Salonika 1912

June 12 2015

The writer of this Study vividly remembers how the continental character of Macedonia impressed itself upon him at the first view. He first visited Macedonia in the summer of 1912, at the end of a visit to the Kingdom of Greece within the frontiers as they then stood. Since the standard-gauge railway which now links Athens with Salonica had not been completed at that date, he travelled from the Peiraeus to Salonica by sea. He had been looking forward with interest to observing the political aspect of the passage from territory under Greek to territory under Turkish rule; but, as the steamer entered Salonica harbour, his eye was caught, not by the Turkish flag flying above the custom house, but by Austrian and German railway-wagons standing along the quay, on rails which ran without a break from Salonica to Vienna and from Vienna to Berlin. He then realized in a flash that this economic solidarity with Central Europe was the distinctive and fundamental characteristic of Macedonia, and that the political connexion with Turkey-in-Asia, though picturesque, was accidental and superficial.

These were the last days of the Ottoman suzerainty in Salonika which had begun in 1430. The First Balkan War broke out on October 8. On November 8, the feast day of Salonika’s patron saint, Demetrius, the Greek army accepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison.

The Bulgarian army arrived a day later. Tahsin Pasha, the governor, said to them: “I have only one Salonika, which I have surrendered”.

The rail connection to central Europe had been built some years before the connection to Constantinople.

The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided Macedonia between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.

Toynbee also visited the Athos Peninsula in 1912. On his way home to England in August, he either visited Durrës (Durazzo) or saw the Turkish flag over it from his ship. After a short period of occupation by Serbia it would become part of Albania in 1913.

The Great Fire of Thessaloniki of 1917, unlike the Great Fire of Smyrna of 1922, seems to have been accidental.

Summary of the Balkan Wars (old post).

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Demotic China

June 11 2015

“I found that the history of Chinese literature consisted of two parallel movements: there was the classical literature of the scholars, the men of letters, the poets of the imperial courts, and of the élite; but there was in every age an undercurrent of literary development among the common people which produced the folk songs of love and heroism, the songs of the dancer, the epic stories of the street reciter, the drama of the village theatre and, most important of all, the novels. I found that every new form, every innovation in literature, had come never from the imitative classical writers of the upper classes, but always from the unlettered class of the country-side, the village inn and the market-place. I found that it was always these new forms and patterns of the common people that, from time to time, furnished the new blood and fresh vigour to the literature of the litterati, and rescued it from the perpetual danger of fossilisation. All the great periods of Chinese Literature were those when the master minds of the age were attracted by these new literary forms of the people and produced their best works, not only in the new patterns, but in close imitation of the fresh and simple language of the people. And such great epochs died away only when those new forms from the people had again become fixed and fossilised through long periods of slavish imitation by the uncreative litterati. …

“It was the anonymous folk songs of Antiquity that formed the bulk of the great Book of Poetry [mainly Western Zhou, 1046-771 BC] and created the first epoch of Chinese Literature. It was again the anonymous folk songs of the people that gave the form and the inspiration in the developments of the new poetry in the Three Kingdoms [immediately post-Han] and later in the T’ang Dynasty. It was the songs of the dancing and singing girls that began the new era of ts’ĭ or songs in the Sung Dynasty [between the post-T’ang Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and the Mongols]. It was the people that first produced the plays which led to the great dramas of the Mongol period and the Mings. It was the street reciters of epic stories that gave rise to the great novels [Ming, and before and after], some of which have been ‘best sellers’ for three or four centuries.”

The op cit footnote refers to:

Hu Shih: The Chinese Renaissance: The Haskell Lectures, 1933 (Chicago 1934, University Press) […].

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Port Said to Yokohama

June 10 2015

or, East of Suez

“[…] Aden, Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore, Penang, Bangkok, Saïgon, Hue, Hanoi, Hong-Kong, Shanghai, their names roll on the tongue savourily […]”

Somerset Maugham, The Gentleman in the Parlour, A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong, 1930.

That shore-hugging list may not correspond exactly to anything on a real timetable. The Mediterranean to Japan would have taken perhaps four weeks with these stops.

Penang should come before Singapore. If anywhere is missing, it is Colombo. And the first stop after Aden could have been Karachi.

So the imperial journey might have touched Port Said, Aden, Karachi, Bombay, Colombo, Madras, Calcutta, Rangoon, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama. Hanoi’s port was actually Haiphong, 65 miles downstream on the Red River delta.

The cities between Siam and China in Maugham’s list correspond to the three divisions of the old Vietnam: Cochinchina’s capital was Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Annam’s was Hue (Huế), Tonking’s was Hanoi.

AE5Y2B White Man Burden is to teach cleanliness described in a Pears Soap advertisement 1890s

Siam and the West, 1511-1932

June 9 2015

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to give an account of Siam. After their conquest of Malacca in 1511, they sent a diplomat, Duarte Fernandes, to Ayutthaya.

A century later, on August 15 1612, an East India Company merchantman, The Globe, arrived bearing a letter from James I.

Ayutthaya may have been the largest city in the world in the seventeenth century, with a population of a million. Trade flourished, especially with the Dutch, French, Chinese and Japanese.

Episode of Constantine Phaulkon. Siam became more closed after the 1688 revolution (last post but one).

The heirs of Rama I became concerned with the threat of European colonialism after British victories in Burma in 1826.

They signed a series of treaties with foreign powers: the Burney Treaty with Britain in 1826, treaties with the US in 1833 and 1856. Others with other powers during the reigns of Mongkut or Rama IV (reigned 1851-68) and his son Chulalongkorn or Rama V (reigned 1868-1910).

They were caught between the British in Burma and the French in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The French had designs on Siam. Britain was Siam’s ally and wanted to preserve it as a buffer state, and so it remained. The Thais gave Britain economic privileges in return.

Their survival was due to a balance of power between Britain and France, but they believe that they also owe it to the diplomatic skills and modernising reforms of Mongkut and Chulalongkorn (1851-1910).

They were nevertheless forced to concede territory, influence or claims (it is often hard to tell them apart), especially to the French. Ie:

Cochinchina, or the extreme south of Vietnam, to France in 1862;

Cambodia to France in 1867; Cambodia had been a pawn in power struggles between Siam and Vietnam since the seventeenth century;

Thai-speaking Shan States in the north to British Burma; various dates (1893 Hansard discussion here);

Laos to France in Franco-Siamese War of 1893; large parts of Laos had come under Siamese control when the unified Lan Xang Laotian kingdom had disintegrated at the beginning of the eighteenth century; there had already been cessions in 1888; more was handed over in 1904 and 1907;

Territory in the south to Britain; but the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 defined the border between Siam and British Malaya by recognising Thai authority over the semi-Malay areas of Patani, Yala, Narathiwat and Satun.

Siam became the only country in Southeast Asia to avoid European colonisation.

From 1892 to 1924, the Siamese government retained lawyers who specialised in international lawGustave Rolin-Jaequemyns served as Adviser-General from 1892 to 1902. Edward Strobel, a Harvard law professor, served as American Adviser-General from 1906 until his death in 1908. He was followed by further Harvard professors: Jens Westengard, Francis Sayre and Eldon James.

A coup planned by young military officers was discovered and thwarted in 1912. Compare the Russian revolution of 1905, Persian revolution of 1905-07, the Young Turks of 1908.

Siam declared war against the Central Powers on July 22 1917, mainly to gain favour from Britain and France. In 1918 it sent 1,284 volunteers to the Western Front. The force included 95 qualified pilots and a medical unit. In addition to the Chinese Labour Corps and 140,000 Vietnamese troops and workers drafted by the French, the Siamese troops were the only Southeast Asians to participate in the European theatre.

Siam was given a seat at Versailles and used the opportunity to argue for amendments of nineteenth-century treaties. The US obliged in 1920, France and Britain in 1925, but I am not aware of any territorial concessions. Siam was a founding member of the League of Nations in 1920.

Modern Thai politics begin in 1932, when the military staged its first successful coup and transformed the government of Siam from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, with a cabinet presided over by a prime minister.

Conrad in Bangkok

June 8 2015

“One morning, early, we crossed the bar, and while the sun was rising splendidly over the flat spaces of the land we steamed up the innumerable bends, passed under the shadow of the great gilt pagoda, and reached the outskirts of the town.

There it was, spread largely on both banks, the Oriental capital which had as yet suffered no white conqueror; an expanse of brown houses of bamboo, of mats, of leaves, of a vegetable-matter style of architecture, sprung out of the brown soil on the banks of the muddy river. It was amazing to think that in those miles of human habitations there was not probably half a dozen pounds of nails. Some of those houses of sticks and grass, like the nests of an aquatic race, clung to the low shores. Others seemed to grow out of the water; others again floated in long anchored rows in the very middle of the stream. Here and there in the distance, above the crowded mob of low, brown roof ridges, towered great piles of masonry, King’s Palace, temples, gorgeous and dilapidated, crumbling under the vertical sunlight, tremendous, overpowering, almost palpable, which seemed to enter one’s breast with the breath of one’s nostrils and soak into one’s limbs through every pore of one’s skin.”


Joseph Conrad, The Shadow-Line, a late novel, written 1915, published 1917. Crossing the bar meant crossing the sandbank which often lies at the mouth of a river. Going in the other direction, it could be a metaphor for setting off into the unknown. Conrad’s young narrator is sailing up the Chao Phraya River.

Siam’s 1688 revolution

June 7 2015

… or, King Narai’s falcon

Constantine Phaulkon (1647-88) was a Greek adventurer, born to Orthodox parents in Venetian-ruled northern Cephalonia.

He left Greece to work for the English East India Company and became an Anglican. He arrived in Siam in 1675, became fluent in Thai, and began to work at the court of King Narai of Ayutthaya as a translator and finally as the king’s chief adviser.

Ayutthaya was the dominant power in Thailand from the fourteenth century to the eighteenth. Recent post. Its capital, Ayutthaya, was the “largest city in the world”. It would be interesting to make a list of all the cities that have had that claim made for them through the centuries.

In 1682, Phaulkon became a Catholic and married a Catholic woman of mixed Japanese-Portuguese-Bengali descent named Maria Guyomar de Pinha. They lived a life of affluence as he rose as de facto minister of finance and of foreign affairs to Narai. There were two sons – with Greek, Portuguese, Bengali and Japanese blood, João and Jorge – the first of whom died before their father.

Following troubles with the over-aggressive English and Dutch, Phaulkon engineered circa 1680 a Franco-Siamese rapprochement. Several embassies were exchanged between France and Siam. This was not the beginning of Franco-Thai relations, but from about 1680 to 1688 the contact was close.

In 1687 Siam fought a war with the East India Company and the French, seeking to press home their advantages, sent an expeditionary force.

Ayutthaya had been open to other traders and tolerant of missionaries. Chinese, Annamese, Indians, Japanese, Persians, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French came and went. Some set up villages outside the walls of the capital. There had been limited contact with the British, starting in 1612, when an East India Company ship arrived, carrying a letter from King James I for the Siamese king.

Louis’ ambassadors compared Ayutthaya in size and wealth with Paris. The Abbé de Choisy, who was part of the embassy of Chevalier de Chaumont in 1685: “The king has absolute power. He is truly the god of the Siamese: no-one dares to utter his name.” (Wikipedia)

French engineers constructed fortifications for the Thais and built a new palace for Narai at Lopburi. French missionaries engaged in education and medicine and brought the first printing press into Siam. Louis XIV’s personal interest was aroused by reports from missionaries suggesting that Narai might be converted to Christianity.

Phaulkon’s closeness to the king earned him the envy of some Thai members of the court. The Abbé de Choisy:

“He was one of those in the world who have the most wit, liberality, magnificence, intrepidity, and was full of great projects, but perhaps he only wanted to have French troops in order to try and make himself king after the death of his master, which he saw as imminent. He was proud, cruel, pitiless, and with inordinate ambition. He supported the Christian religion because it could support him; but I would never have trusted him in things in which his own advancement was not involved.” (Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de Louis XIV via Wikipedia)

When King Narai became terminally ill, a rumour spread that Phaulkon wanted to use the designated heir, Phra Pui, as a puppet and become ruler himself. French motives also came under suspicion. All this provided an excuse for Pra Phetracha, the foster brother of Narai, to stage a coup d’état.

Without the king’s knowledge, Phaulkon, his followers and Phra Pui were arrested and executed on June 5 1688 in Lopburi.

King Narai learned what had happened, but was too weak to take any action. He died several weeks later, a prisoner in his own palace. Phetracha proclaimed himself the new king of Siam. The French were expelled (Siege of Bangkok). Phetracha began a xenophobic regime which expelled almost all foreigners from the kingdom.

Phaulkon (which means falcon) was in effect, or became, a double agent, if that is not too modern a phrase. The revolution interrupted relations between France and Siam until the nineteenth century, although French Jesuits were allowed to resume preaching. After 1826, the Thais had to deal with the new territorial acquisitiveness of the British and then of the French.

In 1893 and 1941, they fought wars with France. But they are another story.

A narrative of Constantine’s life was written in France circa 1691 by a Père de Beze, one of a group of Jesuit fathers who arrived in Siam in September 1687 at the request of Phaulkon. The manuscript found its way into the hands of GE Morrison, “Morrison of Peking”, The Times correspondent there from 1897 to 1912. In 1917 Baron Iwasaki, the former President of Mitsubishi, bought Morrison’s library. It became the kernel of the great Japanese Asian library, the Tōyō Bunko.

An English scholar, EW Hutchinson, saw the manuscript in Tokyo in 1936 and made some use of it in Adventurers in Siam in the Seventeenth Century, London, The Royal Asiatic Society, 1940. He believes that it was addressed to Père de la Chaise, the Confessor to Louis XIV, and was never intended for publication.

The manuscript was published in Tokyo in 1947 as Mémoire sur la vie de Constance Phaulkon, par Père de Bèze, Presses Salesiennes, in an edition prepared by Jean Drans, Acting French Director at the Maison Franco-Japonaise and Father Henri Bernard, S.J., Professor at the École des Hautes Études de Tientsin.

In 1957 Hutchinson decided to translate the whole memoir “slowly” into English.

The result was a scholarly book of which I bought a well-printed local edition in Bangkok in 1992: 1688 – Revolution in Siam, The Memoir of Father de Bèze, s.j., Translated into English with Introduction, Commentary, Appendices and Notes, Hong Kong University Press, 1968. Father de Bèze is considered more reliable than the highly-coloured tales strung together and published by Père Tachard (1686 and 1687), which in turn were used for the Histoire de Monsieur Constance of yet another Jesuit, the Père d’Orléans (1690).

Somerset Maugham, aware of the Père d’Orléans but not of the Père de Bèze, describes Phaulkon in The Gentleman in the Parlour, A Record of a Journey from Rangoon to Haiphong, published in 1930. He had made the journey with Gerald Haxton in 1922-23.

“I was within forty-eight hours by rail of Bangkok, but before going there I wanted to see Lopburi and Ayudha, which at one time were capitals of Siam. In these Eastern countries cities are founded, increase to greatness and are destroyed in a manner that cannot but fill the Western traveller, accustomed for many centuries now to a relative stability, with a certain misgiving. A king, forced by the hazards of war or maybe only to gratify a whim, will change his capital and founding a new city, build a palace and temples and richly ornament them; and in a few generations the seat of government, owing to another hazard or another whim, moving elsewhere, the city is abandoned and desolation usurps the place of so much transitory splendour. Here and there in the jungle, far from any habitation, you will find ruined temples, overgrown with trees, and among the dank verdure broken gods and elaborate bas-reliefs as the only sign that here was once a thriving city, and you will come across poverty-stricken villages that are all that remain of the capital of a rich and powerful kingdom. It is a sombre reminder of the mutability of human things.

“Lopburi is now but a narrow winding street of Chinese houses, built along one bank of the river; but all about are the ruins of a great city, mouldering temples and crumbling pagodas with here and there a fragment of florid carving, and in the temples are broken images of the Blessed One, and in their courtyards bits of heads and arms and legs. The plaster is grey as though it had been discoloured by London fogs and it peels off the bricks so that you think of old men with loathsome diseases. There is no elegance of line in these ruins and the decoration of doors and windows, robbed by time of their gold and tinsel, is mean and tawdry.

“But I had come to Lopburi chiefly to see what remained of the grand house of Constantine Faulkon, who was, I suppose, one of the most amazing of the adventurers who have made the East the scene of their exploits. The son of a Cephalonian innkeeper, he ran away to sea in an English ship, and after many hazards arriving in Siam rose to be the chief minister of the King. The world of his day rang with the tale of his unlimited power, splendour and enormous wealth. There is an account of him in a little book by the Père d’Orléans of the Company of Jesus, but it is a work of edification and dilates unduly upon the tribulations of Constantine’s widow when after his death she sought to preserve her virtue from the rude onslaughts of a Siamese prince. In her laudable efforts she was supported by her saintly grandmother, who at the age of eighty-eight, having lost nothing of the ardour and vivacity of her faith, talked to her continually of the famous Martyrs of Japan, from whom she had the honour to be descended. ‘My daughter,’ she said to her, ‘what glory there is in being a martyr! You have here the advantage that martyrdom seems to be an heirloom in your family: if you have so much reason to expect it, what pains should you not take to deserve it!’

“It is satisfactory to learn that, sustained by these counsels and fortified by the incessant admonitions of the Jesuit fathers, the widow resisted all temptations to become the bejewelled inmate of an almost royal seraglio and ended her virtuous days as dish-washer in the house of a gentleman of no social consequence.

“One could have wished that the Père d’Orléans had been a little more circumstantial in his account of his hero’s career. The vicissitudes in the course of which he ascended from his lowly station to such a pinnacle surely deserved to be saved from oblivion. He represents him as a pious catholic and an upright minister devoted to the interests of his king; but his account of the revolution that overthrew both king and dynasty and delivered the Greek into the hands of the outraged patriots of Siam, reads as though a certain arrangement of the facts had seemed necessary so that neither le grand roi nor various persons in high places should incur reproach. A decent veil is thrown over the sufferings of the fallen favourite, but his death at the hands of the executioners is vastly edifying. Reading between the jejune lines you receive notwithstanding the impression of a powerful and brilliant character. Constantine Faulkon was unscrupulous, cruel, greedy, faithless, ambitious; but he was great. His story reads like one of Plutarch’s lives.

“But of the grand house which he built nothing remains but the high brick wall that surrounded it and three or four roofless buildings, crumbling walls and the shapes of doors and windows. They have still the vague dignity of the architecture of Louis XIV. It is an unhandsome ruin that reminds you of nothing but a group of jerry-built villas destroyed by fire.

“I went back to the river. It was narrow and turbid, deep between high banks, and on the other side were thick clumps of bamboo behind which the red sun was setting. The people were having their evening bath; fathers and mothers were bathing their children, and monks, having washed themselves, were rinsing out their yellow robes. It was a pleasant sight and grateful to the sensibility jarred by those sordid ruins and perplexed.”

History Today (not consulted):

Robert Bruce, Louis XIV’s Mission to Siam, March 1971

Robert Bruce, Constantine Phaulkon: The Greek Dictator of Siam, February 1982

Peter Murrell, Louis XIV and the King of Siam, May 2014.

A Siamese execution, 19th-century illustration from Le Petit Journal used on the jacket of my edition of Hutchinson’s translation:

EW Hutchinson, Revolution in Siam

Southeast Asian languages

June 6 2015

The main language systems are


Austroasiatic includes Mon (Burma), Vietnamese and Khmer.

I have done a post on Austronesia. Austronesian languages include Malay, Polynesian languages and Tagalog.

Hmong-Mien languages are spoken in mountainous areas of southern China. Within the last 3-400 years, many Hmong and Mien speakers have migrated to Burma, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Sino-Tibetan includes Chinese (Mandarin and non-Mandarin), Burmese and the Tibetic languages. It has more native speakers than any other language family except the Indo-European. Tibeto-Burman refers to the Sino-Tibetan languages that are not Chinese.

Tai-Kadai includes Lao and Thai (last post).

These are linguistic, not ethnic, classifications.

African languages (old post).

From the Yangtze to the Gulf of Thailand

June 6 2015

The Thai are a subgroup of the Tai people, who include the Ahom in India, Dai in China, Shan in Burma, Lao in Laos and others in Vietnam. The Tai appeared historically in the first century CE in the Yangtze River valley. Chinese pressures forced them south.

The ancestors of the Thai entered the central part of the Southeast Asian mainland from Yunnan circa AD 1000.

The most powerful Tai kingdom in Yunnan had been Nanchao or Nanzhao, 729-902. It was followed by the Dali Kingdom, 937-1253, whose founder claimed Han descent, and which was conquered by the Mongols.

Some Tai presumably migrated because of infiltration of Yunnan by Han Chinese. More later fled from the Mongols. It was the Mongols who brought Yunnan definitively into China.

Nanzhao had been influenced by Tantric or Tibetan Buddhism, but, at least after their migration, the Thais became converts to the Theravada or Sinhalese southern Buddhism that had established itself in Burma in 1190.

There have been four main Thai polities in Thailand (capital here means main capital; other cities may have served the function for some of the time):

I  Kingdom of Sukhothai, 1238-1438
Capital Sukhothai, 265 miles north of Bangkok

Phra Ruang dynasty, but from 1368 under the suzerainty of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya

II  Kingdom of Ayutthaya, 1350-1767
Capital Ayutthaya, 50 miles north of Bangkok

First Uthong dynasty, 1350-70
First Suphannaphum dynasty, 1370-88
Second Uthong dynasty, 1388-1409
Second Suphannaphum dynasty, 1409-1569
Sukhothai dynasty, 1569-1629
Prasat Thong dynasty, 1630-88
Ban Phlu Luang dynasty, 1688-1767

Ayutthaya was brought down by Burmese invaders, who continued to harass Thailand in the coming decades.

III  Kingdom of Thonburi, 1768-82
Capital Thonburi, now part of Bangkok

Thonburi dynasty

IV  Kingdom of Rattanakosin, 1782-present
Capital Bangkok

Chakri dynasty

Rattanakosin comes from Rattanakosin Island in Bangkok, the original site of the capital.

All the Chakri kings have the official name of Rama. Bhumibol is Rama IX. His predecessor Ananda (last post) was Rama VIII.

Thais called the country Mueang Thai. The exonym Siam came from the Portuguese. It has been identified with the Sanskrit śyāma (श्याम), meaning dark or brown. Some Thais are very dark.

Siam was officially adopted under Mongkut or Rama IV (reigned 1851-68). On June 23 1939 the name was changed to Thailand. From 1945 to May 11 1949 it was Siam again. Then it reverted to Thailand.

The distance from the Yangtze basin to the Gulf of Thailand is about 2,500 miles.

Tibetan rivers (old post).


Mystery in Siam, and other unlucky kings

June 5 2015

Peter, Ananda and Faisal.

Yugoslavia: Ex-King Peter, 1945

Mystery in Siam, 1946

The exonym Siam became official under King Mongkut (reigned 1851-68). On June 23 1939 it was changed to Thailand. From 1945 to May 11 1949 it was Siam again. Then it reverted to Thailand.

Iraq Bombshell, 1958

Violent Buddhists

June 5 2015

… in Sri Lanka

Charles Haviland, BBC Radio 4. A depressing account.

Turbulent monks – the Pali Tipitaka (old post).

Tuba concerto

June 4 2015

Vaughan Williams, 1954. Patrick Harrild, tuba; London Symphony Orchestra, Bryden Thomson.

Prelude: Allegro moderato

Romanza: Andante sostenuto

Finale: Rondo alla tedesca, allegro.


June 4 2015

Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

[Footnote: ShirleyDeath the Leveller, the closing lines.]

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

The romance of simple maps

June 3 2015

The less a map contains, the more it involves you. This is also true of PowerPoint presentations. (Above all, historical maps should not contain arrows.)

Looking at the Sea of Japan map (separate window), you think of the straits which Dutch, Russian and French sailors navigated; of the Jesuits whom the Japanese had confined to the mainland; of Peter the Great’s prospectors, Russian settlers, alarmed shoguns; wonder who, if anyone, ever travelled overland from the Strait of Tartary to Vladivostok; realise why North Korea is an unruly client of China, not Russia; ask yourself why such a small part of the Japanese population faces that sea; see what Japanese generals stared at in 1900: Korea, the colonial temptation; Manchuria, the sphere of influence (was that phrase already used?), separated from the sea only by a thin strip of Korea and Russia; Russia, the alien superpower whom they were about to defeat as they had already defeated their giant, enfeebled and estranged cultural parent China.

Jews and Muslims in Christendom

June 2 2015

Though the status [of Jews] was not recognized de jure in the canon law of the Christian Church, it was no more possible for Christianity than it was for Islam to cut the ground of its own moral claims to theological validity from under its own feet by proscribing another higher religion which was not only older than it was, but was its forerunner according to its own contention. [Footnote: The historical relation of Christianity to Judaism explains why the Christian Church never extended its tacit toleration of Judaism to an Islam which was in one aspect a post-Christian reversion to Judaism from Christianity. In the Christian view the tolerance morally due to a truly though imperfectly inspired pre-Christian approximation towards Christianity could not properly be extended to a perverse backsliding from the Christian summit of religious attainment.]

Christians did not treat Jews better than Muslims. They had higher regard for Jewish theology, but where Jews had no civil rights, religious toleration had no meaning.

Islam’s traditional respect for the older religions is disappearing in some quarters.

A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954

Odi et amo

June 1 2015

Odi et amo: quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

[Footnote: Catullus, Q. V.: Carmina, No. lxxxv.]

“I hate and I love. Perhaps you ask why.
I do not know, but I feel it happen and I am torn apart.”

A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954

Dogs, Hoops and Running Boys

May 31 2015

… gave life to the foreground in engravings from, say, 1750 to 1830 – and suggest a title for a book of light social history. They come into nursery rhyme illustrations as well.

The Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury in a print published in January 1753 or earlier:

Foundling Hospital, 1753

St James’s Square, 1752 (Chatham House, Duke of York Street and St James’s, Piccadilly in background; boy and hoop centre foreground; possibly clearer colour version here):

St James's Square, 1752

A painting of the 1825 Decembrist revolt in the Senate Square, St Petersburg by Vasily Timm has the running boy, but in these circumstances no dogs or hoops (he is similar to a running figure on a print of Bow Church and Cheapside in 1750, Getty images):

Timm, Decembist Revolt, 1825

This of the Tower of London, c 1810, has a hoop and ambling boy, but no dog.

One of the new lodges, Hyde Park, 1828, with hoop and dogs; dandies lounge at the rails:

New lodge, Hyde Park, 1828

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820 (the figure may not be a boy, but we have seen him in the Foundling Hospital, Bow Church and Russian images):

St Giles-in-the-Fields, c 1820

There are several Thomas Bewick wood engravings of boys with hoops, and an oil painting by John Opie.

It seems that boys did no more than roll the hoop.

Gibbon and the defence of America

May 30 2015

Gibbon’s confidence [General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West in Vol VI] in the inviolability of an American asylum for the Western Civilization would have been justified if – but only if – the aggressor’s part had been played in reality by those arrested Nomad riders [Nomadism is one of Toynbee’s “arrested civilizations”] who had been cast for it in Gibbon’s imagination. If the Continental Power that was under suspicion in A.D. 1952 of entertaining designs of world-wide conquest had been, once again, the Mongols, the peoples of the Western World would assuredly have had better reason this time for counting on the survival of their own distinctive culture than they had had in A.D. 1238, when they had been facing the prospect of a Mongol occupation of the West European peninsula of Asia without having any reassuring Transatlantic asylum at their backs. In A.D. 1952 they could have taken comfort in reminding themselves that in A.D. 1281 the forces of a Mongol Empire, which at that date had been mistress of the Continent from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the Persian Gulf and the Baltic Sea, had been thrown back ignominiously from the beaches of Japan; for a cavalry Power which had proved impotent to conquer a cluster of small islands separated from the Continent by only a hundred miles of sea at the nearest point would have had no prospect, if she had occupied the European coastline of the Continent that the Germans held in June 1940, of being able to conquer the great island of North America on the farther side of a nearly two thousand-miles-broad Atlantic Ocean, or even the sister island of South America, which was divided by not less than sixteen hundred miles of sea from the Continent at the Straits of Dakar, where the westward bulge of Africa approached closest to the eastward bulge of Brazil. Indeed, the fiasco of Qubilay Khan’s attempt on Japan suggests that even the twenty-miles-wide Straits of Dover, which had foiled Napoleon and foiled Hitler when the local Continental war-lord of the day had had the whole of Europe under his command, might have proved impassable for Qubilay Khan in spite of his commanding the Asiatic mass as well as the European extremity of the Continent. But the historic immunity of the isles from conquest by Continental war-lords had been due to the comparative innocuousness of even a sedentary community’s most formidable weapons of offence until a hundred years and more after the date at which Gibbon had been writing; and no one who had lived through the war of A.D. 1939-45 could be blind to the truth that, since then, times had changed. The weapons with which Hitler had come within an ace of conquering Britain, and with which the combined forces of the United States and the British Commonwealth had succeeded thereafter in conquering Hitler’s vaunted Festung Europa, were indications that in a future world war the conquest of North America might not be beyond the reach of a Power controlling the aggregate resources of the Old World and capable of forging this incomparably vast store of war potential into unprecedentedly potent weapons through a mastery of an ever improving Western technology.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Mozart’s emperor

May 29 2015

In 1780 Maria Theresa was succeeded by her son Joseph II.

She was the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Francis died in 1765. Maria Theresa went into perpetual mourning.

Joseph succeeded Francis as Emperor and lived until 1790. His successor was Leopold II.

His mother continued to rule the Hapsburg lands of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia jointly with her son, as, after the War of the Austrian Succession, she had done with her husband. (Another of her children, Marie Antoinette, married Louis XVI.) Joseph’s war against feudal privileges began at her death.

Joseph was a devoted disciple of the French philosophers, and he attempted to carry out uncompromisingly in backward Austria that transformation of society which was accomplished a few years later in such partial measure in progressive France. The actual achievements of the French Revolution were none the less stupendous, however short they fell of their aim, and they were only made possible by the spiritual response of the Nation to the philosophers’ gospel. Joseph undertook the mission of the “philosopher-king,” and attempted by means of “Strong Government” to wrench unenlightened populations out of their cherished traditions and convert them forcibly by the accomplished fact. Neglecting all local differences of language, religion, and custom, he proceeded to refashion his dominions on a pedantically uniform plan.

Joseph’s crusade was a disastrous failure. Reform was checkmated by revolt, and he was killed by ten years of unrelieved disappointments. Yet his short reign has determined the course of the Monarchy’s internal history ever since.

He contrived to range Nationality and Enlightenment in opposite camps. His dogmatic disregard for national feeling awakened it into frantic life, and it arrayed itself for the battle not in the “Rights of Man” (of which it had never heard), but in the familiar harness of mediæval vested interests. The centres of nationalistic resistance were the provincial “estates,” bodies representative not of peoples but of castes. They were dominated by the nobility and the Church, so that nationalism in the Hapsburg Empire started with a strong feudal and clerical bias, which has left permanent effects. The movement has remained legalistic instead of becoming philosophic. It looks to the past rather than to the future, and has fallen a willing victim to the malady of “historical sentiment.”

Joseph’s death in 1790 concluded the first bout in the contest between enlightened despotism and nationalistic reaction, but the factors of success and failure were too evenly divided between the two forces to allow a speedy decision. The struggle continued intermittently till the revolutionary year of 1848 brought it to a head.

Maron, Joseph II

Anton von Maron, Joseph II (1741-90), Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, in the uniform of a field marshal of Austria, wearing the Order of the Golden Fleece, the Military Order of Maria-Theresa and a plaque of the Order of St Stephen of Hungary, Château de Versailles

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Hermit crabs

May 28 2015

The ʿOsmanlis […] despised armour – perhaps on account of their own proficiency in the use of long-range missile weapons. (They inherited an aptitude for archery from their Nomad ancestors, and they took kindly to fire-arms.) The Janissaries [infantry] wore no armour at all, and the Sipahis [cavalry] seldom bothered to take any with them when they started on a campaign, since they counted upon being able to capture all that they wanted from the enemy. When they did wear armour acquired in this way, the Sipahis made a point of choosing pieces that did not fit, in order to show that they were hermit-crabs.

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Leonardo and digital death

May 27 2015

“Eschew a line of study in which the work done dies together with the worker.” [Footnote: “Fuggi quello studio del quale la resultante opera more insieme coll’ operante d’essa” – Leonardo da Vinci, in The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, compiled and edited from the original MSS. by J. P. Richter, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1939, University Press, 2 vols.), vol. ii, p. 244, No. 1169.]

So don’t blog. There are no defences against the whims of providers and obsolescence of software.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

Rush-hour in Hong Kong

May 26 2015

The third of Abram Chasins’s Three Chinese Pieces (1926). The other two are A Shanghai Tragedy and (for white keys) Flirtation in a Chinese Garden.

Gullivior has run together four performances:

Abram Chasins (piano roll) (00:00)
Benno Moiseiwitsch (01:32)
Shura Cherkassky (02:56)
Constance Keene (04:33)

Chasins isn’t the best, perhaps because of the piano roll. What subtle thing gives a piano roll away? Keene was his wife.

I heard this on Cathay Pacific circa 1987 (during Cathay’s better days). The classical audio channel’s presenter was Edward Greenfield, who was still, in his companionable radio voice, quaintly referring to his selections of “gramophone records”.

Film about Greenfield. He was a kind of opposite number, at the Guardian, to Michael Kennedy at the Telegraph.

Egypt and India, 1915

May 26 2015

It was easy for an Indian to be Panislamist in 1915, more difficult for an Arab. The Panislamism stirred up during the war by the Young Turks was at odds with Arab nationalism and Panarabism.

The Indian Moslem is misled by his own experience. In India Islam is a nationality. Its professors may have been Arab, Persian, Afghan or Mogul when they came as conquerors to the country, yet now they are one blood, bound together by the common menace of Hindu race-hatred. Conditions are different in the Ottoman Empire. The menace of the Unbeliever is here imperfectly realised, and national antagonisms find an arena within the “Bulwark of Islam.” Our educated Indian Panislamist should talk to an educated Panarab from Egypt, if he wishes to discover how Moslems of Arab speech feel towards the political ambitions of their Turkish co-religionists.

The Egyptian will agree with the Indian emphatically, that the rule of the European is a humiliation for Islam, and that British administration, however beneficial or even necessary it may be for the moment, [footnote: Though, except for the work of the irrigation engineers, he will have much less good to say of it than the Indian.] must be no more than a transitory phase in the long history of Egypt and India; but he will tell him that he has experienced one thing worse than British occupation, and that was the tyranny of the Turkish official class, which Great Britain ended just a generation ago. “It is only when I think what we suffered from the Turk,” he will conclude, “that I can find it in my heart to tolerate his British successor.”

There is, of course, an element of propaganda here, despite Toynbee’s explicit anti-imperialism even as he was doing official war work.

Egypt, Iran and Palestine had an especially bad experience with the British, but were never officially colonies.

See Sidney PeelBritish Administration and Irrigation in Egypt, Political Science Quarterly, Vol 20, No 3, September 1905, pp 513-534, at JSTOR here without charge or other restriction. Worth reading and by a grandson of Robert Peel.

India’s feeling of solidarity with Egypt is conveyed, in the language of the time, in the chapter called Egypt’s Fight for Freedom in Nehru’s answer to Wells, Glimpses of World History (1934).

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

Malankara Orthodox

May 25 2015

Random eastern Christian.

Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, or Indian Orthodox Church: Oriental Orthodox, West Syrian rite. Not part of the “Greek” Orthodox family. Based in Kottayam, Kerala. Language Malayalam.

Here, Quarbana or Eucharist celebrated by HG Paulose Mar Pachomios, Metropolitan, at St Stephen’s, Kattanam, Kerala. Note the curtain and the furious censer-swinging. The men and women are segregated. No religious person should wear a beard any more. I sympathise a bit with the children.

For my rough guide to eastern Christianities, go here and (for India) here.

Wikipedia pages written by Indians often seem over-engaged and not to see the wood for the trees. The one for this church is an example.

The Melkite Church

May 24 2015

The Melkite Greek Catholic Church uses the Byzantine rite (tradition of Saints John Chrysostom and Basil). The liturgical language is Arabic (and sometimes Greek). Here (no embedding) is a chant performed at the start of Holy Communion, sung in the Saint Paul Basilica, the Melkite cathedral in the Lebanese mountain village of Harissa. You’ll hear the word Allah.

Melkite comes from the Syriac word malkoyo (ܡܠܟܝܐ in the Syriac alphabet‎) and the Arabic malakī (ملكي)‎, meaning royal, and by extension, imperial (ie Byzantine).

Nearby is the Marian shrine Notre Dame du Liban, visited by all Christian denominations. Christians, Druze and Muslims all have a devotion to Mary.

For my rough guide to eastern Christianities, go here and here. I will do a further post on liturgies.

Here, courtesy of KTO, the French-language television channel of the Archbishop of Paris, is Benedict XVI at Harissa in September 2012; he reads an apostolic exhortationEcclesia in Medio Oriente, in French (it came out of his 2010 Special Synod on the Middle East), and signs it:

He also met the Syriac Maronite Patriarchate, Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Syro-Catholic Patriarchate (Syriac Catholic) and others. Maronites, Armenians and Syrians are the three Catholic churches headquartered in Lebanon.

Saint George Will Prevail

May 23 2015

Strangely enough, I posted the last entry, in a mood of nostalgia for Istanbul while in Beirut, without noticing that one of the subjects of Hamam – lawless property speculators – was being referred to in large neon letters on a derelict building, the Saint-George Hotel, right opposite my hotel.

People remember Beirut before 1975 as they used to remember Tangier and Alexandria before 1956, Saigon before 1954, Berlin before 1939, Shanghai before 1937, Smyrna before 1922, Salonika before 1917 perhaps: a place of lost sensory pleasures. I don’t think Beirut had a reputation for loucheness or decadence, but people speak of the douceur de vivre of those days. “You should have known the city then.”

The Saint-George opened in 1932, under the French. Abdallah El Khoury acquired it in 1958. Khoury is an exclusively Christian name. I assume he was Maronite. It has remained in his family’s possession ever since. When the civil war started, Phalangists occupied it in the Battle of the Hotels. Later, Syrian troops, attempting to pacify the warring Lebanese factions, occupied the burned-out shell.

After the war, the Syrians left the building. An abortive renovation began in 1996. But the rebuilding of Beirut had been charged to a new company called Solidere. “By agreement with the government, Solidere enjoys special powers of eminent domain as well as a limited regulatory authority codified in law, making the company a unique form of public-private partnership.” (Wikipedia)

The Saint-George threatened Solidere’s control of St George Bay. Solidere’s plans were backed by the government of Rafik Hariri, whose family and friends were Solidere’s main shareholders. The government blocked the reconstruction.

On February 14 2005, a car bomb exploded as Hariri drove past. He and twenty-one others, including five Saint-George staff, were killed.

I don’t think that, even in this land of conspiracy theories, the Khoury family have been blamed for the assassination. The road in front of the Saint-George was closed for nearly three years. The electricity and water supply and telephone network cut by the explosion were not repaired. Municipal officers blocked improvements to the Saint-George Yacht Club. Police evicted yachts from its waterfront marina.

Guardian piece about Solidere by Oliver Wainwright, January 22 2015, might fill you with cold rage, but it must also be said that some of Solidere’s planning (perhaps the earlier stages) was good. Some streets and buildings are very pleasant. The substitution of calm pastiche for a gritty, vibrant, older urban landscape has happened in other places.

Other city centres, too, are organised for the rich. Other cities have destroyed fine old buildings during the peace that followed a destructive war. It isn’t only Beirut that has empty shopping malls. For criminality among developers, I doubt whether Beirut compares with Moscow.

Part of the problem is that there is now no Gulf money coming in. Gulf Arabs are no longer comfortable in a country half-pledged to their enemies.

Two Diocletianic soldier-martyrs, St Sebastian and St George, have been irresistible to artists, but St George has the wider and more varied and extravagant cult: paintings, legends, intercessions, veneration, dedications, chivalric orders, romances, shrines, feast days, hagiographies, patronages, flags, remains.

It extended from Palestine and Lebanon through the rest of the East Roman Empire. It still touches the Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Nestorian and Uniate worlds. And Islam. It appeared early in Georgia. It reached Aragon, Genoa, Venice, Hungary, the Holy Roman Empire, England (Britannia’s trident is like George’s spear upended), Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Malta. But it was in St George Bay that George killed the dragon.

Beirut, at least, says that it happened there. Some accounts say Libya. The story was Eastern in origin, came back with the Crusaders, and was retold in the literature of Romance.

The usual depictions of Sebastian and George are complementary, passive and active. Sebastian pierced, George piercing. Arrows and Ascalon. Both were known to Diocletian, if you believe the stories.

George was tortured and decapitated. Sebastian was not killed by the arrows. He recovered and taunted the emperor again, at which point he was beaten to death. He is called twice-martyred.

St Sebastian was born c 256 in the south of France and was appointed a captain of the Praetorian Guard under Diocletian and Maximian, who were unaware that he was a Christian. He was martyred in Rome c 288 before the official persecution got underway, when Diocletian’s officials learned of his role in the conversion of Marcus and Marcellian and others.

We aren’t told much about Sebastian’s background, but George was born c 280 in Palestine to a Greek Christian noble family. His father was an important soldier, known to Diocletian. George presented himself to Diocletian in Nicomedia, the eastern capital under the Tetrarchy. By his late twenties, he had been promoted to the rank of tribune and stationed as an imperial (not Praetorian) guard there. He was executed in Nicomedia (some say at Lydda in Palestine) in 303 at the start of the persecution.

SAINT GEORGE WILL PREVAIL. Taken today. But why will the dragon be slain specifically in 2019?

St George

Other Solidere pieces: here, here, here. On the cult of St George: Helen Gibson, St George the Ubiquitous, Aramco World, November/December 1971.

Old posts:

Sebastião! Protetor do Brasil

The Grand Hotel in Yokohama.


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).

Sufis and Shiites 2

May 21 2015

Ismail I and the Safaviyya order of Sufis were Shiite long before he took power: I have corrected the last post but one.

The Safavi were descended from Safi al-Din (1253-1334) of Ardabil in Azeri-dominated north-western Iran, the head and founder of the Safaviyya. About 1399 the order exchanged its Sunni affiliation for Shia.

Qizilbash anti-Ottoman Shiite militant groups, named after their red headgear, flourished in Azerbaijan, Anatolia and Kurdistan (from when?) and, as members of the order (were all Qizilbash members?), contributed to the foundation of the Safavid dynasty.

Ismail’s father was their leader. He died in battle against Sunni forces when Ismail was a year old.

Ismail emerged to take his father’s position as head of the Qizilbash. In 1501 he took Tabriz and proclaimed himself Shah. He brought all of modern Iran and parts of Iraq and Turkey under his rule.

The non-Osmanli Türkmen tribes in Asia Minor had resented being conquered by the Osmanlis in the fourteenth century and being reconquered by them after having been temporarily liberated by Timur. In 1511 the Ottoman Empire was nearly overthrown once again by a widespread revolt in Asia Minor of Twelve-Imam Shiʿi Türkmen partisans of Shah Ismaʿil, the founder of the Safavi Empire. This revolt was repressed savagely by Selim I in 1512-13. The original Safavi army was composed of corps of Shiʿi emigres from the Türkmen principalities in Asia Minor that had fallen under Ottoman rule. After Shah Ismaʿil’s death in 1524, the turbulence of these Qizilbash (“Red-heads”, so-called from the colour of their headgear) became a plague for Ismaʿil’s successors, though the Shahs of the Safavi Empire were ex officio the spiritual heads of the Sufi religious order in which the tribal regiments of Qizilbash soldiers were enrolled.

So Iranian Shiism was forged partly in opposition to the Ottoman Turks. Turkish, Mongol and Persian ethnicities, languages, cultures and polities meet and overlap: it is easy to distort matters when one applies labels. Toynbee, below, in an early book, calls the Timurids Turkish, but Timur is usually described as Turco-Mongol. He is a successor of the Mongols, but came from a Turkicised Mongol federation, the Barlas.

The “native Persian” Shah Ismail unified Persia through the intolerant imposition of Shiism and a renaissance of Persian culture followed, but, coming from Azerbaijan, he is usually described as being of Turkic stock (though the point is disputed). “Native Persian” is the kind of imprecise nationalistic term Toynbee would have dropped in later books.

“Turco-Mongol” can also be used in a broader sense, to describe the hypothetical common origin of both the Turkic and Mongol peoples which can be found in their common Altaic languages, culture and, to a lesser degree, ethnic and genetic origins.

In the sixteenth century A.D. a native Persian dynasty, the Sufi, which adhered to [the Shiite] sect, swept away the Turkish [Timurid and sub-Timurid] princelings who had divided Iran between them since the Mongol [Il Khan] era. The plateau was united once more in a national state, and once more again the renaissance of Iran expressed itself in religion. The heresy of its kings became the belief of the nation, and under the banner of “Shiism,” Persia kept at bay the hated Turkish powers which hemmed her in on every side and uniformly professed the orthodox “Sunni” faith: Ottoman Turks on the West, Uzbeg Khans upon the Oxus in the North, and the Uzbegs’ Mogul [sic] cousins, who had carved themselves a mighty empire in India upon Persia’s Eastern flank.

I assume that there is an etymological connection between Sufi and Safaviyya or Safavid.

Toynbee does have throughout this book, and with a respectable publisher in 1915, “century A.D.”.

Old post: Osmanli, Safavi, Timurid.

Mankind and Mother Earth, OUP, 1976, posthumous

Nationality and the War, with maps, Dent, 1915

Fall of Palmyra

May 20 2015


Death among the ruins: a major battle was fought between the British and Ottoman empires in 1915 at Ctesiphon.

Sufis and Shiites

May 20 2015

or, Sasanians, Safavis and Sikhs

The history of the Safawis is one example of the historical phenomenon of a would-be universal church becoming militant and paying the penalty of military success by turning into a local state. Other examples are the transformation of the Zoroastrian Church into the Sasanian Empire, and the history of the Sikhs.

The Sufi mystical orders of Islam are mainly Sunni, but some have been influenced by, and adopted by, Ismailis and Twelvers (and Zaidis?). The founder of the Safavid dynasty in Persia, Shah Ismail I, came out of the Iranian Shiite Sufi order of Safaviyya. When he took power, Twelver Shiism became the Persian state religion.

But did Iranian Shiism carry any signs of its founder’s background? Sufism is not popular with the religious authorities in Iran today. For how long did the original order, which had become militant, survive Ismail?

The Sufi challenge to Iran’s clergy, at

Posts on Sufism at On an Overgrown Path, sorted by date and not only about music.

Perhaps Sufis will be leaders in the coming reform of Islam.

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Sunni and Shia in India

May 19 2015

The survival of relatively good relations between the Sunnīs and Shīʿīis of India [which he takes as a fact], in contrast to the violent recrudescence of the feud between the two sects throughout the rest of the Iranic World since the generation of Ismāʿīl Shāh Safawī and the Ottoman Sultan Selīm I, is probably due to a combination of factors. For one thing, the subversive effect of Shāh Ismaʿīl’s career upon the life of the other Iranic countries did not extend to Hindustan; for although Ismāʿīl’s career affected Indian history indirectly by leading […] to the invasion of India by Bābur, Bābur […] was a Laodicean in his attitude towards the Sunnī-Shīʿī quarrel. Another manifest ground for the relative tolerance shown by Shīʿīs and Sunnīs towards each other in India is the common consciousness of being members of an Islamic diaspora among a numerically overwhelming majority of Hindus to whom both forms of Islam are equally anathema. Though Bābur reverted to Sunnism after his final expulsion [by Uzbeks] from Transoxania […] [he had flirted with Shiism during his partnership with Safavid Iran], and though his descendants in India remained Sunnīs thereafter, the paramount concern of the Mughals, as of all other Islamic Powers in India, was to maintain as large as possible an inflow of Muslim recruits from Dār-al-Islām to sustain the Islamic ascendancy in Hindustan; and they did not inquire too narrowly into the religious views of the Muslims who responded to their call. Since Iran was the nearest part of Dār-al-Islām to India, and since Iran had become an exclusively Shīʿī country in consequence of the Safawī conquests and the Safawī policy, the Shīʿī contingent in the Muslim immigration into India was considerable. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that although the Muslim masters of Orthodox Christendom were likewise a small minority dispersed among a numerically stronger non-Muslim subject population, this state of affairs did not here deter the Sunnīs from extirpating their Shīʿī coreligionists. The reason for this Ottoman ruthlessness towards the Shīʿah in Anatolia was that Anatolia was far more dangerously exposed than India was to attack by Shāh Ismāʿīl and his successors.

Though Muslims were surely not a minority in Anatolia in 1500.

Post on the arrival of Islam in India (in a wider historical context).

There have been some Indian Shiite dynasties.

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

The catacombs and the hills

May 18 2015

When the rising religion of the internal proletariat of the Hellenic World in its universal state was persecuted by the dominant minority, the Roman Imperial authorities were able to suppress the public practice of Christianity, but they failed to suppress Christianity itself: they merely drove it underground. The prohibition of Christian worship on the surface of pagan Rome stimulated the Christians to create for themselves a new Christian Rome in the Catacombs below the surface of the Campagna; and the City of the Catacombs eventually triumphed over the City of the Seven Hills. The Church rose again from the bowels of the earth in order to raise in the City of the Vatican a dome which towers at this day above the Capitol; and the early Latin peasant, who responded to the challenge of his physical environment by breaking in the intractable surface of the Campagna with his plough, was emulated by the latter-day Christian denizen of the Roman slums, who responded to the challenge from his human environment by visiting the Campagna in the secrecy of the night-watches in order to carve a labyrinthine subterranean world of his own out of the solid tufa. The monument of the Latin peasant’s feat is the Roman Empire; the monument of the Christian proletarian’s feat is the Roman Catholic Church.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

Reverberations from the Morea

May 17 2015

Metternich had taken alarm at the outbreak of the Greek insurrection against Ottoman rule in 1821. Clear-sighted as he was according to his own lights, he had divined at once that this repudiation of the Ottoman Pādishāh’s authority by a handful of his Orthodox Christian subjects in the remote Morea was a menace to the authority of the Austrian Kaiser because the Greeks were claiming Western sympathy and assistance for their cause in the name of the Western principle of Nationality. Metternich represented to the Holy Alliance [whose other members were Russia and Prussia] insistently, though without success, that if their own principle of Legitimacy was to be maintained intact, the Greek insurgents must be boycotted as outlaws and Sultan Mahmūd be supported, in maintaining his dynastic rights, as one of the Lord’s Anointed. From the Legitimist standpoint, Metternich’s attitude on this occasion was entirely justified by the event. For the triumphant success of the Greek insurgents – a success which they owed to the friendly intervention of France, Great Britain, and Russia as much as to their own exertions – was an event of far more than local importance. The erection of a sovereign independent national Greek State in 1829-31 made it inevitable that every people in South-Eastern Europe should insist upon attaining its own national independence and national unity sooner or later; and thus the Greek insurrection of 1821 incidentally preordained the erection of Jugoslavia and Greater Rumania in 1918-20 [greater at the expense of Hungary]. Truly, Metternich’s senses had not deceived him when he heard the death-knell of the Danubian Hapsburg Monarchy in those reverberations from the clash of arms in the Morea which fell upon his ears in Vienna.

A hundred years of imperial dissolution: 1821-1920.

Metternich, the last survivor of 1815, died a month to the day before the armistice in the Italian War of 1859.

It is difficult to imagine Beethoven and Metternich living in the same city. They never met, though a film even worse than Amadeus suggests that they did.

A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934

Fear the wolves

May 16 2015

Petits moutons, gagnez la plaine
Fuyez les bois, crainte les loups;
Je n’ai pu me garder moi-même,
Comment vous garderai-je tous?

Chanson Bocagère

On title page of the Survey of International Affairs for the year of the reoccupation of the Rhineland, the annexation of Abyssinia (the event which showed the impotence of the League of Nations), and the start of the Spanish Civil War. Did Toynbee (or his researchers) find this “woodland song” in the memoir Le petit-maître philosophe: ou voyages et avantures de Genu Soalhat, chevalier de Mainvilliers, dans les principales cours de l’Europe (1750)? It appears thus there. The English translation of Mainvilliers uses a different rhyming scheme:

“Gain, ye Lambs, the flow’ry Plain
Fly the Woods, or you’ll be slain,
Fear the Wolves, who long for Food
And pant to revel in your Blood;
I myself can hardly keep,
How should I then save my Sheep?”

Survey of International Affairs, 1936, OUP, Under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1937

Flying doctors

May 15 2015

Cook, Nullarbor Plain, South Australia, 1961:

Toynbee passed through Cook by train en route from Adelaide to Perth in July 1956.

Through the whole of the morning and half the afternoon, the tufted red expanse went on opening out in front of us and fading away behind our rolling wheels. Nothing changed except when, once in every hour or two, we passed a row of half-a-dozen houses and a water tank. “Cook”, “Hughes”, “Reid”, “Haig”: such monosyllabic place-names are just the right ones for these pin-points of human life on the map of the wilderness. The rhythm of the journey is so regular that it begins to have a hypnotic effect. But something must be going to break the trance, for this evening we are to reach Kalgoorlie, and to-morrow we shall be in Perth.

Cook was created in 1917 with the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway and is named after the sixth Prime Minister of Australia, Joseph Cook.

It died in 1997 when the railways were privatised. The new owners did not need a support town there, but diesel refuelling and overnight accommodation for train drivers remain.

The bush hospital (supported from Ceduna and which advertised itself at the station with “If you’re crook come to Cook”) and airstrip were closed, but medical supplies are stored at Cook against a possible train disaster. The Tea and Sugar Train which had supplied the town ceased operation. The former airstrip is known as a place to spot inland dotterel. When Cook was active, water was pumped from an aquifer. Now it is carried in by train.

The Anglican-affiliated Bush Church Aid Society of Australia, 1919- , mentioned in the clip, were not the more famous flying doctors, but the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, 1928- (it began with a different name) also had evangelical origins, in their case Presbyterian. How much of their respective work was directed at indigenous Australians?

The largest religious group in Australia are Catholics.

The Flying Doctor, Australian-British film by Miles Mander, 1936

Flying Doctor Calling, history by Ernestine Hill, 1947

The Flying Doctor, Australian-British television drama series about RFDSA, 39 episodes, 1959; in UK shown on ITV; opening credits; based on radio drama series broadcast, in the UK, on the BBC; how were both of these aired in Australia?

Six novels by Michael Noonan, 1961-69

The Flying Doctors, Australian (Nine Network) television drama series, 1986-93; opening credits (do they ever stop smiling?)

RFDSA promotional film, 2006

Australian eBay

Flying Doctors of Malaysia

The Flying Doctors of East Africa, film by Werner Herzog, 1969

Amref Health Africa

Flying Doctors of America

Los Médicos Voladores

Sai Wan, Hong Kong island, 1961 again; it is hard to believe that this is not some comparatively remote spot in the New Territories:

History of air medical services

The French pioneer of medical aviation was Marie Marvingt; in 1934, she established the first civil air ambulance service in Africa, in Morocco; Marvingt and her proposed air ambulance, by Émile Friant, 1914:

Marie Marvingt, 1914

Flying Doctor Calling

Le toubib volant

East to West, A Journey Round the World, OUP, 1958

Mehmet the Conqueror

May 14 2015

Gentile Bellini, Mehmet

THE CONQUEROR, Sultan Mehmet II. Though his predecessors had already overrun most of the Christian East Roman Empire before Constantinople fell in 1453, it was Mehmet who was remembered by his fellow ʿOsmanlis and fellow Muslims as “the Conqueror” for capturing the Empire’s seat of sovereignty, carrying with it the title to world dominion.

Image here: Wikimedia Commons. Caption in:

With Jane Caplan, A Study of History, new one-volume abridgement, with new material and revisions, a Foreword by Toynbee, maps and, for the first time, illustrations, Thames & Hudson, 1972

Monochrome image cited there as:

Gentile Bellini, Sultan Mehmet II, National Gallery, London

A polite message to Salafists

May 14 2015

God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the World.

The Passing of Arthur, one of the Idylls of the King.

Kant-Berlin versionSymmachan version.

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

Religious diehards

May 13 2015

[The] “die-hard” spirit had asserted itself in the course of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era. In the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church it had found expression in the decrees of the Vatican Council of A.D. 1869-70 and in the anathema pronounced against Modernism in A.D. 1907; in the domain of the Protestant Churches of North America it had entrenched itself in “the Bible Belt”; and this reaction had not been confined to […] the Western World; for by this time the wave of Westernization was sweeping over the whole face of the planet, and Western Science – which was both the force behind the wave and the rider on its crest – was impinging upon all branches of all the higher religions. Under this ubiquitous pressure the “Zealot” mood was manifesting itself in Orthodox as well as in Western Christendom, and it was simultaneously on the war-path in the Islamic World, where the first stirrings of a Westernizing movement under the stimulus of the disastrous ending of the Great Russo-Turkish War of A.D. 1768-74 had provoked, in retort, the militantly archaistic movements of Wahhabism, Idrisism, Sanusism, and Mahdism in the fastnesses of the Arabian and North African deserts.

Diehards (old post).

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954

Two portraits

May 12 2015

Mozart Elgar

A well worn tag

May 12 2015

The earliest complete extant works in Latin, the surviving plays of Plautus and Terence, are undisguised translations of “Hellenistic” Greek originals. And I should say that, in a rather subtler sense, the whole of Latin literature – including even such masterpieces as the poems of Virgil – is in essence a version of Greek originals translated into the Latin. After all, I can quote the second most famous of all the Latin poets [Horace] for my purpose. Indeed, the tag is so well worn that I hardly dare bring it out.

Conquered Greece took her savage conqueror captive, and introduced the arts into rustic Latium:
Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes intulit agresti Latio.

We all know the passage, and we all know that it is true. The mere linguistic difference between the Latin and Greek languages creates no division of literary style and no break in literary history.

This is from a chapter

based on a lecture delivered at Oxford University in the summer term of one of the interwar years, in a course, organized by Professor Gilbert Murray, of prolegomena to various subjects studied in the Oxford School of Literae Humaniores.

Part of tag used here.

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948

Since Nine O’Clock

May 11 2015

“Half past twelve. Time has gone by quickly
since nine o’clock when I lit the lamp
and sat down here. I’ve been sitting without reading,
without speaking. Completely alone in the house,
whom could I talk to?

Since nine o’clock when I lit the lamp
the shade of my young body
has come to haunt me, to remind me
of shut scented rooms,
of past sensual pleasure – what daring pleasure.
And it’s also brought back to me
streets now unrecognisable,
bustling night clubs now closed,
theatres and cafés no longer there.

The shade of my young body
also brought back the things that make us sad:
family grief, separations,
the feelings of my own people, feelings
of the dead so little acknowledged.

Half past twelve. How the time has gone by.
Half past twelve. How the years have gone by.”


Since Nine O’Clock, from Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, translators; George Savidis, editor, CP Cavafy, Collected Poems, revised edition, Princeton University Press, 1992, at Spelling anglicised.

The First Step

May 10 2015

“The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritos:
‘I have been writing for two years now
and I have composed just one idyll.
It’s my only completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder of Poetry
is tall, extremely tall;
and from this first step I now stand on
I will never climb any higher.’
Theocritos replied: ‘Words like that
are improper, blasphemous.
Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have come this far is no small achievement:
what you have done is a glorious thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.
And it is a hard, unusual thing
to be enrolled as a citizen of that city.
Its councils are full of Legislators
no charlatan can fool.
To have come this far is no small achievement:
what you have done already is a glorious thing.’”


The First Step, from Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, translators; George Savidis, editor, CP Cavafy, Collected Poems, revised edition, Princeton University Press, 1992, at

Theocritos, a bucolic poet who flourished around 270 BC, was born in Sicily and spent part of his life in Alexandria. Evmenis is invented.

VE Day

May 9 2015

London and Paris. YouTube credits:

Courtesy Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18SFP9490, 9491

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18 SFP 9261

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), 18 SFP 9155.

Beethoven added by whomever.

Churchill, Unconditional Surrender speech, May 8 1945 (in full here):