 and the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama. Barnett:
“It was the Fifth Dalai Lama who was first given the authority to rule Tibet [politically], following its invasion by a Mongol warlord who was a ferocious supporter of the Dalai Lama’s sect and so placed him on the throne, when he was twenty-five years old. [...] The Fifth seems to have been extraordinarily capable, because under his rule, backed up by the Mongols’ army, Tibet expanded into a vast and unified state covering most of the Tibetan plateau, with an organized bureaucracy, tax, and census system.” The fifth Dalai Lama and his regent Sangye Gyatso built the Potala Palace.
The Mughal conquerors of India reinforced their own scanty numbers with drafts of fellow Muslims from an Iranic [ie Perso-Turkish] World out of which they themselves had issued; and in their dearth of martial man-power they did not hesitate to accept recruits from among the barbarous Uzbegs who had driven Bābur out of Farghānah [into India] and the heretical qyzyl-bāshīs with whom he had allied himself, against his conscience, in a vain attempt to recover the Transoxanian heritage of his ancestor Timur from the Uzbeg invader. Yet even the most generous-handed sharing of the spoils of India with fellow Iranic Muslims enlisted at the eleventh hour did not give the Mughals the strength to complete the conquest of the peninsula, or even to hold securely what they had already won, against the obstinate resistance of the epigoni of earlier Muslim conquerors; and they found themselves constrained to sin against the spirit and tradition of Islam by enlisting the services of the infidel chivalry of their Rājpūt client states in their fratricidal wars against their True Believing rivals.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World. British Museum until July 3.
This seems to be the same as the exhibition in Washington in 2008. The objects come from the Kabul Museum, most of whose artefacts were destroyed during the post-Soviet civil war (1989-96) and in the Taliban era (1996-2001).
Bamiyan Valley: empty niche of a Buddha destroyed in March 2001, and caves carved into the cliffs by Buddhist monks