A Catholic priest and writer, François Fénelon (1651–1715) was enlisted by the church to preach to French Protestants (Huguenots) in order to bring them back to orthodox belief. His bestseller work, The Adventures of Telemachus, adds to the story of the Odyssey (Document 4.1) by describing the travels of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Guiding Telemachus is his tutor, simply called Mentor (but later revealed as Diana, goddess of wisdom), who explains the tenets of a truly good society—one that abolished government, upheld the brotherhood of citizens, and looked back to ancient Greece as a model. Thus, Telemachus served as a fierce criticism of the rule of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France (1638–1715).
From François Fénelon, The Adventures of Telemachus. Trans Dr. Hawkesworth. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1872, pp. 450–8.
The Code of Manu deals with many different features of Hindu life, such as the proper behavior of different castes and methods for ritual purification. The “Manu” referred to in the title is the legendary “first man” of Hindu culture, also recognized as the first lawgiver. Thus, the Code of Manu is thought of within Hinduism as a text based on human traditions (smriti), but it is also believed to be consistent with the values included in texts that are divinely revealed (shruti), such as the “Purusha Hymn.” As a result, it restates and reaffirms traditional values and structures, but it does so on the basis of religious authority.
The responsibilities described for women in the Code of Manu need to be understood within the context of Hinduism. A central component of Hinduism is the concept of dharma (“that which is firm”). Hindus believe that by living up to the religious and social responsibilities attached to one’s social position (caste and gender), one sustains the proper order of the universe and gains good karma, moving up the scale of reincarnation toward unity with the brahman, or World Soul. Composed following a period of unrest, the Code of Manu represents a vigorous attempt to reestablish order within the Hindu world.
The Law of Manu, in The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 25, trans. G. Bühler (Oxford: Clarendon, 1886), 194–197, 328–330, 332, 335, 344–345.
A Latin scholar, poet, and biographer, Boccaccio (1313–1375) is most famous today as the author of the Decameron. This compilation of 100 tales, by turns serious, bawdy, and irreverent, purports to be a rendition of the stories told over the course of 10 days by 10 young men and women who had fled Florence to escape the Black Death. Many of the tales are based on older legends, and they frequently reflect the humor of the common people of the era, often at the expense of their spiritual and social betters. Religious authorities were frequent targets of this sort of satire, reflecting their ubiquitous presence in the lives of medieval Europeans, as well as, perhaps, a deep undercurrent of resentment regarding their privileges.
Giovanni Boccaccio, “Putting the Devil Back in Hell” (3.10), from The Decameron: Selected Tales / Decameron: Novelle scelte, trans. Stanley Appelbaum (Mineola, NY: Dover, 2000), 87–93.
The British activist Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), mother of author Mary Shelley and the bearer of a tainted reputation, wrote a letter called “Vindication of the Rights of Man” (1790) to Edmund Burke criticizing his Reflections on the Revolution in France (Document 16.1) for its support of the aristocracy. Two years later, she altered the title for a feminist letter that argues for education and respect for women as valuable and contributing members of society. Now considered a founder of feminism, Wollstonecraft advocated on behalf of her fellow women in her dedication to a fellow pamphleteer, the enigmatic diplomat Talleyrand (1754–1838). Here, she outlines her main quest for education and provides a glimpse into her charm and energy.
From Mary Wollenstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women. London: J. Johnson, 1792.
Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary, was born in 1537, the same year as Edward VI, the only surviving son of the king who had sought a male heir so desperately. Jane, who like Edward was raised in the Protestant religion Henry had introduced to England, proved a diligent and intellectually gifted teenager. In spite of her youth and gender, Jane corresponded with Protestant authorities on the Continent, but fast-moving events in England precluded further study. When Edward died without an heir in 1553, the throne passed, by prearranged agreement, to his fiercely Catholic half-sister Mary.
However, in order to forestall a Catholic successor—and the dramatic rollback of the Protestant reforms instituted by Henry’s and Edward’s Church of England—Jane’s relatives proclaimed her queen. Her rule lasted a mere nine days. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London by Mary, who was then forced to consider whether Jane’s execution was warranted. Shortly before Jane’s death, at age 16, Queen Mary sent her own chaplain, Master Feckenham (sometimes rendered as “Fecknam”) to try to reconcile Jane to the Catholic faith. The results of this attempt were triumphantly recorded in John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, published after the Protestant Queen Elizabeth had triumphed over Mary and the Catholics. Although the conversation recorded here is not a trial transcript—and is a highly partisan account—it does distill some of the central issues that divided Catholics and Protestants in an extremely chaotic and violent period.
“The Examination of Lady Jane Grey (1554),” from Denis R. Janz, ed., A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts with Introductions, 2nd ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2008), 360– 362, taken from The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe (London: Seeleys, 1859), 415–417.
In the catastrophe brought on by the assaults on all their borders, some European midieval Christians were forced to devise new means of self-protection. Into this vacuum of governmental authority came new “feudal” relationships between lords and vassals. Over time, these contractual relationships became increasingly regularized. The terms of these relationships can be reconstructed through documents describing the ceremonial and formulaic aspects of feudal obligations.
James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History, vol. 1 (Boston: Ginn & Company, 1904), 178–180.
John Foxe (1517–1587) authored this martyrology that especially focuses on the martyrdoms of 16th-century Protestants at the hands of Catholic inquisitors. This selection recounts the trial against Anne Askew, an Englishwoman who became actively involved in propagating Protestant beliefs—even being rejected by her husband as a result of her zeal. As in medieval inquisitions, the questions asked to Anne are aimed at clarifying where the error arises; here, she rejects the doctrine of transubstantiation and challenges the authority of “improper” priests. Her answers are logical and coherent as she unwittingly condemns herself. Anne was tortured in the Tower of London and burned at the stake in 1546 at the age of twenty-five.
“Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Select Narratives,” ed. John N. King (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Pp. 22–35.
The Inquisition was well established in Spain at the time of Cortés’s conquest in the 1520s. A tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition came in the conquistadors’ wake, ultimately established at Mexico City in 1571 with authority to regulate Catholic morality throughout “New Spain.” Most of the Inquisition trials concerned petty breaches of religious conduct, but others dealt with the much more serious crime of heresy. In November 1598, the Inquisition became alarmed about the rise of a group who believed that the Day of Judgment was at hand. Among the group denounced to the Holy Office was Marina de San Miguel, a Spanish-born woman who held a high status due to her mystical visions. Her confessions, offered between November 1598 and January 1599, reveal the degree to which confessions of “deviance” could be extorted from a victim. In March 1601, Marina was stripped naked to the waist and paraded upon a mule. Forced to confess her errors, she was sentenced to 100 lashes with a whip.
Jacqueline Holler, “The Spiritual and Physical Ecstasies of a Sixteenth-Century Beata: Marina de San Miguel Confesses Before the Mexican Inquisition,” in Richard Boyer and Geoffrey Spurling, eds., Colonial Lives: Documents on Latin American History, 1550–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 79–98.
Halidé Edib Adivar
Halidé Edib Adivar (1884–1964) was a Turkish feminist and writer, best known for novels focusing on the status of Turkish women. Born in Constantinople (Istanbul), she was connected by family to the court of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II and educated in a multilingual environment where she learned Arabic, English, and French. One of a new generation of women, her experiences spanned the old world of harems as well as the new world of professional women. Her early career involved writing articles on education for newspapers and work for the ministry of education. Her memoir is not particularly personal, focusing as it largely does on Turkey’s struggle for nationhood, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, and the Nationalist politics of its first “modern” leader, Kemal Ataturk.
From H. Edib, The Memoirs of Halidé Edib. London: John Murray, 1926, pp. 11–4, 85–8, 142–8. Halidé Edib, The Turkish Ordeal: Further Memoirs. London: John Murray, 1928, pp. 25–34 (excerpts).
Born around 360 CE and instructed by her father, Theon, a mathematician and the last librarian of the famous Library of Alexandria, Hypatia directed the Platonic school in the city, teaching students who were of mixed religious commitments but were, presumably, all men. The few sources that mention her agree that she was abducted, stripped of her clothes, and stoned to death with roof tiles by a deranged group of Christians, but the precise sequence of events that led to this atrocity has always been controversial.
Because all of these sources were composed by Christians—with the exception of her own correspondence with a former student, the bishop Synesius of Cyrene—the lynching of Hypatia may be interpreted as an instance of fanaticism attempting to destroy reason, or as the elimination of a dangerous pagan influence in the midst of a Christianizing Egypt. The latter approach has, unfortunately, been more common, given Christian influence—and misogyny—in Western societies and the installation of her main opponent, Bishop Cyril of Alexandria, as one of the “fathers of the church.”
Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 7.15, available online at http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/wlgr/wlgr-religion451.shtml.
Thomas R. Trautmann
Few things are more tantalizing to historians than an undeciphered script. Hundreds of broken and intact Harappan seals have been discovered in numerous sites throughout the Indus Valley, many that combine a line of symbols assumed to be text with an image of an animal. Denoting them seals, historians have determined that most were used to identify someone involved with an object (owner, craftsmen, or merchant). It is also possible that the seals, and other examples of the Indus script, were protective in nature, operating as a talisman. However, without the ability to read the symbols, how the seals and other objects with writing were used to convey information is a matter of speculation. It is hard to understand how a text is used if one cannot read the content. In the excerpt below, historian Thomas Trautmann, a leading specialist on ancient India, provides an overview of the mysterious Harappan seals.
The most intriguing artifacts of the Indus sites are rectangular steatitei seals, because of the writing on them. These seals, little more than an inch square, generally bear an incised image, beautifully carved, of which the humped bull is a common type. Other animals (tiger, elephant), composite mythological beasts, and the rare human form are figured on other seals. They also bear a short inscription across the top, in a script that has defied many attempts to decipher it. This script contains more than four hundred signs, too many to be purely alphabetic or syllabic because no language is known to have more than a hundred phonemes. Although many of the signs are obviously pictographic, other elements act as modifiers, perhaps as word endings, and others are clearly numerals. The seals were meant to be pressed into soft clay as a mark of ownership, in all likelihood. The inscriptions are short, presumably recording little more than the owner’s name. The language of the script is unknown; a Dravidian language would be our best guess because of islands of Dravidian language in the Indus and Ganga valleys, but other languages cannot be ruled out. We do not have a bilingual inscription, like the Rosetta Stone by which the Egyptian hieroglyphics were deciphered, or the Greek and Prakrit inscriptions on coins by which the inscriptions of Ashoka were read. However, because the Indus people were involved with seagoing trade with other literate people, especially the Elamites and perhaps the Mesopotamians, there is a chance that a bilingual inscription will be found one day…
From India: Brief History of a Civilization. Thomas R. Trautmann. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 22-27
The Nihon Shoki is the first official history of Japan. It draws on numerous sources, including Chinese histories, clan histories, and the accounts of religious authorities. While it parallels the Kojiki in describing the ancient and mythological origins of Japan, it continues the narrative far beyond the Kojiki into the recent past, specifically the reign of the Empress Jitō (686–697). This particular story concerns the eleventh emperor of Japan, Suinin, but it differs from the Kojiki in certain key details, and probably reflects the values of the eighth century rather than its ostensible setting (the first century CE).
“The Empress and Her Brother Prince Sahobiko,” from Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology, Beginnings to 1600, ed. Haruo Shirane (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 47–49.
The author of this personal essay was Yi Kyu-bo (1168 – 1241), a poet, essayist, and critic in the Koryo kingdom of Korea. He was also a high-ranking civil servant, who passed the civil-service examination required for government service. The life of Yi Kyu-bo reflects the extent to which Koryo modeled itself on Tang / Song China. Yi Kyu-bo studied and wrote in Chinese, worked in a state organized along Confucian principles, and created literary works that were infused with both Confucian and Daoist principles.
Yi Kyu-bo. “On Demolishing the Earthen Chamber,” from Anthology of Korean Literature: From Early Times to the Nineteenth Century, ed. Peter H. Lee. (Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1981), 61-62.
The witch hunt that took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 has been frequently (if sensationally) depicted in modern films and plays. But a reading of the extant documents used in the trial of the supposed witches provides a more nuanced insight into the process of denunciation, conviction, and execution that unfolded in this persecution, which was among the last in the Western world. Although the Salem witch hunt resulted in the conviction of 30 and the execution of 19, the total number of persons who had been formally accused reached 164. Doubts about the guilt of those executed eventually led to a reconsideration of the procedures used in the trial, and the governor of the colony abruptly suspended the trials in the autumn of 1692. In spite of the admission by some of the Salem jurors that they had been mistaken, the judgments passed on seven of the convicted were not reversed until 2001.
Brian P. Levack, ed., The Witchcraft Sourcebook (New York: Routledge, 2004), 225–226, 228–229.
Followers of Confucius
Traditional versions of the Confucius’s life say that he was born in the sixth century B.C.E., and was an itinerant political advisor. He was, technically speaking, a failure in his lifetime, unable to find permanent employment with any one of the Zhou vassal kingdoms. Confucius is not the author of the Analects; they were gathered from his immediate followers, and read as a collection of profound musings on politics, morality, personal behavior, family, and culture.
The following excerpts give a broad overview of the basic Confucian tenets encapsulated in the Analects, including the Master’s thoughts on filial piety and the junzi, or “superior man.”
Confucius, “Selections from the Analects I,” from The Four Books. James Legge, ed. and trans. (Shanghai: The Chinese Book Company, 1930), 13, 16, 19, 33, 161-162, 245-248.
One of the most brilliant professors and theologians of the European Middle Ages, Peter Abelard (1070–1142) became a star performer in the academic art of “dialectic.” His abilities also earned him many enemies. When he turned his attention to the thorny subject of the Trinity, one of the principal elements of Christian belief, Abelard incurred the wrath of powerful members of the institutional church, of which he, as a professor, was also a part. In his autobiography, The Story of My Misfortunes, Abelard detailed the episodes of envy, backbiting, and stupidity that dogged him throughout his life. He also recalled his affair with Heloise (d. 1163), his former pupil and intellectual equal. The letters they exchanged survive as some of the most passionate and beautiful documents of the period.
The Story of My Misfortunes: The Autobiography of Peter Abélard, trans. Henry Adams Bellows (New York: Macmillan, 1922), 36–44.
The daughter of a minor noble in the court at Heian-Kyo in central Japan, Murasaki Shikibu (ca. 973–1025) created Japan’s most popular work of fiction and one of the world’s great literary masterpieces. The Genji Monagatori is composed of acute observations of the subtleties of court life, and Murasaki focused particularly on the lives of women at court. Although the tale is ostensibly fictional, it reflects the era in which it was written, as the novelist strove to make the action in it plausible to the reader. In the process, she also crafted a compelling and compulsively readable story.
Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, trans. Royall Tyler (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 2001), “Heart-to-Heart” (Aoi), 178–179.
Fatima Mernissi is a Moroccan feminist and sociologist. After studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, she received her Ph.D. from Brandeis University before returning to Morocco. Mernissi’s work has largely focused on the role of women within Islam, and she has examined the ways in which traditional Islamic cultures have treated women versus how the Qur’an (the source of much of Islamic “orthodoxy”) treats them. Her first book Beyond the Veil (1975) became a classic in the fields of anthropology and sociology. Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women (1989) was prompted in part by the suggestion that feminism was a Western concern. For the book, Mernissi interviewed a hundred women, mostly from the lower classes, and collected a great deal of material on a diversity of subjects such as culinary culture, spirituality, sex, and family.
From Fatima Mernissi, Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women. Trans. Mary Jo Lakeland. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989, pp. 126–44, 213–7 (excerpts).
Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) are best known for their collaborative work The Communist Manifesto (1848). However, the two had been observing the real consequences of industrialization for factory workers, particularly in Manchester, England, for many years before this. Working in his father’s cotton factory in England, Engels had witnessed the inequities imposed by industrial systems, and he composed a scathing attack on these systems in his Condition of the Working-Class in England (1845). When Marx befriended Engels in Manchester, he too came to see how local conditions could lead to wide-ranging theories about labor, wages, and the measurement of “costs.” In this lecture, delivered in December 1847, Marx took his audience through the most basic elements of the philosophy that would culminate in Das Kapital (vol. 1, 1867).
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/, first published in German in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (April 5–8, 11, 1849), and edited and translated by Friedrich Engels for an 1891 pamphlet.