In this excerpt from an article in The Atlantic Monthly (July 1919), the British Zionist Harry Sacher (1882–1971) explains to an American audience why the issue of a Jewish homeland is such a necessary part of the then-ongoing Paris Peace Talks, at the end of World War I.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
From The Atlantic Monthly, July 1919
When he became emperor in 1658, Aurangzeb attempted a radical “Islamification” of Mughal India, imposing a strict interpretation of Sharia law and implementing reforms that he thought would benefit Muslims more than adherents of other religions. Repudiating his great-grandfather Akbar’s vision of religious transcendence and harmony, while Aurangzeb stopped short of forcible conversion, he offered incentives to non-Muslims to convert, destroyed many of their temples, and reimposed the hated jizya tax. This tax on Hindus had been abolished by Akbar in 1564, and its reinstatement by Aurangzeb in 1679 triggered mass protests and violent reactions from authorities in the many cities. Revolts among Sikhs and among Hindus left the Mughal Empire weakened and in decline by the time of Aurangzeb’s death in 1707. An excerpt from his proscriptions is offered below.
Abba Eban (1915–2002) was an Israeli diplomat who served as Minister of Education and Culture (1960–1963), Deputy Prime Minister (1963–1966), and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1966–1974). From 1949 to 1959 he served as the first ambassador to the United Nations for the newly established State of Israel. The speech from which this selection is excerpted provided the Israeli view of the question of the Palestinian refugees.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (1483–1530) was born a prince of Fergana in Transoxiana (modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan), a region that had been conquered (briefly) by the army of Alexander the Great in the 320s BCE and more recently by Babur’s ancestor Timur-i Lang, or Tamerlane (r. 1370–1405). Driven from his homeland, Babur conquered neighboring kingdoms and moved south into Afghanistan, capturing Kabul in 1504. By 1519, he stepped up his raids into northern India, and his highly mobile, if vastly outnumbered, army defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526. Victory at Panipat was followed by the conquest of the Lodi capital of Agra and further defeats of Hindu leaders in northern India. Babur’s dynasty would become known as the Mughals (from “Mongols”), but his legacy can also be gauged from the success of his memoirs, the Baburnama. Composed and reworked throughout his life, the Baburnama is the first true autobiography in Islamic literature, and it can be read for insights into his own character as well as the military tactics he employed on the battlefield.
The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, trans. and ed. Wheeler M. Thackston (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 328–329, 330, 331.
Samuel Huntington (1927–2008) was an influential political scientist who taught for most of his career at Harvard University. He was the author of numerous books and articles on politics and government, including the Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil–Military Relations (1957) and The Political Order in Changing Societies (1968). The latter provided a critique of modernization theory, which had driven much of U.S. policy in the developing world in the prior decade. In Clash of Civilizations, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs, Huntington argues that the main drivers of history in this century will not be political or ideological, as they have been in the past, but civilizational. Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution of conflict in the modern world.
From Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, pp. 209–18.
Ibn al-Athir was a Muslim scholar whose most important work was al-Kamil fi at-tarikh (“The Complete History”), a history of the world. Born in Jazirat in 1160, he lived most of his life in Mosul but traveled widely in the Muslim lands of southwest Asia, including several trips to Baghdad, and later lived in Aleppo and Damascus. As a young man he spent time with Saladin’s army in Syria as Saladin fought the Crusader states. He died in 1233 in Mosul. Here he tells the story of the origin of the Crusades as he had it and then describes the Frankish conquest of Jerusalem in 1099.
From Francesco Gabrieli, Arab Historians of the Crusades. University of California Press (1957): 3–4, 7–9, 10–12. Copyright © 1957 The Regents of the University of California.
In October 1553, the extraordinarily gifted Spanish scientist Michael Servetus was executed with the approval and the strong support of John Calvin and his followers in Geneva. The charge was heresy, specifically for denying the existence of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ, and the method of execution—burning at the stake—elicited commentary and protest from across Europe. One of the fullest and most sophisticated protests against this execution was issued by Sebastian Castellio, a professor of Greek language and New Testament theology in the Swiss city of Basel. His book De Haereticis is a collection of opinions, drawn from Christian writers, from both before and after the Protestant Reformation and across 15 centuries. It is more than an academic exercise, however, as this dedication of the Latin work to a German noble demonstrates.
Sebastian Castellio, Concerning Heretics, Whether They Are to Be Persecuted and How They Are to Be Treated, A Collection of the Opinions of Learned Men Both Ancient and Modern, trans. Roland H. Bainton, (New York: Octagon, 1965), 132–134.
Constantine the Great (272–337 BCE) became Roman emperor in 306; by 312 he had defeated his most powerful rival for power. Secure in his political power, Constantine quickly turned to matters of religion. He was responsible for issuing the Edict of Milan, along with Lucinius (a co-emperor and another rival) in 313. This Edict officially made Christianity legal within the empire. This was only the first of many steps Constantine took to promote Christianity.
Constantine also took on a leadership role in relation to the church. In 325, Constantine summoned a church council at Nicaea, to combat heresy and define a statement of belief, or a creed. Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, recorded the events of the council and the creed in his Ecclesiastical History, one of the most important sources for the history of early Christianity.
Eusebius, The Life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine. (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1844),120-126
British Broadcasting Corporation
In May 1989, a protest movement gathered strength in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, as students convened and constructed a large statue called the Goddess of Democracy. By the beginning of June, the movement had turned into a generalized protest by workers and ordinary citizens in addition to the students. When they refused to disperse, the government sent in the army on June 4 to crush what, to many in the Communist Party, had become an incipient rebellion. The image of a lone man attempting to face down an approaching tank became the instant icon of the movement, but there are many other arresting narratives of the events that occurred during this protest. On the 15th anniversary of the suppression of these protests, the British Broadcasting Corporation interviewed survivors and eyewitnesses, gathering their testimonies into the report excerpted below.
Osama bin Laden
In 1992, al-Qaeda (“the base”) under the leadership of Osama bin Laden (1957–2011) had emerged as a significant terrorist organization operating on an international scale. Bin Laden, the multimillionaire son of a Yemeni-born Saudi Arabian contractor, had fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979–1989). He now turned his attention to the United States (who had covertly funded the “mujahid” Afghan resistance in the interest of its own Cold War ambitions). In bin Laden’s eyes, America was a godless country without moral principles, bent on a Western crusade to destroy Muslim independence. The al-Qaeda campaign of terrorism climaxed on September 11, 2001, but bin Laden had already ordered bombings and terrorist attacks in several parts of the world in the 1990s. This fatwa (an opinion or ruling based on Islamic law) was issued by bin Laden against the “Zionist-Crusader alliance” in 1996.
Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile
Through a series of small demonstrations and gatherings in 1919, Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) created, at least in his own estimation, a completely new political ideology. He named this philosophy for a symbol used in the ancient Roman empire: the fasces, which was a bundle of rods together with an ax and carried by lictors as a representation of power. Mussolini was installed as Italy’s leader, or “Duce,” in October 1922. He published an explanation of what he had achieved as well as a statement of his political beliefs in the Enciclopedia Italiana in June 1932. Reflecting on a decade of a ruthless grab for and maintenance of “totalitarian” power (the word itself was coined by this regime, and specifically with the collaboration of Mussolini’s court philosopher, Giovanni Gentile), Mussolini justified the violence inflicted by his regime and emphasized its fundamentally “moral” basis.
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed., A Primer of Italian Fascism, trans. Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Olivia E. Sears, and Maria G. Stampino (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 48–50.
Bernardino de Sahagún
The document included here contains descriptions of the monumental and agonizing events of the Spanish conquest of Mexico from the Aztec perspective. It was compiled at the behest and under the supervision of a Franciscan friar, Bernardino de Sahagún (149—1590). Sahagún had arrived in New Spain, as the territory had been designated by Cortés, in 1529 at the age of thirty. He soon acquired a sophisticated mastery of Nahuatl, the Aztec language, and over the years he collected an invaluable mass of material relating to preconquest life of the native peoples. Beginning in 1547, the material was acquired by native Americans who were taught to write and who recorded the memories of elderly nobles who had witnessed the events. Later, Sahagún put the material together and edited it, finishing his General History of New Spain in 1577. Although the text was compiled under Spanish auspices and given final form by a Spanish Franciscan priest, it nonetheless imparts a sense of how the events of the conquest were perceived by the Aztecs themselves.
Excerpted from The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico, edited and with an introduction by Miguel Leon-Portilla (Boston: Beacon Press, 1962), 22–31, 33–35, 40–41, 51–52, 63–68.
Amda Seyon was a fourteenth century king of the Solomonid Dynasty, which ruled Ethiopia from 1270 until 1974. The name of the dynasty, Solomonid, derives from the Ethiopian belief that the kings of Aksum (whom the Solomonids believed were their ancestors) were descended from King Solomon of Israel and the Queen of Sheba. The kings of Aksum and the later Solomonids were Christian, and their king Amda Seyon, led them into warfare in 1329 against Muslims in the neighboring state of Ifat (in north-east Ethiopia). The Solomonids also fought against other neighboring states, including Christians and animists; however, the Glorious Victories of Amda Seyon portrays the war between the Solomonids and Ifat as a religious war between Christians and Muslims. The following excerpt features the king encouraging his army to fight on, paraphrasing the book of Psalms in the process.
The Glorious Victories of Amda Seyon, King of Ethiopia, trans. and ed. G. W. B. Huntingford. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965), 67, 69-71.
Gregory Bishop of Tours
Over the course of the fifth century, the Franks became one of the most powerful of the Germanic successor kingdoms. While some other Germanic rulers converted to Arianism, a Christian heresy, perhaps to distinguish themselves from their subject Roman populations, the Frankish kings remained pagan until 496, when their king Clovis converted to Catholic Christianity. This event was therefore a crucial turning point in the political and religious history of the medieval West, building an alliance between the Church and the Frankish state that benefited both sides. There are several accounts of Clovis’s conversion, including this one by Gregory of Tours in his History of the Franks. Gregory (539–594) was a prominent churchman—as bishop of Tours he was the leading prelate in what had been Roman Gaul—and a representative of the old Roman aristocracy of the area. He was personally acquainted with several of the Frankish kings of his own day, and he wrote his history partly to flatter them. Despite this bias, he is generally a reliable, if somewhat naïve, chronicler.
From Gregory Bishop of Tours, History of the Franks, trans. Ernest Brehaut. New York: Columbia University Press (1965): 38–41.
The Jesuit Relations are the most important documents attesting to the encounter between Europeans and native North Americans in the seventeenth century. These annual reports of French missionaries from the Society of Jesus document the conversions—or attempted conversions—of the various indigenous peoples in what is today the St. Lawrence River basin and the Great Lakes region. When they arrived on the banks of the St. Lawrence in 1625, French Jesuits were entering a continent still very much under control of First Nations peoples, who were divided by their own ethnic and linguistic differences. Even the catch-all terms “Huron” and “Iroquois” masked their nature as confederacies, composed of several distinct nations, who had joined together prior to the arrival of Europeans.
When the Jesuits made headway with one group, they usually lost initiative with the group’s rivals—and sometimes found themselves in the midst of a conflict that they could barely understand or appreciate. This section of the Relations concerns the torture and murder of Jean Brébeuf, who had lived among the Hurons at various points from the 1620s through the 1640s, observing their culture and systematically attempting to convert them to Catholicism. However, when an Iroquois raiding party invaded his settlement, the depth of the Hurons’ Christian commitment—and his own—would be tested.
Paul Ragueneau, “Relation of 1648–49,” in Allan Greer, ed., The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth-Century North America (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin–s, 2000), 112–115.
Not all the subjects of the Roman Empire were happy with its rule, despite the peace and prosperity of the Pax Romana. The Jews, whose exclusive monotheism prevented them from participating in the cult of Augustus, were uncomfortable subjects of the Roman Empire, though the Romans were in fact fairly tolerant of the Jewish population, recognizing their separate religious tradition and allowing them to practice it. Nonetheless, religious and ethnic tensions fanned the flames of Jewish discontent, and the population broke into open revolt in 70 CE.
Flavius Josephus, The Works of Flavius Josephus, trans. William Whiston. Auburn and Buffalo: John E. Beardsley (1895).
Ismail ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir
The religiously inspired uprising against the British in Sudan during the 1880s is associated with the figure of the self-styled “Mahdi.” However, the primary motivation of Muhammad Ahmad Ibn Abdallah (1844–1885), who took on the title Mahdi (“rightly guided” or “messiah”) was to reform Islam from within. Similar to other early modern Islamic reformers, beginning with ‘Abd al-Wahhab in eighteenth-century Arabia, the Mahdi aimed to eliminate Sufi brotherhoods and remove the (to his mind) abominable medieval aberrations from Islam. The Mahdi’s anti-imperialist stance against the British was thus incidental: the British happened to occupy Egypt and to be moving on the Sudan in the midst of his anti-Sufism campaigns. The British focused on the siege of Khartoum in 1883, but this contemporary biographer of the Mahdi focuses on the renovation of Islam.
Haim Shaked, The Life of the Sudanese Mahdi: A Historical Study of ‘Kitab Sa’adat al-Mustahdi bi-Sirat al-Imam al-Mahdi’ (The Book of the Bliss of Him Who Seeks Guidance by the Life of the Imam al-Mahdi) (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1978), 66–68.
This panel from a temple in the Mayan city of Palenque contains glyphs (forming a caption) and two figures. A captive kneels before a standing warrior who holds a flint spear and wears a war headdress. The large text to the left records an event at Palenque that occurred in 490. The small text above the kneeling figure gives the name of a captive.
Drawing by Linda Schele © David Schele. The Linda Schele Drawings Collection, http://research.famsi.org/schele_list.php?_allSearch=118.
Just before his death in Babylon in June 323 BCE, Alexander the Great was the unrivalled conqueror of an enormous portion of the known world, counting modern Greece, Egypt, the Middle East, Iran, and Afghanistan among his possessions. However, when he died, leaving his kingdom “to the strongest,” conflicts immediately broke out among his Macedonian successors to determine who that strongest man was. A part of the military and political struggle that followed was an attempt to Hellenize, with varying levels of success, the older and more entrenched cultures Alexander had defeated as he raced through Africa and Asia. This process continued for the next three centuries, and, in the mid-second century BCE, one of these successor kings, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, attempted a brutal imposition of Greek cultural values on the Jews in Jerusalem. This effort, and the revolt it triggered, is described in the apocryphal (i.e., not part of the standard canon) Jewish book of 1 Maccabees. Notice that the Hellenistic era did not appear to everyone to have been a fortuitous blending of disparate cultures.
The Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version of the Old Testament (New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957), 190–192.
As a result of the failure of his Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was sent to a minimum security prison at Landsberg. However, he was paroled, four years before the completion of his sentence, in December 1924. Having met with the respect of his judges during his trial in February 1924 and with the approval of the Bavarian Supreme Court, although against the advice of state prosecutors, he had his sentence—after his conviction for a treasonable attempt to take over the state—commuted. Nevertheless, there were some restrictions, both in Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany, on Hitler’s speaking and freedom of movement. In spite of these restrictions, he emerged from prison with the manuscript of a new political statement of his life and philosophy, a document he entitled Mein Kampf (“My struggle”). As recently discovered documents reveal, Hitler hoped to use the proceeds from the sale of this book for a new car as well as to fund his political movement. The party growing out of this movement would be labeled the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and he would be installed as its unquestioned Führer (leader) by 1925. The following excerpt from Mein Kampf reveals what he had learned about rhetoric and political action in his nascent career.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 469–471.