Indian writer Arundhati Roy (b. 1961) won the Man Booker Prize for her brilliant novel The God of Small Things (1997), but she is better known today for her speaking and writing on political causes. A strong advocate for the rights of lower-caste people in Indian society, she has extended her concern to matters of Indian domestic and foreign policy, protesting in particular the speed and direction of globalization in her own and in other countries. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Roy has continued her criticism of global capitalism and has often come into conflict with the Indian government and leading figures in the Indian business world.
Arundhati Roy, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story,” Outlook India, March 26, 2012, available online at http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?280234.
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.
Akbar the Great was Mughal emperor from 1556 until his death in 1605. One of the main sources we have of Akbar is a commentary written by a Portugese Jesuit, whom Akbar had invited to his court to explain Christianity. Akbar the Great was Mughal emperor from 1556 until his death in 1605. Father Antonio Monserrate (1536–1600) was thought to be a humble, God-fearing man. He was chosen as part of a mission sent in 1578 at Akbar’s request to instruct him about Roman Catholicism, and he remained in India till 1589. An indication of Akbar’s opinion of him is that he asked Monserrate to serve as tutor to the crown prince. The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, was a Catholic religious order that sought to recapture areas lost to the Reformation and to spread Catholicism to areas that had not benefited, as they saw it, from exposure to the true faith. Like many early Jesuits, Father Antonio Monserrate was intelligent and intense. He accompanied Akbar on some of his campaigns and enjoyed discussing religion and ideas with him. Fortunately, from the point of view of the historical record, Monserrate was instructed by his Jesuit superiors to keep a written account of his experiences, which he did in the form of a diary. Later, he compiled a general account that is the best European appraisal of Akbar. He affords us glimpses of Akbar’s enduring interest in religion, and he also provides us with a general characterization of the man and his rule.
The Commentary of Father Monserrate, S. J. On his Journey to the Court of Akbar, trans. from Latin by J. S. Hoyland and annotated by S. N. Banerjee (London and Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1922), 196–211.
The Roman Empire in the West dissolved under the twin pressures of external invasion and internal decay, but the richer, more urban eastern half of the empire survived. Transformed by Christianity, truncated by the early Islamic conquests, and predominantly Greek rather than Latin in culture, what became known as the Byzantine Empire was nonetheless the direct heir of Rome and preserved Roman wisdom about dealing with peoples like the Huns—peoples Byzantine writers often referred to as Scyths, using the Classical Greek name for the steppe nomads of Herodotus’s time. In short, Byzantine dealings with steppe powers was informed by a combination of practical politics and learning based on literary tradition. And the need for successful relations with the steppe powers north of the Black Sea was pressing between 600 and 900, a period when Byzantium was largely on the defensive against the vastly superior power of the Islamic caliphate while also facing threats in the Balkans and in Italy. Alliance with the nomadic power of the moment in order to provide a counterthreat to Arab power was a necessity of survival. One of the best examples of Byzantine official culture, containing a clear statement of these diplomatic imperatives, is the treatise called De Administrando Imperio (“On the Administration of the Empire”) by the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (905–959). Porphyrogenitus means “born in the purple”—that is, the legitimate heir of a reigning emperor—and Constantine took his heritage seriously. He came to the throne early in life, but achieved full power, free from the domination of regents representing the military aristocracy, only in middle age. In the meantime, he had become a student of classical literature and a prolific writer and compiler, mostly of treatises such as this one. Composed between 948 and 952, the treatises were aimed at educating his own son Romanus in the duties and intricacies of running the empire. The selections here focus on the Pechenegs, the dominant steppe power north of the Black Sea in Constantine’s time, and form part of a survey of the lands and peoples surrounding the empire.
Selections from Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De Administrando Imperio, ed. Gy. Moravcsik, trans. R. J. H. Jenkins, rev. ed., 49–55, 167–71. 1967 Dumbarton Oaks.
Evidence that imperial expansion in the nineteenth century was not an exclusive European privilege is provided by this painting of the Battle of Adowa in 1896. Under the command of the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II (r. 1889-1913), an Italian invasion force was annihilated. Menelik is at the left of the painting, directing his troops who fire on the Italian forces with cannon and machine guns. Astride a white horse, St. George, the patron saint of Ethiopia, exhorts Menelik’s army to victory. The Italian commander, General Baratieri, is on the far right, ready to order a retreat. The Italians lost 6,000 men in this crushing defeat. Ethiopia would remain independent until 1936.
National Archives photo no. 28-0547M (top); http://www.library.yale.edu/div/exhibits/boxers.htm (bottom)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Richard Rorty (1931–2007) was an American philosopher who taught at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Virginia. Rorty became associated with a form of American philosophy known as pragmatism, which followed the writing of the philosopher John Dewey. He came to believe, following Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, that meaning was a sociolinguistic product and did not exist in and of itself. In Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, Rorty, an avowed atheist, argues that we should not ignore the inspirational qualities of great works such as the gospels, or the Communist Manifesto, simply because their predictions fell short of reality. Christianity and Communism, he wrote, need not be judged for their predictive qualities but for their appeals to what Abraham Lincoln referred to as the “Better Angels of our Nature.” They stirred men and women to good deeds, which arguably benefitted society in general.
From Richard Rorty, Failed Prophecies, Glorious Hopes, 1998.
While many consider the Cold War to have been a showdown between free market capitalism and state-directed economics, the truth on the ground was often more complex. Here, the American petro-giant Mobil Oil proudly proclaims its support for newly-independent Ghana’s Five-Year Plan to create a socialist “Welfare State.”
National Archives of Ghana (PRAAD)
One of the most interesting figures of Meiji Japan was Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835–1901). Trained in western languages, Fukuzawa served as interpreter on missions taken by Meiji leaders to study the wider world, especially the United States and Europe. Fukuzawa concentrated on the study of western societies and became the leader in introducing the Japanese people to western ways in a wide range of books he wrote, through a newspaper he published, and via the academy he established, which became the first private university in Japan. Characterized by a broad curiosity, great energy, and a rare independence of mind, Fukuzawa was the leading intellectual of Meiji Japan.
David Lu, ed., Japan: A Documentary History. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe (1997): 351–53.
The Egyptian scholar Rifa’a al-Tahtawi (1801–1873) sought to harmonize Islamic and Christian cultures by pushing mutual understanding and helping Egypt modernize. Al-Tahtawi spent five years (1826–1831) living in Paris; while immersed in the stimulating European capital city, he absorbed the Enlightenment theories that he then brought back to his homeland. Yet this work also expresses the tumult of being plunged into a foreign culture and the accompanying misconceptions about the “Other” that emerge from firsthand experiences abroad. Consider how Al-Tahtawi permits the reader to witness Paris “for the first time” through his eyes.
From Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, An Imam in Paris: Account of a Stay in Paris by an Egyptian Cleric. Trans. Daniel L. Newman. London: Saqi Books, 2012, pp. 154–7, 173–5, 177–9, 188–9, 278–9.
Ram Mohun Roy
By 1818 the British East India Company’s initially opportunistic establishment of territorial footholds in India’s Bengal and Madras provinces had become a London-sponsored imperial project governing 40 million people and controlling revenues valued at one-third those of the British government at home. Within three more decades, British direct rule would expand into upper Burma, the northwestern provinces of Punjab and Sind, and greater portions of the subcontinent’s interior. Some of India’s traditional rulers were allowed semiautonomy in “princely states” in return for welcoming British advisers and troops. But it was increasingly clear that possession of India, where British rule was known simply as the Raj (rule), was what made tiny Britain the global superpower of the nineteenth century.
Raja Ram Mohun Roy (1772–1833) witnessed this transformation during his lifetime. Born to a Bengalese Brahmin family, he was an extraordinary linguist, scholar, educator, publisher, and civil servant. Roy was especially concerned with the ways that Western knowledge could be applied to India’s mixed Hindu and Islamic culture. Curious and optimistic, he hoped that British rule might bring a “milder, more enlightened and more liberal” era to the subcontinent. East India Company administrators and British governors shared this hope. As pressures to open India’s trade to rival businesses reduced the Company’s role in commodity trade, ambitious plans to “westernize” Indian society took the place of the former mercantile activity. Indians such as Roy encouraged the government’s efforts to abolish widow burning, female infanticide, and the religious cult of spiritual murderers called Thugs.
In the following selection, Roy explains to the British Governor General Lord Amherst why he opposes the creation of a government-sponsored school for the scholarly study of Sanskrit, the ancient Indo-European language in which Hinduism’s sacred literature was written. Roy anticipated what many historians now believe did occur: that by codifying Indian beliefs and social practices, British rulers actually fostered traditionalism, as they declared to be timeless and immutable aspects of belief that had previously been fluid and adaptable. Doing so justified their own role as introducers of “the modern” and made it more difficult for Indians to adopt new technology, law, and social relations in their own way. In the end the Sanskrit school was established next to the Hindu College Roy, founded in Calcutta to educate sons of prosperous Bengali families according to a western curriculum.
Rammohun Roy, The English Works of Rammohun Roy (Allahabad: Panini Office, 1906), 471–74.
In 1807 most of the countries involved in the centuries-long Atlantic slave trade signed an international agreement to abolish the shipments of Africans to the western hemisphere. The British Royal Navy established a west Africa duty station to intercept smugglers of contraband human cargo. Africans freed by the British were returned to Freetown in Sierra Leone. Surrounded by strangers and often far from their native lands, many stayed to be educated at schools set up by the Church of England’s Church Missionary Society (CMS). Often they converted to Christianity, and their knowledge of two very different worlds helped European missionaries to reach peoples of the interior.
Perhaps the most famous African to follow the path described above was Samuel Crowther (c. 1806–1891). As a young teenager Crowther was captured and sold to Portuguese slave traders. Leaving the Nigerian port of Lagos, the ship carrying him to South America was spotted by a Royal Navy squadron, which took Crowther and his fellow captives to Freetown. There Crowther was one of the first students at the Church Missionary Society’s Fourah Bay College. He became a teacher and evangelical Christian with strong ideas on the value of the Christian message for Africans. In 1841 he joined the First Niger Expedition to explore commercial and missionary opportunities away from the Nigerian coast. The mission is usually considered a failure. As was frequently the case, most Europeans could not survive the diseases they encountered in the African interior, and many of the party died. But Crowther proved himself to the British as a translator and intermediary with the village peoples. In 1842 he was sent to England for training and ordination in the Church of England.
When Crowther returned to Africa, the mission he established among the Yoruba people became a model for others. As much as possible, each mission community became self-sufficient, so that it would not be dependent on the villages around it. The residents grew cash crops that authorities hoped would replace revenues lost with the abolition of slavery, ran schools for the young, wore western clothes, and accepted any tribal peoples who wished to receive education and learn of the Christian religion. Crowther was so successful in managing the Yoruba and Niger missions that he was invited back to England to be consecrated as bishop of the Niger territories, a huge tract reaching from Nupe in the north to the Niger Delta along the coast. He was the first African to reach such a position in the Anglican Church.
Samuel Crowther, Journal of an Expedition up the Niger and Tshadda Rivers. London: Church Missionary House (1855): xiii–xviii.
The Qianlong Emperor
In 1793 the Earl of Macartney arrived in Beijing with a retinue of assistants and a baggage train of gifts carefully selected to impress the Qianlong emperor (1735–1795) with the ingenuity, utility, and scientific sophistication of British manufactures. Macartney was on a mission from King George III of Great Britain. His goals were to establish diplomatic relations between the two great sovereign powers for the first time and to negotiate agreements that would allow British traders access to coastal ports other than the established center at Canton, as well as relief from various fees, bribes, and fines that the Celestial Emperor’s officials imposed. The following document shows the emperor’s response. The British delegation was unsuccessful, and diplomatic relations were rebuffed. Half a century would pass before the irritating trade restrictions were repealed at gunpoint in the aftermath of the First Opium War (1839–1842).
E. Backhouse and J. O. P. Bland, Annals and Memoirs of the Court of Peking (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), 322–24, 326, 330–31.
In 1652, the Dutch East Indies Company established a small settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to serve as a refueling station for its fleet of ships engaged in the Asian spice trade. The settlement was originally intended to be of limited size and duration, but Dutch emigration steadily increased throughout the eighteenth century, reaching an estimated population of more than fourteen thousand by 1793. As the pioneer settlements grew, so too did their conflicts with the local Khoisan people, seminomadic cattle herders who resented the foreign intrusion on their pastures. With superior weaponry, Dutch settlers defeated Khoisan resistance, seized their cattle, and forced many Khoisan to leave the region or remain as servile herders for the whites. At the same time, the Dutch East Indies Company began to import black slaves from West Africa to perform other forms of manual labor. Thus from the very beginning, the success of whites on the African frontier was dependent on African land and labor.
In the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain seized the Cape from the Dutch in 1814 to prevent its possible capture by the French. Following the war, the British officials and settlers began to consolidate their rule at their new “Cape Colony,” establishing their own laws, language, and customs to replace those of the Dutch, who now called themselves Afrikaners (“Africans”). Afrikaner disaffection with British rule reached a peak in the 1830s, when large numbers of Afrikaners decided to leave the Cape Colony in an event that has become known as the Great Trek. In a scene reminiscent of American history, Afrikaner farmers and their families packed their belongings, hitched up their oxen-led covered wagons, and set out to find a new life beyond the known and established frontier. One of the leaders of the wagon trains was Piet Retief (1780–1838), a well-respected leader of the voortrekkers [pioneers]. Eager to present his reasons for leaving the Cape, Retief explained his motives in a brief letter titled “Manifesto of the Emigrant Farmers,” published in a colonial newspaper in 1837. In the reading selection that follows, Retief ’s specific grievances and intentions reflect his attitudes toward the British and the Africans, as well as his own sense of Afrikaner identity.
Piet Retief, “Manifesto of the Emigrant Farmers,” Grahamstown Journal (February 2, 1837), in G. W. Eybers, ed., Select Constitutional Documents Illustrating South African History, 1795–1910. New York: Negro Universities Press (1918): 143–45.
Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini (1900–1989) was a leader-in-exile of the revolution that overthrew the Shah of Iran (1919–1980) in 1979, but his influence extended far beyond the politics of one Middle Eastern country. The Imam, as he continues to be known to his followers, was one of the century’s most important voices articulating the need for an Islamic “worldview” to counter globalizing forces of western economic structures, secular values, and popular culture.
Throughout the 1980s, a decade that included horrific war with the secular Ba’ath regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Khomeini continued to represent those forces of “revolutionary Islam” that argued that the societies represented by the United States and its western allies were the sources of violence, injustice, and irreligion in the world. The struggles of some followers of traditional Islam to preserve the faith as they understood it introduced the “clash of cultures” as yet another way to understand the continuing violence between human communities.
Imam Khomeini, Islam and Revolution, trans. Hamid Algar (Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1981), 300–06.
On December 17, 2010, 26-year-old Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in a spectacular act of despair that triggered the “Arab Spring,” the initial results of which continue to reverberate throughout the Middle East and the wider world. His act of defiance, and the reactions to it, led to the ouster of Tunisia’s dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (ruled 1987-2011), and, once the revolt had spread to Egypt, of Hosni Mubarak (ruled 1981–2011). While this article profiles Bouazizi, and the confrontation with a policewoman that led to his action, at greater length than most portraits, it also connects the street vendor with the media-savvy young leaders of the revolt in Tahrir Square that brought down Mubarak.
Marc Fisher, “In Tunisia, Act of One Fruit Vendor Unleashes Wave of Revolution through Arab World,” Washington Post, March 26, 2011, available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-tunisia-act-of-one-fruit-vendor-sparks-wave-of-revolution-through-arab-world/2011/03/16/AFjfsueB_story.html
Francis Fukuyama (b. 1952) is an American political scientist and author best known, perhaps, for his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama received a doctorate in political science from Harvard University and worked at the Rand Corporation and the U.S. Department of State, specializing in Middle East and then European affairs. He has also taught at Johns Hopkins University and at Stanford. In The End of History, Fukuyama made the case that the ideological struggles that had beset Europe in the 20th century had largely been resolved with the end of the Cold War in favor of the West, or at least of the Western idea of liberal democracy. This had triumphed over Communism, bringing the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
From Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man. New York: Free Press, 2006, pp. 3–8.
Boxers United in Righteousness
The nineteenth century saw an accumulation of disasters for China. In two Opium Wars in the 1840s and 1850s, British invasion forced the trade concessions demanded earlier. These conflicts helped to prompt the immensely destructive Tai-ping Rebellion (1850–1864). Various official reform movements encountered too many internal obstacles to effect much change. China lost a war to Japan in 1894 and was forced to accept a series of “unequal treaties” and agreements that granted “spheres of influence” to European powers. In 1899 internal disorder escalated. This time a portion of the imperial court headed by the Empress Dowager backed the opponents of western domination. The Boxers, drawing recruits from throughout the north China plain, killed western and Chinese Christians and besieged the embassies of foreign powers in Beijing itself. In July 1900 an unprecedented multinational army of British, German, American, Russian, French, Japanese, Austrian, and Italian troops entered Beijing to restore order and rescue the hostages. The International Expeditionary Force smashed the native army, looted Beijing, and, under the watchful eye of the international press, engaged in “punitive picnics” to exterminate opposition in the countryside.
China had a long tradition of secret societies and popular support for “social banditry” to help the poor. The Boxers United in Righteousness, who arose in Shandong province during the famines described earlier, followed ancient forms of aid and famine relief for their recruits. But the Boxers combined their appeals for social justice with calls to “Support the Qing, destroy the Foreign.” Like resistance movements in other parts of the world, they saw their country’s disasters as caused by its toleration of foreigners, especially the Christian missionaries whose numbers were increasing as western control of China became more pronounced. Recruits to the Boxers undoubtedly believed the terrible rumors of bizarre western religious practices requiring mutilation of women and children. They used magical charms and physical exercise rituals to invite the gods to inhabit their bodies, making them invulnerable to the guns and explosives of western armies. As with other resisters, this faith proved illusory. The Boxers were easily dispatched by the soldiers of the West, as were countless Chinese peasants who were innocent of any role in this conflict between cultures.
Joseph Esherick, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising. University of California Press (1987): 299–300.
George W. Bush
Less than two weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush addressed Congress. In his speech he attempted to walk a fine line between pointing the finger at the Muslim terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and reassuring Muslims that America was not an enemy of Islam. He argued that the Muslims who carried out the attacks “blasphemed the name of Allah,” that they were “traitors to their own faith.” In the speech he defined what was to become his “War on Terror,” vowing not only to bring the terrorists to justice, but also to take on any government that harbored them (such as Afghanistan and its Taliban). He also claimed that the terrorists acted because they “hate our freedoms,” pitting Islamic militancy staunchly against democracy.
From George W. Bush, “Address to the Nation.” Washington, DC, September 20, 2001. http://www.presidentialrhetoric.com/speeches/09.20.01.html (accessed November 24, 2012).
By 1260 the Mongol Empire in the west stopped expanding; in the east the conquest of southern Song China in 1278 by Genghis Khan’s grandson Kubilai effectively ended Mongol expansion. Even before this time, however, the Mongols had shifted from being brutal plundering conquerors to clever administrators. They employed subjects from all over their lands to assist them in the task, always difficult for nomads, of ruling settled territories, drawing Persian administrators to China and vice versa. The second half of the thirteenth century has sometimes been called the “Pax Mongolica,” the Mongol peace, as their rule secured the safety of the trade routes across the steppes and encouraged the exchange of goods and ideas throughout their vast empire and beyond.
It was in this setting that the most famous visitor to the world of the steppe nomads, the Venetian Marco Polo (c. 1253–1324), made his career. Marco’s father and uncle were merchants who had visited the court of Kubilai Khan, grandson of Ghengis Khan and emperor of China, between about 1260 and 1269, returning with a request from the Great Khan for Christian missionaries. They set out again in 1271 with two Dominican friars (who gave up almost immediately) and young Marco. They arrived at Kubilai’s capital in northern China in 1274 or 1275, and Marco entered into service in the Mongol government, traveling widely through the empire for nearly twenty years. Although doubts have been raised about whether Marco actually did travel to China (or even existed), none of the doubts are well founded, and we can accept the picture he paints of his travels as largely accurate. He and the elder Polos left in the early 1290s, reaching Venice again in 1295.
While in a Genoese prison, Marco told his account to a romance writer named Rustichello of Pisa, who tried to shape Marco’s largely utilitarian accounts of cities, goods, and travel routes into a tale of adventure and strange lands. The stylistic result is far from successful, but the book was nonetheless hugely popular in a Europe at the height of its medieval prosperity and eager for more information about the largely mysterious world around it. The text enjoyed widespread readership for several centuries, influencing explorers (including Christopher Columbus).
Selections from The Book of Ser Marco Polo, trans. Henry Yule (London, 1874), i, 241–60.
Bernal Díaz del Castillo
The best Spanish source on the Aztec–Spanish encounter was written by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, an old campaigner from Cortés’s army. Born and raised in a poor family in Spain, Díaz began his military career as a common soldier. In 1514, he went to America to serve with the Spanish forces opening up the “New World,” and he made two previous expeditions to the Yucatan prior to the one led by Hernando Cortés in 1519. According to his own accounts, he took part in over one hundred battles and was present at the surrender of Tenochtitlan in 1521. After having read a published account of the conquest that he considered a distortion, Díaz set about writing his own account during the 1560s, when he was already an old man. He finished it when he was seventy-six years old. Though he had sent a copy to Spain, the work was not published until the next century, well after his long and eventful life had ended in 1581. The drama of the events and the intimacy and novelty of his observations make this a remarkable historical source.
Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain, vol. 1, Hakluyt Society, Second Series, XXIII (London, 1908), 132–35; vol. 2, Hakluyt Society, Second Series, XXIV (London, 1910), 4–18, 37–38, 39–40, 44, 55–58, 59–60, 69–79, 84–88.