Monday, December 6, 2010

Test 4 Questions

13 lucky questions:

1.) What is the concept of “the cockpit of Europe,” and how did it allow the West to emerge as a much more powerful part of the globe both militarily and economically? Be sure to consider the gunpowder revolution in all of its manifestations.

2.) There were a lot of reasons why slavery was important to the development of the sugar trade, and why sugar was important to the development of the Atlantic slave trade. Describe this relationship on both the “macro” (big picture) and “micro” (detailed) level.

3.) What measures did Emperor Hongwu put in place to ensure the stability of the Ming Empire? How did the fleet of Zheng He reflect a deviation from this policy? What ultimately happened to this fleet?

4.) Describe how the Mongol invasions toppled the old Abbasid empire and led to the emergence of three distinct empires representing significant divisions in the Islamic faith.

5.) How do most people “know what they know” about the legendary English victory at the Battle of Agincourt, and what do they presume to be keys of victory? How did this misconception ultimately hurt the military fortunes of England?

6.) With respect to its ability to conquer, the Mongol Army should remind us of the exploits of Alexander the Great (except that the Mongols conquered even more ground.) Yet the Mongols did not leave behind an enduring culture like Alexander. Describe the conquering style and characteristics of the Mongols that destined their culture to be so fleeting.

7.) Describe fully the agricultural revolution in Medieval Europe. Why did it make sense for this transformation to take place on monastery lands or on manors? What consequences did this revolution have?

8.) The Ottomans emerged as a powerful and particularly well-run empire. What were some of the key elements to the Ottomans’ system of conquest and governance that lent it stability? What was the empire’s greatest period? At what point did the empire begin to weaken?

9.) How did Greek classics retrieved out of Constantinople and spread about Western Europe during the “Renaissance” fuel both civic humanism and criticism of the Catholic Church while undermining the traditional devotion to Scholasticism?

10.) Describe some of the motivations behind the Crusades. Why were they ultimately a failure? In what ways did they aid Western Europe?

11.) When it came to the spice trade in Asia, in what ways did the arrival of the Portuguese represent a fundamental departure from the way that the spice trade had been conducted since the time of the Roman Empire? What enabled the Portuguese to get away with this sort of trade? How did the Dutch ultimately challenge them?

12.) What was it about the spice trade that made it such a convenient calling for Muslim traders? Describe the symbiotic relationship between the spice trade and the spread of Islam.

13.) In what ways was Martin Luther an “accidental man” who did not intend to start a theological revolution? How unusual was he in the Germany of his era? What was the nature of the relationship between German principalities and the Catholic Church, and how did it allow Luther to avoid being burned at the stake? How was Luther aided by technology, and what intellectual currents helped fuel his “Reformation?”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Test 3 Answer Key

Here is the key I used to grade your exams. Note that at some level, interpretation of points and value is subjective and that I tried to be as generous as possible with partial credit.

Test: “Comus”

1.) When Rome went to war with the Carthaginians and Greeks in the Punic Wars, it established a precedent of making slaves out of conquered peoples. Thereafter, slavery became an intrinsic part of any Roman conquest.
Rome grew increasingly dependant upon slavery, particularly agricultural slavery. As an institution, it created a large discontented unemployed population, led to periodic slave revolts, and disproportionately wealthy slave owners who farmed the Latifunda. It also sapped the Roman work ethic.
As long as Rome conquered, it gained more slaves – which it needed, because Roman slaves were worked to death – there was no inheritable permanent slave class. When Rome failed to conquer, it could not replace slave labor, and the republic could not sustain itself without major restructuring. Increasingly, Rome could not afford its empire.

2.) The discourses on salt and iron were a METAPHOR for the question of whether or not Legalism or Confucianism was the better governing philosophy for China. The discourses took place when the Han seized power from the Qin. The Qin ruled with a heavily Legalistic hand and, as a consequence, regulated salt and iron very strictly believing that the people must be controlled. The Han were Confucians and looked toward the Discourses to lend intellectual weight to a new policy toward freer markets in salt and iron. The problem encountered by the Han was that free markets did not raise revenue. The Discourses aimed at reconciling Confucianism with Legalism and determining when state control was appropriate – ultimately keeping the monopolies on salt and iron.

3.) The Vikings developed a new kind of shallow draft boat that was both seaworthy and ideal for coastal raiding. With Europe in a state of decentralized disarray, it proved easy pickings for Viking raiders. The Vikings also established overland trading routes through the northern and central European lands, extending to Kiev. The Vikings were unable to defeat Byzantium because it was the first major military power that they had faced. Instead, the attacking force was converted to Orthodox Christianity. These former Vikings ultimately spread Orthodoxy along its trade routes through Kiev, ensuring that Russia would be Orthodox Christian. When Constantinople eventually fell, Kiev and Moscow already rivaled it as the center of Orthodox Christianity, thus preserving the faith.

4.) The Abbasids moved the capitol to Baghdad. They allowed all Muslims, not just Arabs, to become important intellectual figures in Islam. They were relatively tolerant of Christians and Jews and encouraged people of all ethnicities to convert to Islam, making it far more welcoming. The Abbasids were eager to gain as much technological and philosophical knowledge as possible and as a consequence, Baghdad became a great center of learning – a place that preserved Greek and Roman classics by translating them into Arabic, as well as Hindu and Chinese knowledge. They also promulgated Sharia law.

5.) Constantine, it is told, saw the (chi rho) Px or symbol of the crucified Christ and so he placed it on his army’s labarum (crest) during his efforts to reconsolidate power in Rome. In return, he vowed a “conversion” to Christianity – which was something of a calculated political risk. Constantine’s material reasons for conversion were that he saw in Christianity an opportunity to unite the empire and bring stability. Unfortunately he discovered disunity in Christian doctrine. To address this, he called the Council of Nicaea so as to establish the core of Christian beliefs and to create uniformity.

6.) Vedic religions adapted to pressures brought to bear by the spread of Buddhism and Islam. Hinduism emerged with some fundamental differences. Hindus embraced vegetarianism and rejected the practice of animal sacrifice. Hindus also set forth flexible deity figures in a “one god” concept, making Hinduism nominally monotheistic. It established the Laws of Manu, which reinforced older Vedic caste systems by preventing meaningful social contact (marriage, etc) between castes.

7.) The Flavian Amphitheater, or “Colleseum” was a symbol of the importance of mass entertainment. Every Roman city of consequence had one. Roman emperors staged games as a form of creating civil unity through entertainment. Entertainment was often violent, such as gladiatorial contests and animal fights, and fostered the cult of the violent hero and certainly desensitized Romans to the role of blood in their society. Where Romans worried about entertaining the masses, the Confucian Han Chinese felt no need to supply culture or entertainment to the masses, much less such low-brow affairs. The Han believed that its culture should reflect the refined tastes of the elite, which was in line with Confucian ideals. Thus, no such arenas for public performance existed in Han China.

Test: “Rex”

1. Same as on “Comus”

2. The Han Dynasty grew too large to the point where it could no longer manage itself internally nor defend its borders. On the northern plains it faced threats from nomadic people with whom the empire would periodically trade. Meanwhile, in order to support a growing empire and bureaucracy, the Han imposed heavy agricultural taxation which could not be borne by the people. Increasingly Daoist armies began to rise up and demand reform, particularly land reform, as the noble families were not required to pay taxes. Wang Mang tried to invoke land reform by usurping the Han throne, but it was too late. The Han also faced key natural disasters when the Yellow River altered its course. The Era of Self Doubt enabled Daoist and Buddhist ideas to flourish in China, and they continued until 620s when the Tang Dynasty restored Confucian government.

3.) Salt in China involved a great deal of production and technology because it was evaporated either out of the sea or, more often, out of brine pits. Elaborate production schemes involving wells and natural gas emerged in China. Salt also was key to the operation of government, because the government managed to not only organize its production, but taxed its output and determined its distribution. Salt was less an export in China than it was a good traded and consumed internally. In Africa, salt did not necessarily lead to the emergence of government structures as it was more easily gotten out of the ground. Dry blocks of dense salt could be carved out of dry lake beds in the Sahara by slave labor. Unlike China, however, salt was rivaled only by gold and slaves as the West Africa’s most important trade good. It also served to bring Islam into West Africa.

4.) Same as 5 on “Comus”

5.) The Tang civil service system hinged on a series of exams based on the study of Confucian classics. What this did was to create a very able civil service, but also to spread literacy and learning in a uniform language through a broad sector of the population. Since anyone but the sons of merchantmen could take the exam, it opened up the pathway to government power to all orders of society, though it did tend to benefit wealthier Chinese who could afford to send their children to school.

6.) Before Islam, Arabic society was matrilineal, with family names derived from the mother and sons going to live within the wife’s household. Women played an important role in mercantile affairs. In the early years of Muhammad, women played more conspicuous roles in public, including his own wife. But after the Medina to Mecca wars had been successfully won, Islam moved to a more subservient role for women. Patriarchy in Islam came to the fore with the emergence of Sharia law. Yet Islam also prescribed specific protections for women, including their financial security even as it outlined severe punishment for their misbehavior.

7.) Same as 7 on “Comus”

Test: “Proteus”

1.) The historical basis for “Pyrrhic Victory” came from the period of time when Rome was consolidating its power on the Italian peninsula. Pyrrhius was a famous Greek general who had come to the Italian peninsula to defeat the Romans and defend Greek towns in Italy. He was able to beat a Roman army, but because the Romans had fought to the death, they were able to inflict serious casualties on the Greeks. Thus, the Greeks won the battle but were so weakened by it that their victory was meaningless, or “pyrrhic.” The Romans fought this way against superior odds. It was a reflection of Roman discipline and dedication to the soldierly ideal – that a Roman soldier was willing to die for the glory of Rome if necessary. This made Roman armies much more difficult to defeat.

2.) Same as 3 on “Rex”

3.) When the Han took over from the Qin, it was a triumph of Confucianism over Legalism. The Han quickly moved to justify that their rise to power reflected the mandate of heaven because Legalism represented a harsh governing philosophy that was out of step with the people and had led to corrupt abuse by the Qin emperor. Confucianism (at least in principle) valued harmony, family, and morality. One area in which the Han attempted to make a sharp break from the Qin past was in criminal law. They replaced the many harsh punishments meted out by the Qin for trivial offenses with sentences more commensurate with the crime.

4.) Same as 6 on “Rex”

5.) The “fall” of Rome was less of a fall than a transition away from the importance of Rome, the city and a transformation of its frontiers. The “barbarians” that supposedly destroyed Rome had actually become quite Roman, and were actually made up a growing proportion of the forces that defended Rome and/or fought in their Civil Wars. The Barbarians who sacked Rome were had been hired by the empire but were not fed or paid for their services. As Rome could no longer support its large urban populations and maintain its empire, wealthy individuals began to hire on “Barbarian” armies to protect their estates, and these estates began looking a lot like early medieval mini-kingdoms. Meanwhile, the true capitol of the Roman empire was no longer in Rome itself, but in the east in Greek and Turkish areas. Constantine himself would further this trend by founding Constantinople, which was the real center of Roman power and money. For what it is worth, very few people chose this question!

6.) Same as 5 on “Rex”

7.) There were key moments that enabled Christianity to spread between the time of Jesus to the emergence of Constantine. The first of these is that the disciples were particularly dedicated followers who faced enormous risk in order to spread the word of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. They were aided by emerging at the time of the “Pax Romana” – enabling them to spread the word more easily. The tireless efforts of St. Paul are a reflection of this ability, for Paul was able to travel extensively – as far as Spain – to spread the Gospel. He was also able to use Greek to communicate in his famous letters. Martyrdom of individuals like Perpetua also drew people to the faith. Within the Roman context, the idea of dying for belief was powerful, and periodic run-ins with Roman governors provided a platform for Christian sacrifice. Lastly, the years leading up to the rule of Constantine were a time of great turmoil, and the encouraged the flourishing of all salvation religions of the era. Constantine’s conversion legitimized a faith that had survived for 300 years as a largely outlaw religion. With Constantine came translation of Christian texts into the key languages of the era.

Test: “Orpheus”

1.) The internal strife amongst the Jews was whether or not a homeland was essential for the survival of Judaism. The Zealots believed that it was so, and it led to a great deal of violence in Judea. Eventually the Zealots had to take refuge in the mountaintop fortress at Masada. Here they faced ultimate defeat by the 10th Roman Legion, but before the Romans could storm the fort, the Zealots had taken the lives of their wives before committing suicide. The objective of this act was to prove that they were willing to die before they would be taken as slaves. Israeli soldiers make the pilgrimage to Masada because it is a powerful symbol of Zionism. Note: a lot of people missed points by studying a question that was not right.

2.) Same as 2 on “Comus”
3.) Same as 3 on “Comus”

4.) The Tang hoped to revive the Han dynasty. They were successful in doing this and used the civil service system to foster a renewed appreciation for Confucian thinking. This was important because unlike the Han, the Tang had to contend with well-established Buddhist and Daoist movements within China. The Tang were actually able to expand the borders of the empire much further than the Han, but they were unable to hold on to the empire for much of the same reasons. Depressed crop yields combined with renewed attacks on their borders and natural disaster weakened the Tang. The emergence of Islam to the West also limited growth and even contributed to erosion of empire. Note: again, part of the consensus study answer was not correct and/or was incomplete

5.) Same as 4 on “Comus”

6.) Justinian attempted to reassert the glory of Rome by establishing a new sense of order through the development of the “code” or Roman Law. He wanted to establish the greater glory of the Eastern church and especially it Roman capitol of Constantinople by building the famous Hagia Sophia church. Moreover, he had visions of re-conquering lost portions of the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean, in which he was partially successful – particularly in North Africa. In some ways, he was successful by placing the Byzantine empire on a firm footing with regard to administration and laws. But he was not able to restore militarily the old empire as it was and faced continual threats from the East.

7.) Same as 6 on “Comus”

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Gunpowder Revolution

Monday's lecture will be on the "Gunpowder Revolution," which will take us from the walls of Constantinople to the arms factories and banking houses of Bruxelles by way of the muddy fields of Agincourt.

And speaking of Agincourt, we'll take a detour into the making of national military mythologies.

With that in mind, reconsider Agincourt in the context of this recent article from the New York Times.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tightening up our calendar for the last two weeks:


Because our final exam is not cumulative, and only "test 4," I think it works best for the majority of you to have it on the last day of class. I will entertain excuses for why you cannot take the test on Friday 12/10, but it will have to be DOCUMENTED and an actual excusable absence. Extracurricular plays and musicals are not excusable, for instance.

Week 15
M 11/29: Read Chap. 11 WTWA to p. 499 Q21 (and Q20 from Monday before Thanksgiving Break)
W 12/1: Read Chap. 11 WTWA to end Q22 + extra Q on "Gunpowder Revolution"
F 12/3: Read “Sugar” in Trading Tastes Q23

Week 16
M 12/6: Wrapping up loose ends lecture:
W 12/8: Review Day
F 12/10: Test 4 (Final Exam)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spice Trade

The spice trade in the Islamic Era

For the sake of argument, could you answer the following?:

Detail the argument behind the assertion that the spice trade led to the formation of governments in Southeast Asia.

Detail the fundamental differences between the Islamic er of the spice trade and the new paradigm introduced by the Portuguese and Dutch.

Explain how the social position of merchants in Hindu, Confucian, Muslim, and European Christian broader outcomes in the seas of Asia.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Test 3 Questions

Here are your questions for Test 3. You will notice that there are fewer of them, but that they are more complex. As a consequence, I am going to make a change to the test. You will get only six questions on your test, and you will have to answer four. I will be expecting longer, more complex answers, but you will have fewer questions to focus upon.

1.) From the rise of Rome in the Punic Wars and wars with the Greeks to its “fall” and reconsolidation under Constantine, slavery played a large role in the affairs of the state. Describe briefly how Rome came to be a slave society, how slavery functioned as an important part of Rome’s identity, and how the system contributed to Rome’s downfall.

2.) What is the historical basis of the phrase “Phyrric victory?” Why did Rome let its opponents win Phyrric victories, and how did Rome’s warrior ethos enable it to engage in this sort of strategy?

3.) What was the fundamental issue at stake amongst the Jews that led to internal strife within Roman-occupied Judea, and that led ultimately to the Zealots occupying the mountaintop fortress at Masada? What did the defenders of Masada do when faced with defeat at the hands of the Roman Legion? Why does every modern Israeli soldier make a pilgrimage to the Masada?

4.) What sort of entertainments were common in Rome’s Flavian Amphitheater and how were they a reflection of Roman values? How did this contrast with the fundamental philosophy of entertainment in Han China?

5.) What were the “Discourses on Salt and Iron” and how were they a reflection of the debate between the governing philosophies of Legalism and Confucianism?

6.) Compare and contrast fully the methods of acquiring salt in West Africa and China and the role that which salt production and trading played in shaping these two very different societies.

7.) When the Han Dynasty took over from the Qin Dynasty, it represented a significant change in the governing philosophy of China. Explain the main differences ushered in by the Han and describe why the Han believed in the inevitability of their rule. 

8.) What empowered the rise of the Vikings? How did their conquests, both by land and sea, lead to new trading routes and avenues for the spread of culture? How did their failed conquest of Byzantium ironically lead to the preservation of Orthodox Christianity?

9.) What forces led to the collapse of the Han Dynasty? What new ideas did the “era of self-doubt” enable to flourish in China? How prolonged was this period of chaos in China?

10.) What earlier dynasty did the Tang try to emulate? Broadly considered, how successful were they in doing this? How did Confucianism help the Tang rule over such a large empire? What challenges did the Tang ultimately face that brought about its downfall?

11.) Describe fully the civil service system of Tang China, including its intellectual basis and the effect it had both on the governing of China, but also in transforming the culture of its people.

12.) What immediate changes did the Abbasids make in the Islamic empire after they had overthrown the Umayyads? How did further changes made by the Abbasids make encourage the territorial expansion and intellectual growth of Islam?

13.) Describe the transformation in the roles of women in Arabia from pre-Islamic times, through the time of Muhammed,  through the rise of the Islamic Sharia law.

14.) How did Constantine come to “convert” to Christianity? What did Constantine hope to accomplish by promoting the religion within the empire, and why was he disappointed when he took a closer look at the state of Christianity at the time of his rise to power? What did Constantine do to make Christianity more useful to Rome, and how successful was he in this?

15.) Describe as fully as possible the conditions that enabled Christianity to spread from the time of Jesus and Saint Paul through the rise of Constantine.

16.) Describe the ways in which the “fall” of the Rome was not really a “fall” but more of a transitional period between the rule of Diocletian and the emergence of early Medieval Europe. What were the key elements of this transition?

17.) What sorts of things did the Emperor Justinian do in his attempt to restore the former glory of the Roman Empire? Which of these efforts were successful? To what degree did Justinian fail?

18.) Describe fully the transition from the Vedic religions of Central Asia into what became known by outsiders as the Hindu religion. Be sure to identify the key elements that distinguish the two, including relationship to caste, deities, and ways of life.