I would love to hear from you. Please post comments, critique, suggestions for improvement or request for more information.
Erik Ringmar is professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Ibn Haldun University, Istanbul, Turkey. He has a PhD in political science from Yale University and taught for 12 years in the Government Department at the London School of Economics, and for seven years as a professor of international politics at Shanghai Jiaotong University, in Shanghai, China. Erik has written five books and some 50 academic articles exploring the history of international relations both from European and non-European perspectives. His CV is here. His next book will deal with dance and international politics.
Who was Muhammed?
Leader, Mecca 571 — writing — Quran — discussing Muhammed =–
tribes, isahba, hajj, Kabal
Huge traibes — sedentary peoples — trading routes — Quarash — traders in the area — a lot of Arabs were merchants — trading through Somalia and OMan — Meccas, a lot of gods — no one could imagine that this society would be changed — system of slavery
all rejected everything — new ideas in this movement — isolated from the big families — doing this mvoement secretly for ten years —
consolidation rather thnn exclusivity — exclusiionary vs. inclusionary — — fulfillment of a prophecy — the coming of the profet — as a promise of the religion — God sends profet — people start to forget — Abrahamic religions — in Islam they believed in the boois — the teachings are the same — they refuse to believe and accept
messangers — why are they always fighting? Bible and Jewish version as destorted versions. Many different books of the Bible —
politics and power — what power brings — the historical narrative that was told- — relioion as the opium of the soul — politics matters and not religion — they looik at the wrong thing —
if there are such a lot
all mankidn — religious project as well — every aspect of your life — Moses — trading with eah other — Christianity– political and social sactivities — plitics was there —
jihad — before Muhammed — the idea of expansion — they did not interfere in the political regime at all — we are loiving these ideas —
dhimmoi — Iran — bring this to whoever wants — come and worship — only if they reufes — ono freedom for paopel — not to let people control twhat they should believe.
look at ti from the point how strong Islam — religious established centers — sedentary centers — easy for Muslims to baese their protectino of the basis of the as well as religious — religion established wihtin the walls — you could not go around it — Islam as outside the walls of the city — they were eventually very good at — Ibn Haldun — would Muhammed have moved —
capture many areas — Muhammed fighting 10 times — exploited by the Christians — EUrope was not CHristian at this time — they were being welcomes to be Muslims —
the quality of the message — the unity of the religion — universal community — bedoinines — how to civlize them selves —
SUnni and SHia — from religion to political — not a process of succession — somenoe should take the place and the role — individauls survival of the fittest — provided the leadership — there is a political vacuum —
rotate between different groups — Christian — Shia —
the idea of a claiphate — different asgggremment within the comunity — supplement the the leadership — Huyain — there were no procedures —
there was no way to organize — the succession — Abu Bakr —
is this an important — who are these people — the subpower — the power at the top — this more skweded toward a partricular group —
ruling party and the oppositoin in a democracy — ummah told Abu Bakr what to do —
a caliphal international systme — they were qualified — prominent leaders at the time — een at the pfopherts time — the differences appear in the Karbala — first fitna — Omar assinated for that reason — Persian influence — the bigger picture abuot this — angry at the
Karbala — failed, Sunni as important — sahabah, liek a Sunni — for people who lost faith in –Ghana appealing to the northern people — religion for the peopole — the fundamentalist —
the translation movement — created so manyn different cultures in order to get to know one another -=-
from Muhammed’s time — sturing their writings and readings — like scientists — education and the importance the — take informatoin
wilolingly convertedinto Islam — it turns out to the be best way to benefit yourslef — they convert —
translation movement — also benefits — get the kind of message that they were expecting — world of Islam — when the push
how successful it was — civlizing the people — not slowing down — sedendary life-style — the Arabs break down — use politics for religion, not the other way around — 9
johad — India, very different — under pressure all the time — salvation for te
the aninomisty of the smallest difference
not all taht provincial — benefits for Bedouine society — provide benefits for them — the position of Islam they can
Queresh tribes — much more sophisciated — sedentary vs. nomadic tribes — human sacrifices —
complete version of — Abrahamic religion —
Why did they expand?
How were the able to do it?
What is a “caliphate”?
What is “jihad”?
What is the origin of the split between Sunni and Shia?
What is the Islamic “Golden Age”
Why did power move to Cairo?
What can you tell me about Muslim Spain?
Who are the Turks?
How was the Ottoman empire established?
Algeria was invaded by France in 1830 but the country soon proved difficult to govern. The French army was harassed by Arab guerrilla fighters and in 1837 they were forced to conclude a treaty which gave Algerians control of two thirds of their territory. Yet the French ignored the agreement and the following year the war recommenced. Looking for a more effective way to fight the Arabs, general Thomas Robert Bugeaud, the Governor-General of the colony, developed a new method of warfare ― known as le système Bugeaud ― which he argued was more suitable to African conditions. A main feature of the système was the razzia — the destruction of all resources that supported the lives of the Arab community, their crops, orchards and cattle. Only by declaring war on civilians, Bugeaud argued, and by terrorizing and starving them, could the enemy be subdued. Yet, he insisted, there was nothing barbarian about such methods. After all, France’s aim was to civilize the Africans. “Gentlemen,” as he explained to the French parliament, “war is not made philanthropically; he who wills the end wills the means.”
Other European powers met with similar resistance. The British had to fight no fewer than five wars against the Asante, three wars in Afghanistan and Burma and two opium wars in China. The French fought two wars in Dahomey and the Germans were fiercely resisted by the Herero. The problem in all cases was that the enemies were far away, the European forces actually quite small, and that it was difficult to administer the lands to which they laid claims. Even if one expedition was successful, the natives soon reasserted themselves, and the European had to come back for a second expedition, and occasionally for several more. Colonial wars were not at all like wars in Europe, the Europeans concluded; they required tactics suitable to local conditions.
What settled these wars in the end was not military superiority as much as the ability to strike terror in the local population. Colonial warfare should have “pedagogical aims.” You should strike so hard and in such a devastating fashion that no one dared to resist. The système Bugeaud was an example of such state-sponsored terrorism, and it eventually proved effective. One by one the Algerian guerrilla fighters were killed or captured and in 1843 their independent state collapsed.
Before it was occupied by the United States in 1893, Hawai’i was a sovereign country with it own royal house, foreign policy, bank notes and stamps. In fact, it had been recognized as independent by Europeans countries for close to one hundred years. The last ruler of independent Hawai’i was a woman, queen Liliʻuokalani, 1838-1917. She was an accomplished author and the composer of “Aloha ‘Oe,” the most famous of all Hawaiian songs. She represented her country at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in London in 1887. Queen Liliʻuokalani is still revered by indigenous Hawaiians.
By the 1890s, the European occupation of all of North America was secure and the U.S. government continued its expansion across the Pacific. The Americans organized an uprising in Hawaii in 1893 and proceeded to annex the islands in 1898, the same year that they occupied the Philippines. The Hawaiian flag was lowered at the royal palace in Honolulu and the U.S. flag was raised. Hawaii became a U.S. state in 1959, following a referendum in which 93% of voters approved of statehood. As a result, the island were removed from the United Nations’ list of territories subject to decolonization. In 1993, the U.S. Congress issued an apology in which they admitted that “the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States” and that “the Native Hawaiian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands.”
There are today some 150,00 Hawaiians of pure indigenous ancestry and another 400,00 people who claim partial indigenous ancestry. Together they constitute about a third of the population of the islands. Native Hawaiians are over-represented among the homeless, unemployed and drug-dependent. Although there is an active independence movement, it has only limited support. A more poplar proposal is that the islands should be given a semi-sovereign status within the United States and that native Hawaiians should be recognized as an indigenous tribe. Queen Liliʻuokalani still has descendants who claim a right to the vacant throne. There are today some 42,000 U.S. soldiers stationed on the islands.
For the longest time Europeans refused to believe that the platform mounds they discovered in the valley of the Mississippi river could have been constructed by native people. Their sheer size was just too impressive. The “Indians,” the Europeans had decided, were hunters and gatherers but the people of the Mississippi lived in large cities, they grew crops and the construction of the mounds must have required years of dedicated labor. Only a highly organized society could have managed that task. Perhaps it was the Vikings who had built the mounds, or the Chinese, the Greeks or the ancient Egyptians?
By denying that indigenous people could have created such monuments, the Europeans denied that they had their own civilization. And that, in their minds, gave the Europeans the right to occupy the land. It was their obligation, after all, to spread civilization. The story of Europeans in the New World, a textbook for American high-schools explained as relatively recently as in the 1980s, “is the story of the creation of civilization where none existed.”
They should have known better. There were still mound-builders as late as in the eighteenth-century. French explorers who visited the Natchez, a tribe living in the lower Mississippi, were astonished to be greeted by their leader, known as the “Great Sun,” who lived in a large house on the top of a platform mound. The Great Sun was treated as a living god by his people and was carried in a litter wherever he went. His mother, known as “White Woman,” was his principal adviser and lived in a house on top of another mound. Ordinary Natchez grew corn, beans, squash and tobacco. The Green Corn ceremony was the apex of their annual cycle of religious events.
The Natchez were defeated in a war with French settlers in the 1730s. As a result some were sold into slavery in the Caribbean while others were forced to take refuge with other tribes. Today there is still a Natchez nation with some 6,000 members. It is led by a chief, still known as “Great Sun,” and by four “Clan Mothers.” The last fluent speaker of the Natchez language died in 1957. Today the Natchez are trying to revive their language.
History of the World in 100 Objects, “North American otter pipe”
The empires of the Americas are notorious for practicing human sacrifice, but what is less well known is that the rulers also practices a form of sacrifice on themselves. They cut themselves using sharp objects such obsidian, stingray spines or shark’s teeth. Any soft part of the body could be cut, but it was usually the tongue or the genitals. The scattered blood was then collected on paper made from bark and burned. The smoke conveyed the message to the gods.
Blood, to the Mayans, was the very force of life and in the beginning of time the gods had sacrificed their own blood in order for the world to come into being. Ever since humans have owed blood to the gods and the sacrifices were a way to repay this debt. Interestingly, the best blood was that of noblemen and the noblemen of the enemies were a prized catch in wars. They would be taken back to the capital and ritually slaughtered. The Maya would even maintain “farms” of noblemen who could be sacrificed on ceremonial occasions.
Anyone who claimed political authority would have to go through these ceremonies, and this included the kings and members of the royal family. A particularly gruesome scene from a Maya relief shows a queen with her tongue pierced. Through the hole a thread with thorns was then being pulled. The agony must have been perfectly mind-altering. And that, indeed, seems to have been the point. The pain that the royals suffered put them in contact with transcendental realms and made clear to everyone else that they possessed unique spiritual powers. The bloodletting rituals were commonly performed when the ruler asked also the people to make sacrifices, such as when going to war. To make the point as effectively as possible the rituals were performed in front of large gatherings of people — in a plaza or on the top of a pyramid.
That the leaders of a country had to sacrifice themselves in these tangible ways surely meant that they were far more careful in embarking on risky ventures. If today’s political leaders were required to mutilate their genitals in public before declaring war, far fewer wars would be declared.
History of the World in 100 Objects, “Maya relief of royal blood-letting”
The Steven Spielberg movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981, finishes with a memorable scene. Throughout the movie, Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, has been in pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant, the gold-covered wooden chest which, according to the Hebrew Bible, contains the stone tablets with the original version of the Ten Commandments (“Though shalt not kill …” etc.) Avoiding capture by German soldiers, and outsmarting a French competitor, Indiana Jones eventually brings the Ark back to the United States. However, not realizing what they have laid their hands on, an overzealous government bureaucrat ships it off to an enormous warehouse where it, presumably, never again will be found.
Compare this story to the one Coptic Christians in Ethiopia tell. The Ark of the Covenant, they say, is not at all lost, and it is not in a warehouse in the United States. It can instead be found in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, in Axum, in the Tigray province, Ethiopia. It was brought here by Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, after he had paid a visit to his father in Jerusalem. And the Ark of the Covenant has been here ever since. Unfortunately, since the it is associated with such otherworldly powers, only one person — a guardian monk — is allowed to see it. Our Lady Mary of Zion is nevertheless a place of pilgrimage for members of the Coptic Church, especially during Mary’s own on November 30 every year.
There are striking similarities between these two accounts. In both cases, the Ark is a source of divine power. The divine object, moreover, has been appropriated by us and brought to our empire. And this feat, moreover, has in both cases been accomplished by a young hero. At the same time, the Covenant is hidden from public view yet this does not mean that it has stopped radiating divine power. In both cases it provides support for our country and its imperial endeavors. Whether it actually exists is less important. It is the myth — conveyed by the legend and the movie — which really matters.
History of Philosophy, “Ethiopian philosophy”
In English there is considerable confusion regarding the proper pronunciation of the word “yogurt.” Basically, “yog-urt” is the UK pronunciation whereas Americans say “yo-gurt.”
Meanwhile, the French say “yaourt” and this is also how they spell it. That is, the French don’t pronounce the “g.” Weird, right?
Well, as it turns out, the French pronunciation is the most accurate. The word is originally Turkish, yoğurt, from yoğurmak, meaning “to kneed,” “to become curdled or coagulated.” As a people of the Central Asian steppes, the Turks ate a lot of milk products and they do so to this day. In fact, their yoğurt is phenomenally delicious and it contains none of the weird emulsifiers and sickening sweeteners that one finds elsewhere.
So why do the French swallow the “g”? Well, because the Turks do. The letter “ğ” — yumuşak ge, a “g” with a squiggle — is not pronounced in Turkish but it only extends the length of the previous vowel. The French must have met actual Turkish people and learned the pronunciation from them. English, Americans and Swedes must only have seen it written and they consequently mispronounce the word to this day.
This is how to pronounce it correctly —
The number system which the world uses today originated in India in the first centuries CE. It is usually called the “Arabic numeral system” since the Europeans got it from the Arabs, but in the Middle East it is known as the “Indian system” since the Arabs got it from India. Mathematics emerged as a separate field already in the Vedic period but it was in the Gupta period that the greatest advances were made. The Indians learned from the Greeks, but made seminal contributions of their own. They were the first to make use of decimals and the number zero. They used negative numbers too and they beat Pythagoras to his famous theorem. Indian mathematicians calculated the value of π, pi, with a very high decree of precision, and determined the circumference of the earth and the timing of lunar and solar eclipses. In the 15th century CE, the Kerala school of mathematics developed ideas regarding trigonometric functions.
In India, mathematical knowledge always developed as a result of its application. Already the Harappa civilization, some 2,500 years BCE, used geometry in order to calculate the size of fields and in Vedic culture maths was used to calculate the size of altars and for deciding when to engage in various religious rituals. Likewise, notion of zero and infinity both have their origin in religious speculations. The world as we know it contains no nothing; everything we see around us is something. Yet in Buddhist philosophy, nothingness is a key concept and the goal of mediation is to empty one’s mind. Nothingness, to a Buddhist, is real. Meanwhile, the Jains were fascinated by very large numbers. They told stories of gods who appeared millions of times with millions of years apart. The better you can understand the infinite, they argued, the better you can understand the divine.
The history of mathematics is a great example of a dialogue of civilizations. The Indians learned from the Greeks, taught the Arab world, which in turn taught the Europeans. But at each stage, the knowledge was transformed and improved on. To this day only some ten percent of all the manuscripts on Sanskrit science have been published and much remains to be properly studied. There may be many surprising discoveries to be made.
Incarnations, “Ramanujan: The Elbow of Genius”
Incarnations, “Aryabhata: The Boat of Intellect”
In Our Time, “Indian mathematics”