Archive for the 'Anatolia/Turkey' Category

The stones of Anatolia

October 1 2015

For the Greek minorities in the interior [1921], nationalism has been a will-o’-the-wisp enticing them to destruction. Yet they, as well as the Smyrniots and Aivaliots [of the coast], have been attracted by it, partly because the latent sense of insecurity, inherent in minorities, makes them susceptible to movements promising cohesion and backing, and blind to their inevitable dangers; partly, too, because of the romantic vein introduced into all modern nationalism through the special circumstances of its origin in the West. Owing to the virtual stability of our linguistic boundaries since the Dark Age […], the romantic appeal to the past is a possible emotional basis in Western Europe for the demarcation of modern national states. Where Frenchmen or Italians held tournaments or built cathedrals in the Middle Ages, there are mostly still French and Italian populations anxious to be citizens of modern France and Italy. But in most parts of Anatolia where in the Middle Ages there were Orthodox Greeks belonging to the Near Eastern world, there are now Middle Eastern Moslem Turks. The continuity has been interrupted [since the Seljuk invasion]; the past offers not foundations but treacherous ruins; and the Greeks make matters worse by digging down below the mediaeval stratum to memories of Ancient Hellenism. For this folly we Westerners are largely to blame, for while we prudently refrain from importing the exploits of Ancient Romans, Gauls, or Goths into our contemporary national politics, and content ourselves with King Alfreds and Hohenstaufens and Joans of Arc, we have taught the unfortunate Greek peasant and merchant to say, parrot-wise, “I am a descendant of Pericles,” like foolish parents who bring up their children to be more affected than themselves. In Anatolia this extravagance is unfortunately encouraged by perpetual suggestion. The country abounds in imposing remains of mediaeval and classical antiquity, and the very stones cry out to any one who is foolish enough to lend an ear. At Kula, certain fragments of sculpture dating respectively from about the sixth century B.C. and the second century after Christ, were pointed out to me as a serious argument for including the town in Greece in 1921. The offensive against Angora [Ankara] was going to “cut the Gordian Knot”; the first day’s advance: inaugurated “a new Catabasis [descent] of Alexander”; the official communiqué ran: “We have occupied Dorylaion (Eski Shehir),” the modern name being added in brackets for the benefit of readers who had not made a profound study of the classical geographers. Political romanticism is essentially unhistorical, being an attempt to telescope past and present into one another, and it has an unlimited capacity  for ignoring what is inconvenient. At Gölde [near Kula], the Christians were hyperconscious of the twelfth-century Byzantine church and of the Greek characters carved on the nineteenth century tombstones, but took no account of the equally significant fact that the Greek script now recorded Turkish words. No doubt the Moslems of Gölde, when they go to school in imitation of their Greek neighbours, will claim the church as a monument of Saljuq art and argue that Turkish was the original language of the country, spoken by Lydians and Phrygians and Hittites before their temporary Hellenisation!

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922


May 22 2015

Pivio and Aldo De Scalzis’ music for Ferzan Özpetek’s 1997 movie Hamam. Memories of Istanbul in the ’80s.

Hashish (old post).


April 25 2015

The first victory of the Ottoman Empire was a defeat of the Byzantine army near Nicomedia, at Bapheus, in 1302. The defeat of British imperial and French forces on the Gallipoli peninsula, April 25 1915 to January 9 1916, was almost the last.

Gallipoli was also a landmark in the career of a Turkish general, Kustafa Kemal Atatürk. It was a dress rehearsal for the struggle to come.

It disgraced Churchill, who had ordered the naval attack.

During the Irish War of Independence balladeers sang “Twas better to die ’neath an Irish sky than in Suvla or Sedd el Bahr”.

Gallipoli helped to forge national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand, both newly independent and fighting their first war. Today is Anzac Day and the centenary of the start of the campaign.

The first Jewish fighting force – with a Jewish emblem and flag – since the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in AD 136 fought in Gallipoli. So, in a small way, this was a dress rehearsal for the wars of Zion.


The peninsula forms the northern or western bank of the Dardanelles, the strait that provided a sea route to the Russian Empire. Russia’s allies Britain and France launched a naval attack followed by a landing, intending to secure it and then capture Constantinople. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months’ fighting the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force withdrawn to Egypt.

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in Egypt in 1915 and commanded by General William Birdwood. It was disbanded in 1916. Later formations.

What has been happening in Palestine during the War? Dr. Trietsch informs us that the Ottoman Government has been proceeding with the “naturalisation” of the Palestinian Jews, and that the “local execution of this measure has not been effected without disturbances […].” [My bracket, not AJT’s.] One significant consequence was the appearance in Egypt of Palestinian refugees, who raised a Zion mule corps there and fought through the Gallipoli campaign.

The Zion Mule Corps was formed in March 1915. It was the precursor of the Jewish Legion (1917-21), the unofficial name for the 38th to 42nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, which fought against the Ottoman Empire. Jacob Epstein served in the 38th.

Casualties at Gallipoli:

Ottoman Empire (Turks, Arabs, others): 109,042 wounded and missing, 57,084 killed

Britain: 52,230 wounded, 21,255 killed

Australia: 19,441 wounded, 8,709 killed

France: 17,000 wounded, 10,000 killed (estimates), including an unknown number of Senegalese

New Zealand: 4,752 wounded, 2,721 killed

India: 3,421 wounded, 1,358 killed

Newfoundland: 93 wounded, 49 killed

Germans: a few fought with the Turks

The numbers vary greatly from one source to another. Allied numbers here are via, which gives its source as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Australia. It doesn’t say whether wounded includes missing. Ottoman numbers via Most sources give only the Allies. Have the Ottoman totals ever been broken down?

Anzac parade, London, date not shown:

Turkey, A Past and a Future, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917

Treitschke on the Turks

October 7 2014

“A near future will, it is to be hoped, blot out the scandal that such heathendom should ever have established itself on European soil. What has this Turkish Empire done in three entire centuries? It has done nothing but destroy.”


The same front matter page in the same pamphlet quotes Gladstone.

The title page has


Joint Note of the Allied Governments in answer to President Wilson.

Which the body of the text clarifies thus:

President Wilson, in his note to all the belligerent governments, called upon both parties to state in the full light of day the aims they have set themselves in prosecuting the War. The Allied Nations, in their joint response made public on January 11th, 1917, explain that they find no difficulty in meeting this request, and make good their words by stating a series of definite conditions. Among them are:

The liberation of the peoples who now lie beneath the murderous tyranny of the Turks; and

The expulsion from Europe of the Ottoman Empire, which has proved itself so radically alien to Western Civilisation.”

The plan of the Allies for the settlement of Turkey is thus communicated to the world without reserve, and it is worth examining what it involves, and why it is right.

No source is given for the Treitschke. Treitschke’s main historical work is Deutsche Geschichte im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (up to 1848), Leipzig, Hirzel, five volumes, 1879-94:

Bis zum zweiten Pariser Frieden

Bis zu den Karlsbader Beschlüssen

Bis zur Juli-Revolution

Bis zum Tode König Friedrich Wilhelms III

Bis zur März-Revolution.

The propagandist (old post).

“The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks”, with a Preface by Viscount Bryce, Hodder & Soughton, 1917

Euphrates to Rhine

July 15 2014

“Hinc movet Euphrates, illinc Germania bellum”. – Virgil, Georgic I, l. 509.

“Here the Euphrates, there Germany wages war.” Americans might see their last century partly in those terms.

Virgil was writing about the time of the confrontation of Octavian and Mark Antony at Actium.

The North Sea is connected with the Black Sea via the Main-Danube canal in Bavaria (the Main being a tributary of the Rhine), which was opened in its present form in 1992. It replaced the Ludwig Canal.

The Kara Su or Western Euphrates, one of the Euphrates’ two sources (the other is the Murat Su or Eastern Euphrates), rises in northeastern Turkey only sixty miles from the southeastern corner of the Black Sea. Kara means black. (Murat is a proper name.) So only a sixty-mile portage separates the Gulf from the North Sea.

The Tigris also rises in Turkey, a little further south.

A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)

The Greek occupation of Smyrna

November 5 2013

May 1919 – September 1922.

(The Allied occupation of Constantinople lasted from November 1918 to September 1923.

The Sultanate was abolished on November 1 1922. Mehmed VI left the country on November 17.

The Grand National Assembly governed for a year and declared a Republic on October 19 1923.

The Caliphate was abolished on March 3 1924.)

The area provisionally assigned to Greece round Smyrna under the Treaty of Sèvres was small compared to the territories mandated to Great Britain and France in Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The whole area carved out of the Ottoman Empire since 1821 to make an independent Greece is even smaller in comparison with the vast French and British dominions over Middle Eastern peoples in India, the Nile Basin, and North-West Africa. It is the misfortune as well as the fault of Greece – and the unmitigated fault of Allied statesmanship – that the occupation of Smyrna has had specially untoward consequences, but the circumstances could not fail to make trouble. The Greek troops were sent to Smyrna, with a mandate from the Supreme Council and under cover of the guns of Allied warships, more than six months after the armistice with Turkey. The landing – technically camouflaged as a movement of Allied troops for the maintenance of order – was probably contrary to the letter of the armistice, for no previous local disorder had been proved, and it was certainly contrary to its spirit. Within a few hours of the landing, the troops committed a bad massacre in the city; within a few days they advanced into the interior; and a new and devastating war of aggression against Turkey began in her only unravaged provinces. In the sixteenth month of this war, the Powers gave Greece a five-years’ administrative mandate in the Smyrna Zone, with the possibility of subsequent annexation. Turkey was the leading state of the Middle Eastern world, Greece a Near Eastern state of recent origin. She had been admitted with generous facility into the Western concert of nations; but the mandate now given to her – to govern a mixed population in which one element was of her own nationality – would have been a difficult test, in parallel circumstances, for the most experienced Western Power. It was wanton rashness to make such an experiment at Turkey’s expense; and after the experiment had proved a failure, it showed blind prejudice and partiality on the part of Western Governments that they should continue to give Greece material and moral support in her enterprise as an apostle of their civilisation.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

This book was published before the dénouement in Smyrna: its Preface is dated 22nd March 1922. Toynbee was a war correspondent in Turkey for the Manchester Guardian from January to September 1921.

The sick man of Europe

September 17 2013

[The] picture of the Turk as “the Sick Man” has had a curious history. It substituted itself in the imagination of the West for the older picture, in which the Westerner was the sinner and the Turk was the Scourge of God, divinely commissioned to chastise him, sometime between the raising of the second Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 and the establishment of the Russians on the shores of the Black Sea through the Peace Treaty of 1774. The phrase in which the new concept of the Turk finally found its classical expression was coined by the Czar Nicholas I in 1853, during a conversation with the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg. “We have on our hands a sick man – a very sick man. … He may suddenly die upon our hands. …”  From that day to this, the imminent decease of the supposed invalid has perpetually been awaited by his neighbours – by some of them with pleasurable expectancy, by others with anxiety, but by all with a dogmatic faith which seems capable of surviving any number of disillusionments. It was awaited in 1876 and in 1912 and, most confidently of all, in 1914; and now, when the Turk has given incontrovertible evidence of outward health and vigour by imposing the peace-settlement of Lausanne upon the victorious Allied Powers, his imminent dissolution through some hidden internal disease is prophesied with all the old assurance. We are told that the ravages of siphylis [sic] will extinguish the population of Turkey in three generations, or that the Turk cannot mend his own boots or work his own locomotives and will therefore perish through sheer economic incapacity now that alien minorities have been driven out. This persistence of the “Sick Man” theory indicates how powerfully the Western attitude towards Turkey is governed by a priori notions and how little it is based upon objective facts; for, as it has turned out, “the man recovered from the bite, the dog it was that died.” [Goldsmith.] At the time of writing, seventy-three years after Czar Nicholas I pronounced his celebrated verdict, the Czardom has vanished not only from St. Petersburg but from the face of Russia, whereas the Turkish “Sick Man” has taken up his bed and walked from Constantinople to Angora, where, to all appearance, he is benefiting by the change of air.

The words “of Europe”, which are used in the paragraph preceding this, ceased to have much meaning after the autumn of 1912. In the 1970s, the UK was called “the sick man of Europe” because of industrial strife and poor economic performance compared to other Common Market countries, culminating in the Winter of Discontent of 1978-79. Nowadays, the phrase is applied to Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.

Bernard Partridge

Bernard Partridge, Punch, April 7 1915; boor and sycophant

With Kenneth P Kirkwood, Turkey, in The Modern World series edited by HAL Fisher, Benn, 1926; it is unclear which passages are by which author, but this reads like Toynbee

Turkish peasant-conscripts

August 26 2013

Supposing that, through the triumph of the Central European powers, the Porte were to recover all the territories it held in Europe before the Autumn of 1912 [Western Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, Albania], this success would bring the Turkish peasant nothing but added misery. For him it would be a shouldering of cast-off burdens: he would once more spend years of his life garrisoning Macedonia far away from his family and his Anatolian farm, to perish at last most probably in some futile summer campaign to “Ottomanise” the untamable Albanians. The Turkish peasant is dumb [mute]: he has no education or cohesion, and therefore no public opinion: but if he could give expression to his will in a plebiscite, he would vote for being left in peace, and ask for some government which would not herd his folk out of their villages in thousands, and send them without commissariat, munitions of war, or medical succour, to perish in the deserts of Tripoli or on the stricken field of Lule Burgas. Since he is too inarticulate to express this, it is surely the mission of Panislamism, which has the ear of the civilised world and knows how to address itself to it, to speak for him and save him from his own government, instead of encouraging that government to exploit him to the detriment of his neighbours, and the danger of the general peace.

[…] [Let others imagine themselves] in the place of the unhappy Turkish conscript, transported from his temperate upland home in Anatolia to the military posts along that tropical volcanic plateau of “Stony Arabia” over which the Hejaz railway runs from Damascus to Medina, or worse still, dispatched by troop-ship down the Red Sea to the terrible, interminable Yemen campaign from which no soldier ever returns; or let [them] think of the Yemeni Arab himself. Heir to an archaic civilisation, isolated to an unparalleled degree by the deserts, he is not normally affected for good or evil by the rise and fall of world-empires; but now he is desperately at bay against the brutal, meaningless aggression of Turkish Imperialism, which has no better gift for him than for the Armenian or the Greek.

He shows some sympathy for Panislamism in this first book, completed early in 1915, but a Panislamism subject to the principle of Nationality, not an ideology for oppressive Young Turks exploiting their ownership of a Caliphate-Sultanate. Panislamism and nationalism are ultimately incompatible, so what does he mean?

The “New Arabia” [Arab territories east of Egypt] will not be the spiritual centre of the Arab race alone. By taking over from the Ottoman Empire the guardianship of the Holy Cities, it will inherit from it the primacy of the whole Moslem world. The sovereign of the new state will become the official head of Islam, and Arabia would do well to elect as its first constitutional sultan some prince of the reigning Ottoman house, who would inherit by birth the personal claim to the Caliphate won by his ancestor Selim, and transmit it to his heirs. This junior branch of the Ottoman line would soon eclipse its cousins who continued to rule over Anatolia, and the Arab would oust the Turk again from the dominant place among Mohammedan nations.

He deals with several practical questions, including some minorities – but not with the Jewish question. He was later strongly anti-Zionist, but the book says nothing about Palestine.

Old posts:

The birth of Turkish nationalism 1

The birth of Turkish nationalism 2

and the next two in that sequence (click forward).

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

A tea-party in Delhi

June 20 2013

When the news [of the abolition of the Caliphate] reached Delhi – where […] the Caliphate had been revered for seven hundred years [since the formation of the Delhi Sultanate] with a naïveté seldom corrected by first-hand acquaintance – the shock declared itself in a dramatic incident at a Red Crescent tea-party which offers a burlesque counterpart to the tragic scene in Saint Jerome’s cell at Bethlehem when the Christian scholar received the news of the fall of Rome.

“A mission from the Turkish Red Crescent Society, which was collecting funds in India at the moment when the news of the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate arrived, found it advisable to cut short its activities and return home. (The Times, 5th March, 1924; Oriente Moderno, IV, 3, p. 181). The news was actually received during a tea-party at Delhi, where the members of the Turkish mission were being entertained by their Indian co-religionists. Upon the recital of the telegram containing the text of the Turkish Law of the 3rd March, [1924,] [his bracket] all but two of the Indians present immediately left the room.”

A footnote gives the source of this as the previously cited

Toynbee, A. J.: Survey of International Affairs, 1925, vol. i (Oxford 1927, University Press), “The Islamic World since the Peace Settlement” […].

Jerome died near Bethlehem in 420. What is the source for the scene in his cell?

The shock felt by those hearing of the destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad in 1258 is also compared with the shock of hearing of the fall of Rome in 410.

The Indian telegram service will close on July 15.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

The resilience of the Caliphate

June 19 2013

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

Twelve years

June 15 2013

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)

Turkish peace

June 6 2013

2013 protests.

I featured Cem Günenç’s guitar playing in this blog’s 500th post. This is the 2,250th.

This sounds too gentle to be a national anthem. Perhaps the arrangement is by Günenç.

The words in the rousing and official İstiklal Marşı (here with instruments only, and rather Brahms-Hungarian final chord) are by Mehmet Âkif Ersoy. The music is by Osman Zeki Üngör. The words were adopted on March 12 1921, during the Turkish War of Independence, two and a half years before the establishment on October 29 1923 of the Republic. The music used between 1924 and 1930, and perhaps unofficially from 1921, was by Ali Rıfat Çağatay.

Foreign fields

June 3 2013

Anglican and partly-Anglican cemeteries in non-English-speaking countries:

Bangkok Protestant Cemetery

Bilbao British Cemetery

Bornova Anglican Cemetery, Izmir

British Cemetery, Callao

British Cemetery, Madrid

Cementerio Británico, Buenos Aires

Cheras Christian Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur

Christian Cemetery, Dhaka

English Cemetery, Florence

English Cemetery, Malaga

English Cemetery, Naples

First Cemetery of Athens

Gora Kabristan, Lahore

Feriköy Protestant Cemetery, Istanbul

Mount Zion Cemetery, Jerusalem

Old English Cemetery, Livorno

Old Protestant Cemetery, George Town

Old Protestant Cemetery, Macau

Protestant Cemetery, Rome

Protestant Cemetery, São Paulo

Yarborough Cemetery, Belize City

This, of course not complete, is everything relevant in a Wikipedia list of Anglican cemeteries generally. Apart from Lahore and Dhaka, it has nothing from British India, but it mentions the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia.

The rather user-unfriendly BACSA site says: “People sometimes think that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission [my link] cares for all graves in Britain’s former Empire, but in fact the Commission only deals with the graves of soldiers [of all Commonwealth countries] killed in World War One and World War Two. The graves of European civilians, and soldiers who died before World War One, and between the two World Wars, generally have no-one to protect them, or to record their inscriptions, which is where BACSA comes in.

“BACSA – the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia – was set up in 1977 to bring together people with a concern for the many thousands of British and other European cemeteries, isolated graves and monuments in South Asia. There is no one body or agency responsible for looking after these last resting places in the area from the Red Sea to the China Coast – wherever the East India Company and its rivals from France, the Netherlands and Denmark set foot. An estimated two million Europeans and Anglo-Indians – mainly British administrators, soldiers, merchants and their families – are buried in the Indian sub-continent alone. Without our support many of their graves and monuments – witnesses to centuries of European residence in the area – would disappear.

“We record the locations of cemeteries and monuments, and the inscriptions on headstones. We publish cemetery and church records containing names, inscriptions and biographical notes on individual tombs and gravestones. We support local people active in the restoration and conservation of European graveyards.”

It is run by volunteers and has a membership of 1,400 in the UK and elsewhere.

Another site,, “is attempting to preserve the images of graves and monuments before they disappear. It covers the area which used to be British India and includes present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Entries are not limited to British citizens. Monuments cover many nationalities. All information comes ad hoc from volunteers, therefore it is not an exhaustive and accurate survey.

“When I [John, site owner] started looking around cemeteries, I was shocked by the state of neglect of most of them. Monuments of British men, women and children, who had sometimes died in the most tragic ways, were crumbling into the dust. Some of the local people had a genuine interest in these cemeteries and were trying to get something done, but much of the money which is awarded for renovation work does not reach the people doing the work.

“The British Government, I was told, contributes nothing. [It does only in so far as it is a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.] If this is true, then it is indeed a disgrace.

“This site is a photographic record of those cemeteries and churches which I visited, along with transcriptions of the memorials and gravestones. They are not an exhaustive survey, as time did not permit. Since this site started it has continued to grow as contributions are sent in by other people.”

Quotations edited.

Old English Cemetery overview

The overgrown Old English Cemetery at Livorno

The gigantic crime

March 6 2013

We can sum up this statistical enquiry by saying that, as far as our defective information carries us, about an equal number of Armenians in Turkey seem to have escaped, to have perished, and to have survived deportation in 1915; and we shall not be far wrong if, in round numbers, we estimate each of these categories at 600,000.

The exact quantitative scale of the crime thus remains uncertain, but there is no uncertainty as to the responsibility for its perpetration. This immense infliction of suffering and destruction of life was not the work of religious fanaticism. Fanaticism played no more part here than it has played in the fighting at Gallipoli or Kut, and the “Holy War” which the Young Turks caused to be proclaimed in October, 1914, was merely a political move to embarrass the Moslem subjects of the Entente Powers. There was no fanaticism, for instance, in the conduct of the Kurds and chettis [bandits], who committed some of the most horrible acts of all, nor can the responsibility be fixed upon them. They were simply marauders and criminals who did after their kind, and the Government, which not only condoned, but instigated, their actions, must bear the guilt. The peasantry, again (own brothers though they were to the Ottoman soldiery whose apparent humanity at Gallipoli and Kut has won their opponents’ respect), behaved with astonishing brutality to the Armenians who were delivered into their hands; yet the responsibility does not he with the Turkish peasantry. They are sluggish, docile people, unready to take violent action on their own initiative, but capable of perpetrating any enormity on the suggestion of those they are accustomed to obey. The peasantry would never have attacked the Armenians if their superiors had not given them the word. Nor are the Moslem townspeople primarily to blame; their record is not invariably black, and the evidence in this volume throws here and there a favourable light upon their character. Where Moslem and Christian lived together in the same town or village, led the same life, pursued the same vocation, there seems often to have been a strong human bond between them. The respectable Moslem townspeople seldom desired the extermination of their Armenian neighbours, sometimes openly deplored it, and in several instances even set themselves to hinder it from taking effect. We have evidence of this from various places – Adana [footnote: Doc. 128.], for instance, and AF. [footnote: Doc. 126.] in Cilicia, the villages of AJ. and AK. [footnote: Doc. 126.] in the AF. district, and the city of Angora. The authorities had indeed to decree severe penalties against any Moslem as well as any alien or Greek who might be convicted of sheltering their Armenian victims. The rabble naturally looted Armenian property when the police connived, as the rabble in European towns might do; the respectable majority of the Moslem townspeople can be accused of apathy at worst; the responsibility cannot rest with these.

The guilt must, therefore, fall upon the officials of the Ottoman Government, but it will not weigh equally upon all members of the official hierarchy. The behaviour of the gendarmerie, for example, was utterly atrocious; the subordinates were demoralised by the power for evil that was placed in their hands; they were egged on by their chiefs, who gave vent to a malevolence against the Armenians which they must have been harbouring for years; a very large proportion of the total misery inflicted was the gendarmerie’s work; and yet the gendarmerie were not, or ought not to have been, independent agents. The responsibility for their misconduct must be referred to the local civil administrators, or to the Central Government, or to both.

The local administrators of provinces and sub-districts – Valis, Mutessarifs and Kaimakams – are certainly very deeply to blame. The latitude allowed them by the Central Government was wide, as is shown by the variations they practised, in different places, upon the common scheme. In this place the Armenian men were massacred; in that they were deported unscathed; in that other they were taken out to sea and drowned. Here the women were bullied into conversion; here conversion was disallowed; here they were massacred like the men. And in many other matters, such as the disposal of Armenian property or the use of torture, remarkable differences of practice can be observed, which are all ascribable to the good or bad will of the local officials. A serious part of the responsibility falls upon them – upon fire-eaters like Djevdet Bey or cruel natures like the Governor of Ourfa [footnote: Doc. 119.]; and yet their freedom of action was comparatively restricted. Where they were evilly-intentioned towards the Armenians they were able to go beyond the Central Government’s instructions (though even in matters like the exemption of Catholics and Protestants, where their action was apparently most free, they and the Central Government were often merely in collusion) [footnote: See Doc. 87 relating to the town of X.]; but they might never mitigate their instructions by one degree. Humane and honourable governors (and there were a certain number of these) were powerless to protect the Armenians in their province. The Central Government had its agents on the spot – the chairman of the local branch of the Committee of Union and Progress [footnote: Docs. 72 and 128.], the local Chief of Gendarmerie, or even some subordinate official [footnote: Doc. 70.] on the Governor’s own administrative staff. If these merciful governors were merely remiss in executing the instructions, they were flouted and overruled; if they refused to obey them, they were dismissed and replaced by more pliant successors. In one way or another, the Central Government enforced and controlled the execution of the scheme, as it alone had originated the conception of it; and the Young Turkish Ministers and their associates at Constantinople are directly and personally responsible, from beginning to end, for the gigantic crime that devastated the Near East in 1915.

Editor, The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-16: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, by Viscount Bryce, with a Preface by Viscount Bryce, Hodder & Stoughton and His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1916, online here (nearly 600 pages)

Atatürk and Churchill

February 24 2013

The only incidents in the two world wars to which posterity might perhaps be able to look back without being abashed at the spectacle of human wickedness and folly were the Turkish people’s resistance in 1919-22 to the recent victors in the First World War and the British people’s resistance in 1940-1 to a temporarily victorious Germany. These two peoples had the spirit to resist though they were facing fearful odds and though they had no apparent prospect of escaping defeat and destruction. Both peoples were fortunate in finding leaders – Mustafa Kamal Atatürk and Winston Churchill – who inspired them to rise to the occasion.

A case of a historian respecting victors. What about all the unsuccessful resistance to Germany, Russia and Japan?

Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous

The rout of Pan-Islamism by Nationalism

November 21 2012

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)

Cultural diversity in universal states

October 20 2012

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 old Islamic order

October 19 2012

The military vs the militant.

The Silk Road

June 22 2012

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 near 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.

On the other hand, from Transoxiana, traders could pass north of the Aral and Caspian seas in order to reach the Black Sea ports via the steppe.

Buddhism entered China on the Silk Road via the Kushan Empire in the first century of the Christian era.

The salt lake at the eastern edge of the Taklamakan is Lop Nur.

The Dzungarian Gap is the approach, between the Altai to the north and the Tien Shan to the south, across the now-Chinese Gobi, to the Great Wall and China proper.

China’s artificial northern frontier was the Wall. Its natural northern frontier was the Gobi.

Critical Muslim

June 19 2012

Newish Granta-format quarterly published by the UK-based Muslim Institute.

Editors: Ziauddin Sardar and Robin Yassin-Kassab.

International advisory board: Karen Armstrong, William Dalrymple, Anwar Ibrahim, Arif Mohammad Khan, Bruce Lawrence, Ebrahim Moosa, Ashis Nandy.

I worried about the title at first, but I suppose the implication is fair.

Issue 1: The Arabs Are Alive

Issue 2: The Idea of Islam

Issue 3: Fear and Loathing

Issue 4: forthcoming on Pakistan


Critical Muslim 3

The Greek Fathers

April 30 2012

(Those who wrote in Greek. Can one speak of Koine for the last two?)

Irenaeus of Lyons (?-c 202)

Clement of Alexandria (c 150-c 215)

Origen of Alexandria (c 184-c 253)

Athanasius of Alexandria (c 297-373)

The Cappadocian Fathers: Basil of Caesarea (c 329-379), Gregory Nazianzus (c 329-389), Gregory of Nyssa (c 335-after 394), Peter of Sebaste (c 340-391)

John Chrysostom (c 347-407)

Cyril of Alexandria (c 378-444)

Maximus the Confessor (c 580-662)

John of Damascus (c 676-749)

The Apostolic Fathers

April 29 2012

The Apostolic Fathers are believed to have been taught directly by one or more of the twelve.

Clement of Rome

Ignatius of Antioch

Polycarp of Smyrna

The Didache and Shepherd of Hermas are considered to be by Apostolic Fathers although their authors are unknown. Like the works of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, they were written in Koine Greek.

The significant experience

April 11 2012

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

Ahmet and Gokhan

March 30 2012

The Turkish pink certificate.

There is no right of conscientious objection in the Turkish army.


March 8 2012

John F Guilmartin, review of David Abulafia, The Great Sea, A Human History of the Mediterranean, OUP, 2011, in The American Interest, March/April 2012. How it differs from Braudel.

The bay of Carthage

Braudel’s main works:

La Méditerranée et le monde Méditerranéen a l’époque de Philippe II, 3 volumes, 1949 (The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II; there is also a one-volume abridgement)

Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle, 3 volumes, 1967, 1979, 1979 (Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century)

L’identité de la France, 2 volumes, 1986 (unfinished, posthumous) (The Identity of France)

Grammaire des civilisations, 1987 (a world history, posthumous) (A History of Civilizations)

Les mémoires de la Méditerranée, 1998 (posthumous) (The Mediterranean in the Ancient World)

“[W]hen I think of the individual, I am always inclined to see him imprisoned within a destiny in which he himself has little hand, fixed in a landscape in which the infinite perspectives of the long term stretch into the distance both behind him and before.” (The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World)

The Sultan and the Allies

February 10 2012

It is amusing to note that the British Government’s relations with the Sultan during the Allied occupation of Constantinople [1918-23] were attacked by the Turkish Nationalists and by the Indian Moslems with equal bitterness, but with diametrically opposite presumptions as to their character. Apparently the Indians considered that the Sultan was a prisoner under duress, and that the British Government were restraining him from exercising his lawful authority as Caliph of Islam. Undoubtedly the Turkish Nationalists regarded him as an opponent of constitutional government and almost as a traitor to his country, who was lending himself to British designs against their movement in the hope of recovering the autocratic power formerly enjoyed by Abdu’l-Hamid. In the Indians’ eyes he was a tragic captive, in his own countrymen’s a sordid tool.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

Etruscan sadism

February 4 2012

The acceleration in the process of the Hellenization of Etruria between the sixth and the fourth century B.C. is graphically recorded in the wall-paintings at Caere (Cervetri). On the other hand, in their depiction of the torments inflicted on the damned in Hell, the Etruscan painters betray an un-Hellenic vein of sadism in the Etruscan êthos which was incidentally communicated to the Roman pupils in an Etruscan school of Hellenism, and which reappears even in a latter-day Tuscan Dante’s Divina Commedia. The origin of this sinister streak in the Etruscan tradition is a mystery. It makes the impression of being of non-Hellenic provenance (though the torments of the damned do figure in Hellenic art and legend); and it is a matter of recorded history that the institution of gladiatorial shows, which was perhaps the most atrocious of all the cruel practices that the Romans learnt from Etruscan instructors, was so abhorrent to Greek feelings that it never gained any foothold in Greek communities under Roman rule. The inference is that this Etruscan sadism was an element in the Etruscans’ Anatolian heritage which was too near to the heart of their tradition for the counter-influence of Hellenism to be able to eliminate it. Yet, if the origin of Etruscan sadism may be Anatolian, it can hardly be Hittite; for, to judge by the surviving corpus of Hittite legislation, the Hittite Civilization was as humane as the Hellenic.

A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

Syracuse, Nicea, Trabzon and Arta

January 17 2012

The degree of the enemy pressure [Persian, Arab, Slavic] on fortress-Constantinople in the seventh century can be gauged by the remarkable facts that in 618 or 619 even the heroic Emperor Heraclius was with difficulty deterred from evacuating it, and that in 662 Heraclius’s grandson the Emperor Constans II did transfer the Empire’s capital to Syracuse. However, after Constans’ assassination at Syracuse in 668, the capital immediately reverted to Constantinople; and it reverted again in 1261 from Nicea – the seat of the refugee-capital of the principal surviving fragment of the East Roman Empire after the capture of Constantinople and the seizure of the major part of the Empire’s European dominions by the Venetians and the French in and after 1204.

Constans’s twelve-day visit to Rome in 663 was the first by an Emperor since the fall of the Empire in the west. There was, I think, only one after it: a desperate one by John VIII Palaiologos in 1423, which led to the Union of Florence.

The Empire of Nicea was founded by the Laskaris family and was the largest of three states founded by aristocrats fleeing the Fourth Crusade. The recapture of Constantinople in 1261 was launched from here. The modern city is İznik.

The Empire of Trabzon or Trebizond was founded by the Komnenos family with support of Queen Tamar of Georgia. It ruled part of the Black Sea coast until 1461, when its ruler, David, surrendered to the Ottoman Mehmed II. (I collect historical Davids, so there’s another: David of Trebizond.) Wikipedia: “Its demographic legacy endured for several centuries after the Ottoman conquest in 1461, and a substantial number of Greek Orthodox inhabitants (called Pontic Greeks) remained in the area until the early 20th century. At that time, the remainder of Orthodox Christian inhabitants in the area were deported to Greece (starting in 1923), as determined by the population exchange between Greece and Turkey. This agreement did not include local Muslims who spoke Greek dialects, who live in the Trebizond area to the present day.”

The Despotate of Epirus was founded on the Greek mainland by the Komnenos Doukas family and survived, under different dynasties, until the Ottomans took it 1479. Its capital was at Arta, with an interlude in Ioannina.

First sentence of Rose Macaulay’s novel The Towers of Trebizond: “‘Take my camel, dear’, said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.”

On June 1 1997 in Trabzon I met two unforgettable brothers: Ali Kemal Yılmaz and Yusuf Ziya Yılmaz.

Cities on the Move, OUP, 1970

Manzikert 1071

January 9 2012

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

Achaei, Zygi, Heniochi

June 23 2011

Strabo, writing on the morrow of the establishment of the Augustan Peace, makes the following observation at the end of his description of the piratical raids into the domain of the Hellenic universal state which were at that time the main source of livelihood for the barbarians (Achaei, Zygi, Heniochi) inhabiting the strip of inhospitable country between the crest of the North-Western Caucasus Range and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea: “In places under [the] autocratic rule [of princes of client states of the Roman Empire] the victims [of these piratical raids] are afforded some protection by their rulers; for the princes make frequent counter-attacks and bring the war-canoes down, crews and all. The territory under direct Roman administration receives less effective protection owing to the indifference shown by the non-permanent lieutenant-governors sent out from Rome” (Strabo: Geographica, Book XI, chap. 11, § 12 (C 496)).

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

English monasteries – St Basil of Caesarea

June 13 2011

Independent obituary in 2003 of PLF’s wife Joan – “not religious – just saintly”.

Four Leigh Fermor posts should have been enough, but I can’t leave him without something about monasteries. In A Time to Keep Silence (1957), he shows himself philo-Catholic, at least in that matter, rather like Toynbee. I don’t know that he ever called himself religious.


(Extract, from the end of the book, deemed fair use. Please contact me directly if you disagree. Contains interpolations by me. Link above is to Amazon.)

“I am writing […] on the sill of a top-storey window in a Benedictine priory in Hampshire. […]

“In surroundings like these the fate of the old monasteries which were once scattered all over England comes inevitably to mind once more and makes their disappearance seem doubly sad. Their names, those landmarks of a different and vanished world – ring in the ears in fortuitous and pleasant-sounding threes: Glastonbury, Tewkesbury and Gloucester; Sherborne, Much Wenlock and Fountains; Tintern, Montacute and Cleeve; Pershore, Abingdon and Lacock; Babington, Romsey and Ford; Littleshall, Valle Crucis and Maxstoke; Newstead, Abergavenny and Bolton; Welbeck, Canons Ashby and St Michael’s Mount. And how many more! England could ill afford their loss. But, though one may regret their passing, the small family of their spiritual descendants which has grown up in modern times offers us all that was most precious in the past. They began to reappear in England as soon as the relaxation of legal disabilities would allow, and there are now something under a thousand monks and about fifteen monastic foundations in England and Scotland and Wales. [Footnote: These approximate figures refer to the male religious communities living in conventual enclosure; and should not be confused with the semi-conventual and secular orders which outnumber them many times over.]

“Cistercians [Cîteaux Abbey founded 1098; reformed Benedictines; Bernard of Clairvaux joined them; Trappists are an offshoot] are established in Pugin’s abbey at Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, at Caldey in Wales, and at Nunraw in Scotland; and Carthusians [order founded in the Chartreuse Mountains in 1084 by St Bruno of Cologne; its monasteries are called charterhouses] inhabit England’s only active charterhouse at Parkminster in Sussex. Their origins are very diverse. Two of the great Benedictine abbeys of the English Congregation – Downside and Ampleforth – had already existed for two centuries in exile before removing from Flanders to Somerset and from Lorraine to Yorkshire nearly a century and a half ago. The French – now largely English – community at Quarr in the Isle of Wight, emigrating from Solesmes [where the monks had led a revival of monastic life after its suppression in the Revolution] as a result of the anticlerical legislation in France at the beginning of the century [Waldeck-Rousseau’s anticlerical Law of Associations, 1901; it was followed in 1905 by the Law on the Separation of the Churches and the State, which ended the funding of religious groups by the state], followed exactly the same process in reverse. The other monasteries of the English [Benedictine] Congregation are Douai in Berkshire; Fort Augustus – imposing conventual buildings gathered round the nucleus of a highland fortress presented to the Order by the Lovat family; Belmont in Herefordshire; and Ealing near London, which was founded from Downside in 1898. [Douai also moved from France to England at the beginning of the twentieth century.] The Abbey of Ramsgate belongs to a branch of the Benedictine Order known as the Cassinese Congregation of Primitive Observance, from the stern outpost of which, at Pierre-qui-Vire, near Vezelay in France, Buckfast in Devon was also founded, and then built by the monks themselves on the site of pre-Conquest Benedictine and twelfth-century Cistercian remains. The story of Prinknash Abbey [it’s pronounced Prinich] is certainly the strangest. In 1896, an Anglican community of monks settled in Caldey, a wild and often storm-bound island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, the haunt of puffins and guillemots and, formerly, of the Cornish chough. There, still within the fold of the Church of England and living in isolation and great hardship, they followed the Rule of St Benedict, and finally, after seventeen years, the whole community, with the exception of two, were received into the Church of Rome. After a short novitiate they took their vows as Benedictine monks and eventually became the founders of the Abbey of Prinknash in the Gloucestershire woods. They are allowed by the Pope, as a special privilege, to retain the white habits, instead of the customary Benedictine black, which they had first adopted as an Anglican brotherhood. Cistercians have now settled in the wild island of their origin. Prinknash has two dependent priories. One of them, a company of twelve, inhabits the half-ruined buildings of the thirteenth-century abbey of Pluscarden, near Elgin in the Highlands, where they took root four years ago. The other is Farnborough whose monks, till the arrival of the present community from Prinknash, were, like those of Quarr, originally drawn from Solesmes; and the part of the monastery in which I am lodged is built on the same massive, romanesque and neo-mediaeval lines as that enormous pile. The priory church, however, is a fine flamboyant building. Gargoyles, crochets, finials and vanes adorn it at every point and it is crowned with a slightly anomalous dome that serves as a landmark across the surrounding fields. This was the inspiration of the foundress, the exiled and widowed Empress Eugénie, who lived the last years of her life in retirement near by. Three vast sarcophagi in the crypt mark the resting places of Napoleon III, of the Empress and of their son, the Prince Imperial, whose body was brought here after he was killed while  serving as a British officer in the Zulu Wars.

“A letter from a friend who is a monk at Pluscarden briefly describes his priory in the following words: ‘The monastery was founded in 1230 in one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. The church is still standing, without a roof, however; but one wing was restored and made habitable at the beginning of the last century. There is a small, exquisite chapel for which one of the brothers has made a wooden choir-screen and stalls which are worthy of the original. The chapter-house is a vaulted stone room with a central pillar and in one half of it there is a big open fireplace in which we keep a huge log-fire burning. The refectory is another vaulted stone room, very plain, with deal tables and whitewashed walls, and most beautiful. It is very cold and we have had snow constantly, but we manage to keep warm and I am really enjoying it. It is certainly the most primitive monastic life I have ever lived … ’

“It was the same friend who introduced me, many months ago, to the earliest monastic letters in existence, those of the great St Basil of Caesarea. Living in the fourth century, St Basil was the first to change the eremitical way of the desert into an organised cenobitic life governed by a system of monastic laws; and it was on his legislation that St Benedict modelled his momentous code a century and a half later. It is interesting, in view of the aura of sadness with which many of its externals have invested monasticism for the outside world, to turn back to these early writings. ‘Light’, ‘peace’ and ‘happiness’ are the epithets, often recurring, that St Basil finds most fitting to capture the atmosphere of his cloister; and he uses the words, not with the specialised and often threadbare meanings that they may have acquired in ecclesiastical apologetics and propaganda, but in the sense they possessed in the literature of the ancient world. His long letters, many of them addressed to his friend St Gregory Nazianzen, are leavened with charm and lightness and humour. The polished Greek sentences are sprinkled with classical allusions one would expect more readily in the writings of a fifteenth-century humanist than in those of a Doctor of the Church living in the reign of Julian. His monastery was built on a flank of the Pontic mountains overlooking the Euxine Sea, in surroundings that sound very different from the fierce volcanic expanse of his native Cappadocia. ‘There indeed,’ he writes, ‘God showed me a position exactly fitting to my taste, so that I really beheld just such a place as I have often been wont in idle reverie to fashion in my imagination. There is a high mountain covered with a thick forest and watered on its northerly side by cool and translucent brooks. At its base is stretched out an evenly sloping plain, ever enriched by the moisture from the mountain. A forest of many-coloured and various trees – a spontaneous growth surrounding the place – acts almost as a hedge to close it in, so that even Calypso’s isle, which Homer seems to admire beyond all others for its beauty, is insignificant compared to this.’ His letter ends with the words: … ‘You will forgive me for hastening, as I do, to this place, for, after all, not even Alcmaeon, after he discovered the Echinades, could endure to wander more.’ There is a mood of humanity and simplicity in his writings, an absence of bigotry that seems to blow like a soft wind from those groves of olive and tamarind and lentisk; gently ruffling the surface of the mind and then leaving it quiet and still. And, while the daylight vanishes from these northern hayfields, it is a similar blessing, an ancient wisdom exorcising the memory of the conflict and bloodshed of the intervening centuries, that brings its message of tranquillity to quieten the mind and compose the spirit.”

He offers a footnote on Anglican communities:

“The two brothers [from Caldey Island] who remained in the Church of England became the founders of Nashdom, which is one of the best known of the Anglican communities that follow the monastic way of life. These, and the many Anglican sisterhoods that wear the conventual habit and observe, with the greatest austerity, the Rules of St Benedict, St Augustine [13th-century mendicant], St Bernard and St Francis of Assisi [13th-century mendicant] – even following, in some cases, the precepts of two post-Reformation saints of the Church of Rome, SS Vincent de Paul and Martin of Sales – are indications of the spiritual distance that has been travelled since the Reformation and the writing of Areopagitica. Some foundations are devoted to works of mercy, others pursue the contemplative life; one or two even observe the Cistercian vow of silence. The earliest of these Anglican sisterhoods, the Society of the Holy Trinity (now established at Ascot), was founded in 1845, at the height of the movement in the Church of England which is linked with the names of Pusey, Keble and Newman [whose rule did it follow?]; and, nine years later, sisters from this community accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimea.” I’ll do a post on nuns generally at some point.


Wikipedia list of monasteries dissolved between 1535 and 1540 by Henry VIII. Of course incomplete, since there had been over eight hundred religious houses before the Reformation.

Fuller Wikipedia lists of abbeys and priories, friaries and other religious houses past and present (priories are smaller monasteries):

Abbeys and priories in England
Abbeys and priories on the Isle of Man
Abbeys and priories in Northern Ireland
List of religious houses in Scotland
Abbeys and priories in Wales

The first English monastic foundation after the Dissolution (ignoring secret foundations and the abortive Marian revival, when a monastery was reopened at Westminster Abbey) was the Cistercian abbey of Mount St Bernard in 1835.

Some extant orders not mentioned here: Cluniac (reformed Benedictine, founded by William I, Duke of Aquitaine, in 910 and one of the major religious forces in Europe until c 1130; eclipsed by the Cistercians); Carmelite (founded by a Crusader, St Bertold, at Mount Carmel in present-day Israel, c 1155, mendicant); Dominican (13th-century mendicant); Capuchin (16th-century mendicant, offshoot of the Franciscans).

Another Leigh Fermor passage, quoted at On an Overgrown Path.

David Knowles: the great historian of English monasticism.

Demonising Turks

March 30 2011

Or, in the nineteenth-century language of contempt, “the Turk”.

The concrete actions of Western Powers in war and diplomacy have mattered less, for good or evil, than the overwhelming though imponderable “suggestion” exercised upon the Turkish by the Western mind. We have injured the Turks most by making them hopeless and embittered. Our scepticism has been so profound and our contempt so vehement, that they have almost ceased to regard it as possible to modify them by their own action. They incline to accept these Western attitudes as fixed stars in their horoscope, with a fatalism which we incorrectly attribute to the teaching of their religion, without realising that our own conduct has been one of its potent causes. But while they are discouraged, they are not deadened to resentment. They see us in a light in which we too seldom look at ourselves, as hypocrites who make self-righteous professions a cloak for unscrupulous practice; and their master-grievance against us so fills their minds that it leaves little room for self-examination. If a charge is brought against them from a Western source, that is almost enough in itself to make them harden their hearts against it, however just it may be. They do not get so far as to consider it on its merits. They plead “not guilty,” and put themselves in a posture of defence, to meet what experience has led them to regard as one of the most effective strokes in the Western tactic of aggression. In 1921, I seldom found the Turks defend the fearful atrocities which they had committed six years previously against the Armenians, but repentance and shame for them were not uppermost in their minds – not, I believe, because they were incapable of these feelings, but because they were preoccupied by indignation at the conduct of the Allied Powers in fomenting a war-after-the-war in Anatolia. Remorse cannot easily co-exist with a grievance, and until we relieve the Turks of the one, we shall certainly fail, as we have done hitherto, to inspire them with the other.

This was not received wisdom in 1922. Much of it applies today rather obviously to Iran, which has suffered from Russian, British or American aggression for most of the past two hundred years.

The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922

The Arab return

March 9 2011

Robin Yassin-Kassab: “Arabs never really achieved independence, for a variety of reasons. Corrupt elites in authoritarian Arab states have plundered the people’s wealth, obeyed the dictates of hostile superpowers against the people’s will, and entirely failed to build reasonable education or social welfare institutions. Civil society has been stifled. Now it seems that the Arab people are entering the power equation, and true independence may be at hand.”

There is a bigger picture here. After the Abbasid Caliphate, the Arab countries were to a great extent controlled by non-Arabs: Mongols, Mamluks, Persians, Ottoman Turks, Europeans and at the end by unrepresentative elites supported by the West. Libya has been a maverick, but the Berbers, too, had come under Ottoman and European control. This is, in a way, an attempt at a return.

The inheritors of the Ottoman Empire

November 24 2010

Though the discomfiture by British arms of a moribund Mughal Empire’s local viceroy in Bengal might do little to upset Islamic complacency, and might be regarded in the West mainly as an incident in a struggle over India between Great Britain and France, the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by Russia in the Great Russo-Turkish War of A.D. 1768-74 was taken everywhere as a portent; and, when in A.D. 1798 the French descended upon the Ottoman dominion of Egypt, and overcame all resistance there with ease, as a step towards reopening in India a contest with their British rivals which had been decided there against France in the Seven Years’ War, even shrewd observers took it for granted that they would live to see the Ottoman Empire partitioned between France, Russia, Great Britain, and the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy. Yet this expectation, natural though it was at the time, was not fulfilled in the event; for the only parts of the Ottoman Empire, within its frontiers of A.D. 1768, which were in the possession of any of those foreign Powers in A.D. 1952 were the territories adjoining the north and east coasts of the Black Sea, from Bessarabia to Batum inclusive, which had fallen to Russia; Cyprus, which had fallen to Great Britain; and Tunisia and Algeria, which had fallen to France. As for the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy, which had held Bosnia-Herzegovina from A.D. 1878 to A.D. 1918 and the sanjāq of Novipazār from A.D. 1879 to A.D. 1908, she had voluntarily evacuated Novipazār and had lost Bosnia-Herzegovina in the act of losing her own existence. [Footnote: The occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in and after A.D. 1878, and annexation of this occupied Ottoman territory in A.D. 1908, had, indeed, been nails driven into the Hapsburg Monarchy’s coffin by its own statesmen’s hands, since these Hapsburg acts of aggression against a moribund Ottoman Empire had had the effect of bringing the Monarchy into a head-on collision with a youthful Serb nationalism.] The lion’s share of the Ottoman Empire of A.D. 1768, from Bosnia to the Yaman and from Tripolitania [footnote: A “Libya” consisting of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fazzān, which had been conquered from the Ottoman Empire by Italy in A.D. 1911-12, and from Italy by Great Britain in the general war of A.D. 1939-45, had attained independence on the 24th December, 1951.] to Moldavia inclusive, had passed into the hands, not of alien Great Powers, but of Orthodox Christian and Muslim successor-states, of which the largest in area – apart from a mostly arid Sa‘ūdī Arabia – was a Turkish Republic stretching from Adrianople to Mount Ararat.

A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954

Anatolian regions

November 5 2010

Simple but useful. Click to enlarge.

Istanbul, Lagos, London

August 27 2010

The historic areas and buildings of Istanbul may be about to lose their UNESCO World Heritage status: BBC. Hürriyet Daily News: A city unable to care for even its Muslim treasures. The Ottoman wooden houses, the quiet streets left to themselves, are being pulled down. The equivalent has been destroyed in other places, so why not here? Many had recently been left to rough rural and other immigrants. (Cairo is unable to protect its Van Gogh.)

The photogenic scaffolding in Hagia Sophia (a museum, not a holy building) was removed earlier this year after seventeen years. Istanbul (with Essen and Pécs) is a European Capital of Culture. Would it have come down otherwise?

BBC series on Lagos now on YouTube starts here. Recommended at Marginal Revolution.

An East Asian or Second Empire approach to London would be to demolish most of the boroughs of Wandsworth, Lambeth and Southwark and build a new greater South Bank (I hope like neither Dubai nor Poundbury) to balance the historic city on the north bank.

Arts of Asia

August 7 2010

Just a nod to one of my favourite magazines, published from Hong Kong since 1971. Ideal bathroom reading.

Frankish tortoise, Visigothic and Arab hares

July 22 2010

The organized and purposeful military campaigns of the Muslim Arabs were very different from the half automatic and barely conscious pressure of their ancestors against the yielding desert-frontier of a decaying Seleucid Empire in the second and the last century B.C. They are more comparable to the momentary Arab occupation of the Syrian, Egyptian, and Anatolian territories of the Roman Empire under Palmyrene leadership in the third century of the Christian Era. But they utterly surpassed both these anticipatory reconnaissances in the potency of their driving-force. [Footnote: This immense superiority, in potency, of the third of the three Arab offensives against the Hellenic World was almost certainly due to the most conspicuous of its distinctive features: that is to say, to the fact of its having been launched under the auspices of Islam. […]] While the Arab encroachments in the last two centuries B.C. had got no farther than the line of the Lebanon and the Orontes, [footnote: See Jones, A. H. M.: The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces (Oxford 1937, Clarendon Press), pp. 255-6.] and the momentary Palmyrene conquests in the third century of the Christian Era had come to a halt at the banks of the Nile and of the Black Sea Straits, the Muslim Arab conquerors penetrated as far as their Palmyrene predecessors towards the north-west, while on the south-west they left them far behind. In Asia Minor the Constantinopolitan Government succeeded – at the price of abandoning its commitments and cutting its losses on all other fronts – in pushing the Muslim Arabs back from the line of the Straits to the line of the Taurus and holding them there at the cost of grievously overstraining and fatally deforming the nascent body social of Orthodox Christendom. In Africa, however, the wave of Muslim Arab conquest swept on from the Nile to the Atlantic – meeting and overpowering and, carrying along with it the lesser wave of Berber aggression which was at that time breaking, likewise for the third time, upon the remnant of the African domain which Rome had inherited from Carthage.

Justinian had expelled the Vandals from the Maghreb.

The two earlier waves of Berber aggression had been, first, the Numidian intervention in the Second Punic, or Hannibalic, War and the Numidian King Jugurtha’s war with Rome (these are taken together) during the Hellenic “Time of Troubles” and, second, renewed pressure during the shorter crisis of the middle of the third century CE.

At the Straits of Gibraltar the united Arab and Berber wings of the Afrasian Nomad forces collided with the epigoni of the Visigoths, who had settled down in the Iberian Peninsula at the end of a Völkerwanderung which had carried them across the whole breadth of the Roman Empire from a starting-point on the Great Western Bay of the Eurasian Steppe. When these Gothic pupils of the Eurasian Nomads now encountered the Afrasian Nomad invaders of the Roman Empire at a point on the Empire’s extreme western verge which was almost equally remote from the original mustering-grounds of both the rival war-bands, it was the Afrasian Nomadism that was victorious; [footnote: The victory of the Afrasian Nomads over the Visigothic representatives of the Eurasian Nomadism at Xeres [modern Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia], on the Iberian threshold of Europe, in A.D. 711, has the same piquancy as the victory of the Indian over the African elephants at Raphia, on the Egyptian threshold of Africa, in 217 B.C.] for the united Arab-Berber forces were not flung back from the Straits of Gibraltar by Roderick in A.D. 711 as the Arabs were flung back from the Bosphorus by Constantine IV in A.D. 677 and again in A.D. 718 by Leo Syrus. Scattering the Goths like chaff, the Arabs and Berbers pressed on across the Pyrenees and reached the banks of the Rhône and the Loire before they collided with the Franks and fared as ill at their hands in A.D. 732 on the road to Tours as the ancestors of the Arabs’ discomfited Gothic adversaries had fared at the same Frankish hands at Vouillé in A.D. 507. It was characteristic of the heavy-footed gait of the sedentary North European barbarians that, at dates which were two hundred and twenty-five years apart, they should win their successive victories over their mobile rivals from the Ukraine and the Hijāz on battlefields that were something less than twenty miles distant from one another as the crow flies. [Footnote: The battle between the Austrasians and the Arabs which is traditionally known by the name of Tours seems actually to have been fought in the neighbourhood of Old Poictiers [sic], in the angle between the rivers Elain and Vienne.] Charles Martel allowed the Arabs to come that much nearer to the home territory of the Frankish Power in the basins of the Seine and the Rhine [footnote: Charles Martel’s sluggishness in marching to the help of the Aquitanians in A.D. 732 may be compared with the sluggishness of the Spartans in coming to the Athenians’ aid in 490 B.C. and again in 479 B.C.] than Clovis had allowed the Visigoths to advance in the same direction before marching out to defeat them; but the event was the same. At Tours in A.D. 732, as at Vouillé in A.D. 507, the immovable Franks remained masters of the field.

These Frankish victories over Goths and Arabs were a double triumph for the tortoise who had been content to crawl from the Rhine to the Loire during the time that it had taken one hare to sprint from the Ukraine, and another to sprint from the Hijāz, to the tortoise’s doorstep in Aquitaine. In this contest between the barbarians for the division of the Hellenic dominant minority’s territorial spoils the race was certainly not to the swift, though the battle may have been to the strong. [Footnote: Ecclesiastes ix. 11.] But this revelation of the relative strengths of the rival barbarian war-bands is not the main interest of the two battles in which they tried conclusions with one another. The outstanding historical event to which the battles of Vouillé and Tours bear witness is not the discomfiture of the Goths and the Arabs by the Frank, but the collapse of the resistance of the Roman Power which had been the common arch-adversary of all the three combatants. By the time when, in the heart of the Orbis Romanus, the war-bands from beyond one of the four anti-barbarian frontiers encountered and defeated – on derelict Roman ground – the war-bands from beyond each of the other three frontiers, it was manifest that the third of the three attempts of the external proletariat to take the Hellenic universal state by storm had been completely and definitively successful.

The four frontiers are defined in an earlier passage as

the front against the sedentary barbarians of Continental Europe from the North Sea coast to Transylvania; the front against the Eurasian Nomads (and the Nomadicized sedentary intruders upon the Nomads’ ranges) in the Lower Danubian bay and the Middle Danubian enclave of the Great Eurasian Steppe; the front against the barbarians in the interior of North West Africa (Nomads on the Sahara and highlanders in the Atlas); and the front against the Arabs beyond the desert-coast of Syria who constituted the Asiatic wing of the Afrasian Nomad forces.

The two earlier attempts to take the universal state had been, first, the series of attacks – by Sarmatians, Arabs, Numidians, Cimbri, Teutones, Suevi – in the last two centuries BC during the Hellenic “Time of Troubles” (he treats this as a single crisis) and, second, the attacks – by Goths, Arabs, Berbers, Franks, Alemanni – of the crisis of the middle of the third century CE.

Perhaps one could quibble with this by pointing out that, according to Toynbee’s own system, the first attempt was an attack on the society before it had had a universal state (the Roman Empire) imposed on it.

In the third attempt

the action opened on the Eurasian front, where the eruption of the Hun Nomads blew the nomadicized [lower case this time] Goths right off the Steppe into the far interior of the Roman body politic – as rocks and trees are uprooted and hurled through the air by an exploding shell. From the end of the fourth century to the end of the sixth the pressure continued to be heavier on this front than on any other, as the ebb of the Hun wave was followed by the onrush of the Avar wave, and the vacuum left by the violent propulsion of the Goths was filled by the gentle infiltration of the Slavs. It was only in the seventh century, when the onslaughts of pagan Huns and Avars were outmatched by the demoniac outbreak of the Muslim Arabs, that the main pressure shifted from the Eurasian front to the Arabian.

Charles de Steuben, Bataille de Poitiers en Octobre 732, Musée du Château de Versailles, Wikimedia Commons

A Study of History, Vol V, OUP, 1939

The Hellenist lobby

June 2 2010

Jacket blurb of Richard Clogg, Politics and the Academy, Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, Routledge, 2004. Buy here.

“During the First World War King’s College of the University of London became a leading centre for the study of Russia and Eastern Europe. Its principal, Ronald Burrows, a committed philhellene and devoted admirer of the Greek prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos, had a particular interest in the promotion of Byzantine and Modern Greek studies. It was Burrows’ enthusiasm, supported by Venizelos, that led to the establishment in 1919 of the Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature. The endowment for the chair was raised by a group of wealthy Anglo-Greeks, while the Greek government provided an annual subsidy. The 29-year-old historian Arnold Toynbee was chosen as the first incumbent of the chair.

“In 1921 Toynbee, on leave of absence, covered the Greek-Turkish war in Asia Minor for the Manchester Guardian and reported on the atrocities committed by Greek troops. On his return he wrote The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, which appeared in the summer of 1922 shortly before the rout of the Greek forces by the Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk). Toynbee’s writings and his growing sympathy for the Turkish cause enraged the Greek donors of the chair who, grouped in a Subscribers’ Committee, put strong pressure on the college and university authorities. Toynbee also came under fire from an influential group of colleagues. The cumulative furore forced Toynbee to resign from the chair in 1924 at the end of his first five-year term.

“Now the papers of the major protagonists have enabled a detailed reconstruction to be made of the interaction of international and academic politics. The controversy has some contemporary relevance as it touches on fundamental questions of academic freedom and on the problems inherent in the reliance of academic institutions on outside sources of funding.”

Toynbee, apparently, had not known of the existence of the Subscribers’ Committee when he took the chair. Modern parallel: denial of tenure to Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, at DePaul University, Chicago, in 2007. Did Toynbee’s views on Israel eventually marginalise him in the US? When did the lobby tighten its grip?

The fifth chapter in McNeill’s biography is about Toynbee’s changing views of near-eastern politics and how events there in the ’20s confirmed him in positions he had taken in the Foreign Office towards the end of the First World War; and about his changing ideas on history before and during the King’s years, and how they were leading him towards the Study. It is hard not to feel some sympathy with the Greeks in the row in which it all culminated. Were they being so unreasonable?

Ancient Greece in the King’s entrance hall (Sophocles by Constantin Dausch, a copy of a Roman copy, the Lateran Sophocles at the Vatican; Sappho by Ferdinand Seeboeck, original; both commissioned by Frida Mond, wife of Ludwig, and passing to King’s on her death in 1923)


The end of freshness

March 18 2010

“Journeys, those magic caskets full of dreamlike promises, will never again yield up their treasures untarnished. A proliferating and overexcited civilization has broken the silence of the seas once and for all. The perfumes of the tropics and the pristine freshness of human beings have been corrupted by a busyness with dubious implications, which mortifies our desires and dooms us to acquire only contaminated memories.

“Now that the Polynesian islands have been smothered in concrete and turned into aircraft carriers solidly anchored in the southern seas, when the whole of Asia is beginning to look like a dingy suburb, when shanty towns are spreading across Africa, when civil and military aircraft blight the primeval innocence of the American or Melanesian forests even before destroying their virginity, what else can the so-called escapism of travelling do than confront us with the more unfortunate aspects of our history? Our great Western civilization, which has created the marvels we now enjoy, has only succeeded in producing them at the cost of corresponding ills. The order and harmony of the Western world, its most famous achievement, and a laboratory in which structures of a complexity yet unknown are being fashioned, demand the elimination of a prodigious mass of noxious by-products which now contaminate the globe. The first thing we see as we travel round the world is our own filth, thrown in the face of mankind.”


John and Doreen Weightman, translators, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques, Jonathan Cape, 1973; first French edition Librairie Plon, 1955.

The US and the Armenian genocide

March 7 2010

On March 4 the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs passed a resolution describing the killings of Armenians in the First World War as genocide. There had been “joint resolutions” in the House of Representatives in 1975, 1984 and 1996, which had been resisted by the White House. I’m not sure about the Senate or whether the resolutions actually became “joint”.

The same fate presumably awaits this resolution and was the fate of a similar House Committee resolution in 2007.

Obama had used the word without equivocation before he took office, but is unlikely to use it now.

There has been no official US federal recognition of an Armenian genocide.

The countries which have recognised one are listed here, a Wikipedia page which looks as if it was written by Armenians, but quotes sources. They include France, Germany and Italy, but not the UK. Here is the page on Turkish-Armenian relations.

I have avoided using the word here. While there is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred by Turks on Turkish territory, starting in 1915, the debate about how much of the killing was centrally directed may, for all I know, still be justified. Would the word be applicable if there was limited, or superfluous, central direction?


The Wikipedia page on the massacres is comprehensive, but quotes mainly from secondary sources. I omit the most of the references in the quotations below.

“While there is no consensus as to how many Armenians lost their lives during the Armenian Genocide, there is general agreement among western scholars that over 500,000 Armenians died between 1914 and 1918. Estimates vary between 300,000 (per the modern Turkish state) to 1,500,000 (per modern Armenia, Argentina, and other states). Encyclopædia Britannica references the research of Arnold J. Toynbee, an intelligence officer of the British Foreign Office, who estimated that 600,000 Armenians ‘died or were massacred during deportation’ in the years 1915-1916.


“Reacting to numerous eyewitness accounts, British politician Viscount Bryce and historian Arnold J. Toynbee compiled statements from survivors and eyewitnesses from other countries including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, who similarly attested to the systematized massacring of innocent Armenians by Ottoman government forces. In 1916, they published The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-16. Although the book has since been criticized as British wartime propaganda to build up sentiment against the Central Powers, Bryce had submitted the work to scholars for verification before its publication. University of Oxford Regius Professor Gilbert Murray stated of the tome, ‘… the evidence of these letters and reports will bear any scrutiny and overpower any scepticism. Their genuineness is established beyond question.’ Other professors, including Herbert Fisher of Sheffield University and former American Bar Association president Moorfield Storey, affirmed the same conclusion.

“Winston Churchill described the massacres as an ‘administrative holocaust’ and noted that ‘the clearance of the race from Asia Minor was about as complete as such an act, on a scale so great, could well be. […] [Wikipedia’s bracket.] There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race opposed to all Turkish ambitions, cherishing national ambitions that could only be satisfied at the expense of Turkey, and planted geographically between Turkish and Caucasian Moslems.’


“British historian Arnold Toynbee, whose 1916 report remains a critical primary source, changed his evaluation later in life, concluding, ‘These … Armenian political aspirations had not been legitimate. … Their aspirations did not merely threaten to break up the Turkish Empire; they could not be fulfilled without doing grave injustice to the Turkish people itself.’ [Footnote: Quoted in Gunter, Pursuing the Just Cause (1986) p. 16.] [Michael M Gunter, Pursuing the Just Cause of Their People: A Study of Contemporary Armenian Terrorism, Greenwood Press, 1986. I quoted the passage about Armenian aspirations, which appears in Acquaintances (1967), here. But Toynbee does use the word “genocide” in that book.]

“For Turkish historians, supporting the national republican myth is essential to preserving Turkish national unity. The usual Turkish argument is that the deportations were necessary because the Armenians had allied themselves with Russian invaders in wartime, and ‘some 100,000 Armenians … may have died between 1915 and 1918, but this was no greater a percentage than that of the Turks and other Muslims who died as a result of the same conditions in the same places at the same time.’ ‘There was no genocide committed against the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire before or during World War I.’ [Footnote: Statements by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, 1982, quoted in Gunter (1986) p. 18.] Dissident historians in Turkey are trying to reclaim the Armenians as part of Ottoman and Turkish history and acknowledge the wrongs done to the Armenians as a condition for reconciliation with them on the basis of confidence in Turkish national unity.


“Arnold Toynbee writes that ‘the Young Turks made Pan-Islamism and Turkish Nationalism work together for their ends, but the development of their policy shows the Islamic element receding and the Nationalist gaining ground.’ [Footnote: Toynbee, Arnold Joseph, Turkey: A Past and a Future, 1917, pp. 22-3.] Toynbee and various other sources report that many Armenians were spared death by marrying into Turkish families or converting to Islam.”


Armenian refugees in Aleppo, 1915, Wikimedia Commons

Revenge on Germany

December 7 2009

Germany to 1813

From Stein to Bismarck


Prussianism 2

German Africa

German Africa 2

German Oceania

German China

German Oceania and China

Toynbee was never more prescient than when warning of the dangers of humiliating Germany in a peace settlement after the First World War. I posted a clip a while back from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, where Michael Maloney portrays Toynbee in Versailles in 1919. Toynbee is made to say:

“My fear is that we do not have statesmen with enough courage to resist the public demand for revenge. [Woodrow Wilson] is a ‘fine man’ obsessed with forming his absurd League of Nations and meanwhile he’s giving way to every bloodthirsty demand. He’s completely outwitted. Clemenceau [is] a dinosaur baying for blood, Lloyd George a politician with no vision or morality at all. You can’t just wipe your enemy out. Years ago Rome could just wipe Carthage out, but now the world has changed. These men are trying to force Germany down, but it cannot be done without terrible tragedy. Push Germany down and you’ll pay a price. And one day it will once more rise to the top. But this lot are behaving like men with no memories. Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.”

What lessons exactly? His final words are an echo of George Santayana’s aphorism in his The Life of Reason (5 volumes, 1905-6): “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (I have no evidence that Toynbee had read Santayana.)

The speech sounds too good to be true as prophecy, but his first book, Nationality and the War, from which I have been quoting, does bear out those views, even more remarkably in that it was written at the start of the war, in late 1914 and early 1915. I’ll quote the passages again at the end of this post.

The spirit of Nationality and the War had been, in McNeill’s words, “that of liberal, upper class Edwardian England, combining a concern for principle with a sublime confidence that enlightened English opinion, and the benevolent interests of the British Empire, would (or at least ought to) prevail.” But the outbreak of that war had already changed his view of history.

One of the failures of McNeill’s book is that he does not track Toynbee’s responses at Versailles to the emerging idea of the League. Perhaps the data does not exist.

In Nationality and the War, Toynbee had written that any future international machinery

cannot encroach upon individual sovereignty in any way that affects, or is deemed to affect, the sovereign right of self-preservation: in particular, it cannot aspire to the regulation of War, and it is waste of ingenuity to propound any international machinery for this purpose. The best-conceived arbitration or conciliation is bound to break down, when once a sovereign state has made up its mind that the surrender of its will on a particular issue is equivalent to annihilation. No international authority could ever prevent parleys like those of last July from resolving themselves into a conflict of arms.

Of Woodrow Wilson he says only:

President Wilson has offered Europe the good offices of the United States for mediation at the close of this war and for devising arrangements that shall prevent war for the future. Europe would do well to take President Wilson at his word, and ask the United States to give her permanent assistance of a very practical kind […]. The proposition would doubtless come to American public opinion as a shock, for it has been a constant maxim of their foreign policy to incur no political obligations across the Atlantic, and they will be more eager than ever to maintain this principle, now that they have seen what volcanoes underlie Europe’s smiling surface.

Clemenceau and Lloyd George are not mentioned. What sources, other than that book, could the Indiana Jones programme-makers have used when putting those words into his mouth? They will hardly have gone to archives. McNeill’s biography is more helpful here than Toynbee’s autobiographical Experiences and Acquaintances. They may have used other published memoirs, or histories of the conference. Toynbee’s contribution, The Non-Arab Territories of the Ottoman Empire since the Armistice of the 30th October, 1918, in HWV Temperley, editor, A History of the Peace Conference of Paris, Vol 6, OUP, Issued under the auspices of the British Institute of International Affairs, 1924, might shed light on his feelings in early 1919.

The autobiographical volumes say nothing important about his attitude to Clemenceau and nothing that shows a particularly hostile attitude to Lloyd George (but see this post). In Acquaintances he calls Wilson’s “psychic radar” “inadequate”. In Experiences he says that Wilson,

concentrating on saving as many Yugoslavs as he could from Italy’s clutches, threw German-speaking South Tyrol to the Italian wolves. […] This was one of the most inexcusable of the violations of the principle of self-determination in the 1919 peace settlement.

The Study is critical of Wilson. He regards him as not up to the peace-making job. McNeill quotes a letter from Toynbee to his mother dated November 12 1916:

I hope and sometimes dare believe, Wilson will be mediating between us this time next year.

But this is the only reference to Wilson in the book. He makes his antagonism against Lloyd George clearer. The gist, according to McNeill, is that in April 1919 Lloyd George had disregarded his and Harold Nicolson’s (Nicholson according to McNeill) advice in a memorandum to “cleave” Europe from Asia, give Greece Constantinople and the European shores of the Straits and the Sea of Marmara, but give Turkey the whole of Anatolia and its shores. They were opposing the then-prevailing British and American views, which involved giving new-fangled League of Nations mandates to the US for an “independent” Armenia and also for Constantinople and its “adjacent region”, which presumably included a large part of Anatolia. Here we do have a sign of feeling against the League. You might have thought that he would favour any device that would protect the Armenians, after his championing of their cause in 1915.

This rejection is part of a narrative of failure which McNeill is keen to establish as one of the themes of his biography. Of course, Toynbee’s ideas later became even more pro-Turkish, and when Lloyd George got into trouble over the enforcement of the Treaty of Sèvres, he could not help gloating at his discomfiture. His views got him into trouble when he took a sabbatical from his Greek-funded professorship at London University to become a war correspondent in Turkey, and in 1924 they led to his retreat to Chatham House. They were partly a reaction against his early anti-Turkish writings.

In Nationality and the War he had felt that Smyrna was “marked out to be the capital of a diminished Turkey”. The book was, of course, premature. Many people felt that the war would end soon. That makes it interesting: we can look at each of Toynbee’s ideas and compare them with what actually happened, as I’ve been doing in recent posts in a few areas.

Lloyd George’s rejection of his advice, McNeill suggests, “spelled failure” for his effort to justify his personal role in the war. He had evaded the draft on what seem to have been spurious medical grounds and a feeling of guilt seems to have stayed with him. His whole life’s work was a kind of expiation. He comes close to saying as much, while maintaining that he had been spared from service by a medical accident.

McNeill’s suggestion is believable in emotional terms, but really needs more than the rejection of a single memorandum to support it. He has, however, described previous clashes and tensions with old Foreign Office hands and military intelligence officers in the Foreign Office in London.

McNeill writes of his “growing radicalism [in 1918] and dismay at a social system that could provoke and sustain such a war”. He joined the Labour Party. We are not told in what month. Letter to his mother, no date, probably July 1918 from Castle Howard (aka Brideshead):

I find myself inclining steadily towards the social revolution. The middle class have had their fling for a century and produced this [war]; now let the working class have their try. I am for nationality at one end and internationalism at the other, as essential parts of reconstruction, and if existing states and their traditions cannot square with them, let them go to the devil, the United Kingdom and the Dual Monarchy and all of them.

Post-Second World War communists in western Europe would echo the second sentence more esoterically and substitute “bourgeoisie” for “middle class”.

Virginia Woolf, patronising as usual in her diary, January 1918, quoted by McNeill: “Arnold outdid me in anti-nationalism, anti-patriotism, and anti-militarism. … I like her [Rosalind] better than Arnold, who improves though, and is evidently harmless, and much in his element when discussing Oxford. He hasn’t much good to say of it and will never go back. … He knew the aristocratic heroes who are now all killed and celebrated, and loathed them; for one reason they must have thought him a pale blooded little animal. But he described their row and their violence and their quick snapping brains, always winning scholarships and bullying and … admitting no one to their set.” He never did return to academic tenure at Oxford. Who were those aristocratic heroes?

McNeill: “Having failed to ‘do his part’ in the war by enlisting in the army, he justified his personal behavior by condemning the criminal folly of war more violently than he might otherwise have done.”

The severity of the burden which reparations imposed is disputed, but Hitler consciously played on resentment of the Treaty as he rose to power. In Acquaintances, Toynbee writes of Smuts that

he has […] been charged with being the main inventor of the ingenious devices by which the terms of the reparations chapter of the Treaty of Versailles were kept within the letter of the “no indemnities” stipulation in President Wilson’s Fourteen Points (to which the governments of the Western allies had committed themselves in the armistice agreement), while the spirit of the President’s stipulation was being flagrantly violated. […] The morally unwarrantable inflation of the reparations bill was a breach of faith; and, for a statesman of Smuts’s standing, to advise that the fraudulent act was legally allowable was tantamount to recommending it and incurring responsibility for it.

Presumably the “no indemnities” stipulation was the third Point, which asked for “The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance”. There was, in effect, no equality of trade conditions for Germany and serious economic barriers were erected against her.

Paul Johnson called Toynbee “early League of Nations man” with some justification (The Times, July 15 1976). The tone of the first two volumes of the Survey of International Affairs is pro-League. The man behind the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Lionel Curtis, wanted to jettison the British Empire in its old form and substitute a free British Imperial Federation, or Commonwealth, of dominions, in alliance with the US, as the driving force in a new world order. What was his attitude to the League? The US, despite having formulated the concept and signed the Covenant, never joined the League of Nations. Toynbee seems to have embraced an idea of “world government”, all the vaguer for being free of Curtis’s ideas about the Commonwealth, after 1945, as the only alternative to mass-suicide in the Atomic Age, having, like almost everybody, become disillusioned with the League in the ’30s.

Curtis chaired a meeting for a group of British and American delegates at Versailles on May 30 1919 at the Hotel Majestic, the headquarters of the British and Dominions delegation, at which he proposed the idea of an Anglo-American institute of foreign affairs to study international problems with a view to preventing future wars. In the event, the British Institute of International Affairs was founded in London in July 1920, with Curtis as its joint Honorary Secretary, with GM Gathorne-Hardy, and received its Royal Charter in 1926. The Council on Foreign Relations, which had its own partially separate antecedents, was founded in 1922 in New York.

What influence did Curtis’s views have on Toynbee when they were in Versailles? If Toynbee found the idea of the League “absurd” for a time, did that reflect a phase of Curtis’s thinking? McNeill does not tell us exactly when Toynbee left Paris, but it seems to have been in April. This is confirmed by Toynbee in The Western Question in Greece and Turkey. Yet Chatham House’s book, Chatham House, Its History and Inhabitants, CE Carrington, revised and updated by Mary Bone, Chatham House, 2004, having given the May 30 date, publishes part of a letter from Toynbee to a Miss Cleeve, presumably of Chatham House, dated October 15 1958, in which he recollects an evening at the Majestic, with “L.C.” holding the floor, at which “the Institute was launched”. He tells a similar story, again with no date for the meeting, in Experiences, though not in Acquaintances, which has a whole chapter on Curtis. Neither account mentions the presence of Americans. McNeill certainly has Toynbee in England, and in a state of mental collapse, on May 30.

He recognised, in Experiences, that the League

did effectively intervene to prevent the inter-war Polish Government from evicting German agricultural colonists in Posnan (Posen) who had been planted, before the First World War, on lands in this Polish territory that had been expropriated by the Prussian Government, while Posen was still Prussian territory, as part of a policy of Germanization. This policy had been indefensible; yet, in the inter-war period, the League of Nations rightly held that the indefensible circumstances in which the German settlers had acquired their farms in Posnan did not justify their now being evicted from these, however unjustifiable their installation in them might have been. Eviction on political grounds was rightly held to be inadmissible, even in unusually provocative circumstances.

The first big lapse from the observance of this principle was the compulsory exchange of minority populations and their property as between […] Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria after the débâcle of the Greek army in Anatolia in the Graeco-Turkish war after the end of the First World War.

No such humanity as the League insisted upon in inter-war Poland was shown by the Russians towards Germans in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union after the Second World War, whose numbers, received in West Germany, were

approximately equal to the number of European Jews murdered, during that war, by the Nazis.

In 1931 Japan invaded China in violation of the Covenant of the League, and of the Washington Treaty and the Kellogg Pact. The League did nothing. Hardly surprisingly, without America.

In 1935-6 Britain and France refused to support the League when Italy attacked Ethiopia.

The whole thing is so infantile, as well as so evil, that it makes me sick to think about it. [Letter to Veronica Boulter, April 17 1936, quoted by McNeill.]

But he continued, at least until Munich, to believe that some kind of accommodation with Germany was possible, and some of his views during this period, and a visit to Hitler in early 1936, just before the reoccupation of the Rhineland, caused some to think of him as an appeaser.

His disillusionment confirmed his belief that

the principal cause of war in our world today is the idolatrous worship which is paid by human beings to nations and communities or States. […] People will sacrifice themselves for the ‘Third Reich’ or whatever the Ersatz-Götzen [“substitute Gods”; Götz is a diminutive] may be, till they learn again to sacrifice themselves for the Kingdom of God.” [Letter to the Manchester Guardian published on April 9 1935, quoted by McNeill.]

The posts listed at the top take us through the beginning of the second chapter of Nationality and the War. The chapter is called Prussianism, or Germany’s Ambitions. A sketch of German history led into a description of Prussianism and of the German overseas Empire. He recommended that, in accordance with a generally fair treatment of Germany after the war and respect for her commercial and industrial interests, Germany should be given back her African colonies. But the German colonies were a peripheral matter. After a concluding passage to the first section, which I will quote in a moment, he goes on to discuss how Germany should be treated in Europe. The first section is called The German Empire. The four subsequent sections of the chapter are called The French Frontier, The Danish Frontier, The Polish Frontier and Prussian State and German Nation.

McNeill summarises his recommendations: “Treating Germany well meant partitioning the Hapsburg monarchy and allowing Austria and Bohemia to unite with Germany, while also shearing off portions of Alsace and Lorraine in the west and some Polish lands in the east, all in accordance with local opinion as indicated by plebiscites. Such a peace settlement would make Germany supreme on the continent of Europe, but that did not bother Toynbee since a generous settlement in accord with the principle of nationality might be expected to convert the Germans and other Europeans from ‘national competition’ to ‘national cooperation,’ particularly in view of the threat from China that he anticipated.” I will post the arguments in full in due course.

Great Britain’s true policy, then, is to allow Germany to retain all openings for peaceable, as opposed to forcible, expansion afforded her by her oversea dominions as they existed before this war broke out, and we shall have a particularly free hand in the decision of this question, because the command of the sea, and the world-wide naval operations it makes possible, fall almost entirely within our province, and not within that of our European allies. We must furthermore give just as great facilities as before to German immigration through all the vast portions of our empire that are still only in process of being opened up and settled, and we must urge our allies to adopt the same principle with regard to the territories in a similar phase of development which acknowledge their sovereignty. We must also respect the concessions which German enterprise has secured for its capital, with such fine initiative and perseverance, in neutral countries of backward growth. We shall find instances, similar to the coaling stations in the Pacific, where professedly economic concerns have an essentially political intention – certain sections of the projected Bagdad (sic) railway occur at once to our minds – and here we may be compelled to require Germany to abandon her title; but we must confine such demands to a minimum. Both we and our allies must take care that neither political panic nor economic greed induces us to carry them to excess, and in every case where we decide to make them, we must give Germany the opportunity of acquiring, in compensation, more than their equivalent in economic value.

If we meet Germany in this spirit, she will at least emerge from the war no more cramped and constricted than she entered it. This will not, of course, satisfy her ambitions, for they were evil ambitions, and could not be satisfied without the world’s ruin; but it will surely allay her fears. She will have seen that we had it in our power to mutilate her all round and cripple her utterly, and that we held our hand. Once her fear is banished, we can proceed to conjure away her envy: for to leave her what she has already would prepare the ground for an invitation to join us in organising some standing international authority that should continuously adjust the claims of all growing nations, Germany among the rest, by reasonable methods of compromise, and so provide openings for the respective expansion of their wealth and population.

Such an international organ would replace the struggle for existence between nations, in which each tries to snatch his neighbour’s last crust, by a co-operation in which all would work together for a common end; but many tangled problems strew the ground in front of us, before we can clear it for such a construction. The national foundations of Europe must first be relaid; and just as in the question of territories over sea the decisive word will lie with ourselves, so in the case of European frontiers it will lie with our allies, because the war on land is their province and because the national problems at issue affect them even more directly than us.

This does not absolve us from the duty of probing these problems to their bottom: rather it makes it the more imperative that we should do so, inasmuch as our influence upon their solution will depend principally on the impartiality of our point of view and the reasonableness of our suggestions, and very little on any power of making our will prevail by mere intransigeance (sic), or by the plea of paramount interests. Great Britain ought to come to the conference with very definite opinions about the details of these problems, even at the risk of annoying her allies by the appearance of meddling with what is less her business than theirs. The Allies have proclaimed to the world that they will wage this war to its conclusion in concert, and that declaration will not be difficult for them to observe: but they have also implied that they will negotiate in concert the terms of peace, and it is here that the separateness of their positive interests, beyond the negative bond of self-preservation, will be in danger of manifesting itself. They have morally pledged themselves to a settlement that shall subordinate their several, and even their collective, interests to the general interests of the civilised world, and it is on this ground that they have claimed the sympathy of neutrals in the struggle with their opponents. To fulfil their promise, they will need all the wisdom, patience and disinterestedness that they can command; and the supreme value of Great Britain’s voice will lie in the proposal of formulas calculated to reconcile the views of the Allies with each other and also with the relatively impartial standpoint of the non-nationalistic element that happily obtains some footing in all countries and in all strata of society.

The solutions we offer, then, for the national problems of Europe must not be conceived as demands which it is in Great Britain’s vital interest to propound and in her absolute power to enforce, but rather as suggestions compatible with British interests, and capable of acceptance by our allies. The satisfaction of all parties on whom their translation into fact will depend, is, however, only a negative condition: they must further be governed by the positive aim of dealing impartial justice to ourselves, our friends and our enemies alike. We must follow the principle that a “disinterested” policy ultimately serves the truest interest of its authors.

The first problem that confronts us is that of the alien nationalities included against their will within the present frontiers of the German Empire. The settlement after this war must bring justice to these populations by affording them an opportunity for choosing freely whether they will maintain their connection with Germany or no, and if not, what destiny they prefer. When we have estimated the probable results of their choice, we may proceed to consider what the effect is likely to be on German public opinion, and look for some means of cancelling the bitterness which cannot fail to be aroused in some degree. But this is essentially a secondary consideration. We have accepted the principle that the recognition of nationality is the necessary foundation for European peace; and peace is endangered far more by the unjust violation of the national idea than by the resentment due to the just reversal of the injustice, even if the wrongdoer be the most potent factor in Europe and his victim the most insignificant. We will proceed, therefore, to consider in turn the national problems within the German Empire on their own merits.

That concludes the first section of the second chapter of Nationality and the War. Here is a passage from the first chapter, which is called The Future.

[War] rouses the instinct of revenge. “If Germany has hurt us, we will hurt her more – to teach her not to do it again.” The wish is the savage’s automatic reaction, the reason his perfunctory justification of it; but the civilised man knows that the impulse is hopelessly unreasonable. The “hurt” is being at war, and the evil we wish to bann (sic) is the possibility of being at war again, because war prevents us working out our own lives as we choose. If we beat Germany and then humiliate her, she will never rest till she has “redeemed her honour,” by humiliating us more cruelly in turn. Instead of being free to return to our own pressing business, we shall have to be constantly on the watch against her. Two great nations will sit idle, weapon in hand, like two Afghans in their loopholed towers when the blood feud is between them; and we shall have sacrificed deliberately and to an ever-increasing extent, for the blood feud grows by geometrical progression, the very freedom for which we are now giving our lives.

Another war instinct is plunder. War is often the savage’s profession: “‘With my sword, spear and shield I plough, I sow, I reap, I gather in the vintage.’ [Footnote: The song of Hybrias the Kretan.] If we beat Germany our own mills and factories will have been at a standstill, our horses requisitioned and our crops unharvested, our merchant steamers stranded in dock if not sunk on the high seas, and our ‘blood and treasure’ lavished on the war: but in the end Germany’s wealth will be in our grasp, her colonies, her markets, and such floating riches as we can distrain upon by means of an indemnity. If we have had to beat our ploughshares into swords, we can at least draw some profit from the new tool, and recoup ourselves partially for the inconvenience. It is no longer a question of irrational, impulsive revenge, perhaps not even of sweetening our sorrow by a little gain. To draw on the life-blood of German wealth may be the only way to replenish the veins of our exhausted Industry and Commerce.” So the plunder instinct might be clothed in civilised garb: “War,” we might express it, “is an investment that must bring in its return.”

The first argument against this point of view is that it has clearly been the inspiring idea of Germany’s policy, and history already shows that armaments are as unbusinesslike a speculation for civilised countries as war is an abnormal occupation for civilised men. We saw the effect of the Morocco tension upon German finance in 1911, and the first phase of the present war has been enough to show how much Germany’s commerce will inevitably suffer, whether she wins or loses.

It is only when all the armaments are on one side and all the wealth is on the other, that war pays; when, in fact, an armed savage attacks a civilised man possessed of no arms for the protection of his wealth. Our Afghans in their towers are sharp enough not to steal each other’s cows (supposing they possess any of their own) for cows do not multiply by being exchanged, and both Afghans would starve in the end after wasting all their bullets in the skirmish. They save their bullets to steal cows from the plainsman who cannot make reprisals.

If Germany were really nothing but a “nation in arms,” successful war might be as lucrative for her as an Afghan’s raid on the plain, but she is normally a great industrial community like ourselves. In the last generation she has achieved a national growth of which she is justly proud. Like our own, it has been entirely social and economic. Her goods have been peacefully conquering the world’s markets. Now her workers have been diverted en masse from their prospering industry to conquer the same markets by military force, and the whole work of forty years is jeopardised by the change of method.

Fighting for trade and industry is not like fighting for cattle. Cattle are driven from one fastness to another, and if no better, are at least no worse for the transit. Civilised wealth perishes on the way. Our economic organisation owes its power and range to the marvellous forethought and co-operation that has built it up; but the most delicate organisms are the most easily dislocated, and the conqueror, whether England or Germany, will have to realise that, though he may seem to have got the wealth of the conquered into his grip, the total wealth of both parties will have been vastly diminished by the process of the struggle.

The characteristic feature of modern wealth is that it is international. Economic gain and loss is shared by the whole world, and the shifting of the economic balance does not correspond to the moves in the game of diplomatists and armies. Germany’s economic growth has been a phenomenon quite independent of her political ambitions, and Germany’s economic ruin would compromise something far greater than Germany’s political future – the whole world’s prosperity. British wealth, among the rest, would be dealt a deadly wound by Germany’s economic death, and it would be idle to pump Germany’s last life-blood into our veins, if we were automatically draining them of our own blood in the process.

But issues greater than the economic are involved. The modern “Nation” is for good or ill an organism one and indivisible, and all the diverse branches of national activity flourish or wither with the whole national well-being. You cannot destroy German wealth without paralysing German intellect and art, and European civilisation, if it is to go on growing, cannot do without them. Every doctor and musician, every scientist, engineer, political economist and historian, knows well his debt to the spiritual energy of the German nation. In the moments when one realises the full horror of what is happening, the worst thought is the aimless hurling to destruction of the world’s only true wealth, the skill and nobility and genius of human beings, and it is probably in the German casualties that the intellectual world is suffering its most irreparable human losses.

With these facts in our minds, we can look into the future more clearly, and choose our policy (supposing that we win the war, and, thereby, the power to choose) with greater confidence. We have accepted the fact that war itself is the evil, and will in any event bring pure loss to both parties: that no good can come from the war itself, but only from our policy when the war is over: and that the one good our policy can achieve, without which every gain is delusive, is the banishing of this evil from the realities of the future. This is our one supreme “British interest,” and it is a German interest just as much, and an interest of the whole world.

This war, and the cloud of war that has weighed upon us so many years before the bursting of the storm, has brought to bankruptcy the “National State”.

Here again are the passages in the second chapter in which he asks for lenient treatment of Germany in a post-war settlement.

Our ultimate object is to prevent war for the future, and the essential means to this end is to convince Germany that war is not to her interest. We and the French disbelieve in war already, but a minority of one can make a quarrel, in spite of the proverb. The only way to convince Germany is first to beat her badly and then to treat her well.

If we humiliate her, we shall strengthen the obsolete ideas in her consciousness more than ever – perhaps no longer the idea of “Plunder,” but certainly that of “Revenge,” which is much worse: if we deal “disinterestedly” with her (though it will be in our own truest interest) we may produce such a reaction of public opinion in Germany, that the curse of aggressive militarism will be exorcised from her as effectively in 1914, as the curse of political paralysis was exorcised in 1870.

“First to beat her badly and then to treat her well.” This was the approach of the Western allies, in relation to Japan as well as to Germany, after 1945.

One thing is clear: whether Germany’s feeling of constriction has good grounds or not, we must avoid deliberately furnishing it with further justification than it has already. It would be possible to maintain that the colonies and concessions Germany has already acquired give her room for expansion ample enough to deprive her of excuse for her envy, not to speak of the conduct by which she has attempted to satisfy it; but even this view would be rash in face of Germany’s vehement conviction to the contrary. Germany is likely to judge her own plight more truly than we can, and even if she has judged wrongly, her opinion is more important for our purpose than the objective truth. To give the lie to this national belief by taking from her even that which she hath, would be the surest means of deepening and perpetuating her national bitterness.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Experiences, OUP, 1969

William H McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee, A Life, New York, OUP, 1989

Acquaintances, OUP, 1967