The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War (1853–1856) convinced the newly enthroned Alexander II (r. 1855–1881) of the need for fundamental reforms in his country. The first institution he tackled was serfdom, and his Emancipation Edict (1861) ostensibly freed peasants from their bondage to the landowning aristocracy. Although the edict affected some 50 million serfs, it was not fully implemented. Peasants were not given land titles per se; the land was turned over to the control of local communities (mirs), which then allocated parcels to individual serfs. Moreover, they were forced to make annual payments to the government in the form of loans that would compensate the former landowners; the loan amounts were often higher than the dues aristocrats had demanded before emancipation.
Ibn Fadlan was a tenth-century Arab chronicler. In 921 C.E., the Caliph of Baghdad sent Ibn Fadlan on an embassy to the King of the Bulgars of the Middle Volga (present-day Russia). Ibn Fadlan wrote an account of his journey: the Risala. During the course of his journey, Ibn Fadlan met a people called the Rus, acting as traders in the Bulgar capital.
Smyser, H.M. "Ibn Fadlan's Account of the Rus with Some Commentary and Some Allusions to Beowulf." Franciplegius: Medieval and Linguistic Studies in Honor of Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. eds. Jess B. Bessinger Jr. and Robert P. Creed. New York: New York University Press. 1925, pp. 92-119.
A 2009 paper in Science announced the identification of at least 488 fibers of flax attached to clay samples found in a cave in Georgia. Some of these fibers had been spun and dyed, and one of the threads (no. 8 below) had been twisted. The applied colors, ranging from black to gray to turquoise, may indicate that the inhabitants of the cave were engaged in producing colorful textiles. The presence of spores in the cave indicates that fungus was probably already growing on the clothes and progressively breaking them down.
From Eliso Kvavadze et al., SCIENCE 325: 1359 (2009). Reprinted with permission from AAAS.
World Economic Forum
The Global Gender Gap Report was introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to analyze disparities between genders in a worldwide context. It assesses national gender gaps in political, economic, health, and education-related areas and ranks countries according to data, allowing comparisons across regions, time, and income groups. According to the report’s introduction, these rankings “are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.” This excerpt looks at women’s impact on economic growth through increased education, participation in the labor force, and women’s role as consumers, or the “power of the purse.”
From “The Global Gender Gap,” World Economic Forum, 2010. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2010.pdf (downloaded November 20, 2012).
With a change of Ottoman sultans in 1839, the government issued the Rose Garden Edict, the first of three reform edicts which are collectively known as the Tanzimat (reorganizations). With this edict, the government bound itself to basic principles with respect to relations between it and its subjects, and it carefully avoided a definition of the position of religious minorities in the empire. The document also enumerates basic human rights, drawing on ideas from the American and French revolutionary declarations of the eighteenth century. Accordingly, it reflects the adaptability of the Ottoman Empire to Western ideas, at least in the general context of the Tanzimat reforms.
Herbert J. Liebesny, The Law of the Near and Middle East: Readings, Cases, and Materials (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1975), 46–49.
Gandhi wrote this book – called Hind Swaraj (1909) in his native language of Gujarati – on the steamer from London to South Africa, a voyage of ten days. The British banned its publication in India, but allowed Gandhi’s own English translation of the book (1910) to be published, on the assumption that few in India would be able to read it. The book is written in the form of a dialogue between a Reader, who represents the colonized in India, and an Editor, who represents Gandhi’s position.
Translation by Clifford R. Backman
Marco Polo (1254–1324) was a member of a clan of Venetian merchants, who had been active in trade in the Middle East for some decades. Polo claims to have accompanied his father and uncle on an extensive trade and diplomatic excursion to China in 1271, and in this account he describes the voyage as well as the people and places he has seen. He further claims to have lived 17 years in China and to have met with, and even served as an official for, Kublai Khan (1215–1294), Genghis Khan’s grandson. While some historians have suggested that the account may not be reliable, it demonstrates, at the very least, Western curiosity about Asia and the catalyst of trade in driving some Europeans into hitherto unknown parts of the world.
Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo, trans. Ronald Latham (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1958), 115–118.
A series of Greek rulers attempted to maintain the Hellenizing goals of Alexander the Great in Bactria (modern Afghanistan), long after his death in 323 BCE. The most famous ruler in this line was Menander I (ca. 160–130 BCE), who achieved immortality in Buddhist literature by engaging in a debate with the Buddhist sage Nagasena. Their talks, set out as a series of dilemmas to be posed and (if possible) resolved, became an important exposition of Buddhist ideas and supposedly led to the conversion of Menander (“King Milinda”) to Buddhism. In any event, the Milindapanha reflects the fusion of Greek and Indian traditions of philosophy, in the fascinating cauldron of world contact that existed in Central and South Asia.
The Questions of King Milinda, trans. T. W. Rhys Davids, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1894), 4–7 and 20–22.
Abstract and Key Words
Thrown to the lions in 275 CE by the Romans for refusing to recant his Christian beliefs, St. Mamai is an important martyr in the iconography of Georgia, a Caucasian kingdom that embraced Christianity early in the fourth century. This gilded silver medallion (“tondo”) depicts the saint astride a lion while he bears a cross in one hand, symbolizing his triumphant victory over death and ignorance.
In the seventeenth century, the Manchus crossed the Great Wall, captured Beijing, and founded a new regime, the Qing, or “pure,” dynasty. Some Ming loyalists fled to the island of Formosa (Taiwan), off the Chinese coast, where they expelled the Dutch. The Europeans had established a trading base on the island, and the document below demonstrates the negotiated surrender of this fort to Koxinga.
William Campbell, Formosa under the Dutch (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1903), 455–456.