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In between, the Russians recovered from their huge retreat in and under their most gifted general, Aleksei Brusilov, drove the Austro-Hungarians back across southern Poland before the Germans halted them. Eventually, some , Italian soldiers died in the war, proportionately nearly as many as British.

In , this resulted in more fluid campaigning that resembled 19th-century colonial warfare yet also imported the latest techniques aircraft, heavy artillery from Europe. Yet the British fanned the Arab Revolt under TE Lawrence with promises of independence while favouring Zionist interests in Palestine, thus sowing the seeds of enduring conflict. Prime among these was the naval war. As the author shows, Jutland, the major naval battle of between the British and German fleets yet another standoff , was less important than the broader economic war in which the Allies blockaded the Central Powers while the Germans attacked Allied shipping with submarines.

The result was vital since the side that won the Allies could ultimately bring more men and material to bear on breaking the stalemate.

A Global History of Trade and Conflict since 1500

The result was major revolts against conscription in central Asia, Algeria and elsewhere, as imperial structures buckled under the needs of war, with consequences for the future. The war both propelled the colonial empires to their zenith and undermined them. Together with the impact of the war on frail subsistence economies, some , Africans perished as a result of combat or famine.

Yet for the first time, large number of Africans went to France to fight or to work and saw their colonial masters with new eyes — and new demands for reform. The author makes an excellent case that was act three of the Great War. The year saw the conflict transformed in numerous regards, such as the cost of the military deadlock for ailing powers such as Russia, the terms of colonialism and, most fatefully, the rejection of peace and deepened commitment by both camps to military victory at almost any cost. Of course, history is not drama, and each year of the war was its own turning point.

We use cookies to personalise content, target and report on ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. For more information see our Cookie Policy. John Horne. Sat, Jan 16, , First published: Sat, Jan 16, , More from The Irish Times Books. Tax: Coping with complexity and uncertainty. New research takes another step towards self-aware artificial intelligence.

1916: A Global History review: midpoint for a world engulfed in war

South Africa: wildlife, wine country and out-of-this-world adventure awaits. Subscriber Only. The best graphic novels of so far. Fly Already: Sharp, action-packed short stories. The Book Club. Sign up to the weekly Irish Times books newsletter for features, podcasts and more. Notwithstanding the existence of a significant French tradition in both these fields, it was essentially a matter of a lack of communication between intellectual traditions. To embark on more wide-ranging reflection on this issue, we would need to go back to a distant past, that is, the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In so doing, I also revert to the question raised by Roger Chartier in his above-cited text.


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Men of the past or historians of the present? To better understand how a global history is constructed, both in the present and in the past, we have to highlight a fact that may seem obvious. History is first and foremost a self-centred narrative. It is also constantly seen to play on, and sometimes against, memory. How can the history of Florence be written without Pisa, that of the Khazars without the Russians, or that of France without Germany? Going beyond mere acknowledgement is however not as easy as it may seem.

How many French historians spend their time reading texts, not to mention archives, in German? Historians of the Mediterranean like to cite the case of Polybius, and those of Ancient China readily refer to Sima Qian.

A Global History of Trade and Conflict since | L. Coppolaro | Palgrave Macmillan

These are contrasting characters in many respects. Polybius was a Greek who lived in the second century bce , under Roman domination. As the heir of Thucydides and Herodotus, he was often deemed to have less talent than his predecessors, even if his reputation has had noteworthy ups and downs.

Skilled in the use of both the sword and the pen, he participated in campaigns that ensured Roman hegemony over Carthage and other rivals. Seeing from Rome and seeing like Rome. In this like lies the entire historiographic operation and all the ambiguity of his position … Hence, both the theoretical and practical solution that Polybius finally found was the sunopsis , the very point of view of Fortune.

The term universal qualifies his methods, not his geographic coverage. His main work, Shiji , spans almost two thousand years of Chinese history and records traces of his own travels during his imperial career, both within the kingdom and beyond. Sima Qian had been employed by the government as an astrologer, librarian, and adviser, like his father before him, but his history can hardly be considered as official. He lived in times of upheaval, due to radical changes in material conditions coming mainly from the west, and therefore had a difficult career in which he was imprisoned and even castrated for his political loyalties.

With great finesse he practised polyphony, thus enabling widely diverse actors to find their voice in his history. One of the most striking examples is the eunuch Zhonghang Yue, sent by the Emperor Wen to the Xiongnu for diplomatic negotiations in around bce. Zhonghang betrayed his master, entered the service of the Xiongnu and subsequently became an influential political actor in their society.

Sima Qian, on the other hand, was soundly established in the Pantheon of great writers and stylists, adored not only by generations of historians who succeeded him in China and in the sinicized world, but also by all sorts of other intellectuals. That is not however the main point I wish to make. Forms of universal history were practised throughout the Middle Ages, often in relation to the established models mentioned above.

This is indeed a passing on of the historiographic baton. At the end of the first millennium of the Christian era, the tradition of universal histories was consolidated by the emergence of a new historiographic tradition associated with Islam and expressed initially in Arabic, although it drew on more ancient Greek and Syriac sources.

With Muslim expansion westwards towards the Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula, and eastwards towards Persia and India, they were also obliged to account for those other peoples and their histories. Biruni had accompanied Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna, a powerful conqueror, on his raids in India and had thus learned about the world of the northern Indian Brahmans. His text is a strange mix of ethnographic knowledge the fruit of his conversations with the Indian elite and written knowledge painstakingly acquired, especially in Sanskrit.

While this was clearly an intellectual tour de force, one has to remember that it was simply one element in the grand edifice of Arab xenology at the time. The rapid growth of this Perso-Islamic movement exacerbated tensions between the Arabic and Persian historiographies.


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  7. Yet it seems that, from Baihaqi, Persian historiographic production has prevailed in the Eastern Muslim world, even though Arabic maintained its predominance in certain parts of western India. The exception, in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, was the brilliant polyglot Amir Khusrau Dehlavi, even though he used epics and poetry rather than chronicles to record his xenological reflection. In the west, in the Iranian world, the situation appears to have been very different. While the border warlords were relatively effective in defending the Delhi sultanate against the Mongols, the remains of the Abbasid caliphate collapsed under the Chinggisid onslaught in The court spoke a mix of Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Mongolian, and sometimes even a bit of Chinese.

    In the s the sovereign, Ghazan Khan, decided to convert to Islam but maintained a degree of tolerance for Christians and Buddhists. Probably a convert to Islam, he played a major role at the court for almost two decades before being executed in August This knowledge was the result of a process of acculturation that had started in the first half of the thirteenth century, even before the fall of Baghdad. The upper classes and members of the chancellery grasped the advantages of speaking the language of the new masters and of knowing Uyghur writing.

    For the latter, Rashid al-Din drew essentially on the writings of the Dominican bishop Martin of Troppau or Martinus Polonus , while for the former his sources seem to be primarily oral, that is, news brought by merchants and diplomats. He does nevertheless offer us a classical example of the limits of universal history as it was practised in the early fourteenth century. Elsewhere in Asia, changes were directly due to the expanding horizons of geographical knowledge. New perspectives were brought back on India, South-East Asia and the Islamic world, while during the same period diplomatic exchanges with the Timurid world enabled the Ming to update their view of Central Asia.

    The Kingdom of Portugal was founded between the early eleventh and the mid-thirteenth centuries, in a complex process that is often summed up in the simplifying term reconquista. Until the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Portuguese historiographic tradition remained relatively scant.

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    It was only with the consolidation of the new Avis dynasty that significant work emerged. According to him, a good historian should not be blinded by his affection for his homeland to the extent of denigrating other participants and their points of view. This was particularly strange in that it appeared in a discussion on the African slave trade carried out by the Portuguese. Zurara therefore seems to have misused his name and authority to enhance the credibility of his own text. A quarter of a century after his death in , they started to explore countries located on the coast of the Indian Ocean, from East Africa up to China.

    Being small in numbers they were unable to envisage a massive conquest of this vast world, but nonetheless maintained the ambition of an epistemological conquest, that is, of putting the space of their explorations into a narrative revolving around their homeland. The Portuguese, and more generally all Iberians, were however limited by their weaknesses when it came to xenology.

    Since the thirteenth century they had practised a form of deliberate amnesia, even with regard to Islamic knowledge.

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    His text commenced as follows:. When he first appeared in the land of Arabia in around the year of grace , Muhammad, the formidable anti-Christ, aroused so much fury with his sword and the flame of his infernal sect, through his captains and caliphs, that within the space of a hundred years they conquered all Arabia, a part of Syria, Persia and Asia and, in Africa, all of Egypt beyond and below the Nile.

    But in a country that at the time had none of the major texts on the subject, how could the history of Muslim expansion and of Islamic influence in the Indian Ocean be analysed? This post enabled him to start building up a xenological collection.


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    He bought not only texts and manuscripts in Asia, but also slaves who could help him to read them. Barros was unquestionably less accomplished from a philosophical and epistemological point of view than the Italian and French authors whom I have just mentioned. In a famous letter dated January , addressed to Joseph Scaliger, he expressed interest in exotic lands, but lands perceived essentially through travel accounts such as those of Marco Polo and of Ludovico di Varthema.

    In the world of the Castilian chroniclers it was however probably widely read and valued. Yet, despite some common aspects, the potential gap between the two historiographic undertakings is noteworthy. In contrast, the most scholarly Portuguese in Asia knew that they were faced with autonomous written cultures with a massive literary production. The central problem they encountered in their attempts to write a history of Portuguese Asia was basically a matter of translation and philology.

    The question arose suddenly with regard to Japan, a mythical country in the East for Europeans, with which the Portuguese eventually established direct contact in the s. For it is in this that we see the mightiest power of God ever possible; that, by having let the name of His son fall into such oblivion there [in Japan and China] that it is not known at all, He has kept the Orient in such deeds of righteousness that there is no life more perfect.