from the twelfth century to the present
1.1. Significant themes emerged as contributors to the expansion or results stemming from the expansion. Such themes include:
2. The following two writings emphasize the general problem of how to assume an appropriate perspective in considering "the other." Sale (1990) looks back at the two dominant European points-of-view stemming from Columbus' discovery of the "New World" at the end of the fifteenth century. Early in the sixteenth century, Montaigne wrote an essay offering a view of the inhabitants of Brazil that opted for one of the two views covered by Sale (the "other" as "noble savage" or "savage beast"). You might ask yourslf which of the views Montaigne favors and why.
3. In 1095, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (in Greek: Alexios A' Komnenos; in Latin: Alexius I Comnenus) sent envoys to Pope Urban II asking for help against the Seljuk Turks, an Islamic group who had overrun the territories just south of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and were threatening Constantinople itself. In a speech given at the Council of Clermont in November 1095, and in later efforts, the Pope apparently called for some kind of action -- either to help the Byzantine Christians or to take the holy city of Jerusalem away from the Muslims.
3.1. Jerusalem was important in practical terms: it was (and is) a holy city for all three of the great Mediterranean religious traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Long controlled by the Islamic branch of the Mediterranean Cultural Matrix, Jerusalem also had symbolic value as the goal of Christian pilgrimmage. The events that began with Urban II's speech to the Council of Clermont would bring all three branches of the Mediterranean Cultural Matrix -- Byzantium (the "Greeks," or "Roman Empire"), Europe (the "Franks," or "Latins"), and Islam (the "Turks") -- together. It is a complex story of cultural conflict: they fought each other, and they fought themselves. Each of the three groups looked at the others as "infidels" and "barbarians" (although since Byzantium and Islam were far more culturally developed than Europe, they would seem to have had a slightly stronger stance for this type of ethnocentrism). The writings that have survived from this time are full of racism, and hatred and fear -- on all sides. Talk about "the Other"!
3.2. The term "Crusades" covers a series of military campaigns of a religious character waged by Christians during 1095–1291. For the most part, Europeans invaded Muslim territories in order to regain lands held by Islam. The Crusades originally had the goal of recapturing Jerusalem and the sacred "Holy Land" from its Muslim inhabitants so that Christian shrines would be more accessible for pilgrims. The Crusades had far-reaching political, economic, and social impacts, some of which have lasted into contemporary times. Because of internal conflicts among Christian kingdoms and political powers, some of the crusade expeditions (such as the Fourth Crusade) were diverted from their original aim and resulted in the sack of a Christian city, the Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Onward Christian Soldiers! The split of Orthodox (Byzantine = East) Christianity from Roman Catholic Christianity (the Papacy = West) in 1054 served as an immediate background. The Papacy's claims of supremacy over the Patriarch of Constantinople had resulted in the Great Schism of 1054, and the First Crusade set a trend for the mass slaughter of Jews and Eastern Christians (and sometimes Western Christians), as well as Muslims.
4. The idea that one group of people have the right, if they are strong enough to apply it, to dominate and control other groups of people is one of the oldest ideas in human society. It is the idea of empire. In Mediterranean culture, the idea runs from the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians to the Persian Empire, to the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, to the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate, and the Ottoman Empire. European colonialism began in the 15th century, with Portugal's conquest of Ceuta in North Africa. Colonialism advanced through Portuguese and Spanish exploration of the Americas, and the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India, and East Asia. In the seventeenth century England, France, and the Netherlands successfully established their own overseas empires, in direct competition with each other and those of Spain and Portugal. From the orgins of colonialism, the idea of slavery has been closely tied to the idea of colonies and empire. Colonialism and its offshoots test the limits of the values of dominance and control.
5. By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the ethnocentric perspective of colonialism could be "justified" through a new, pseudo-scientific principle. Named after Charles Darwin's theory that biological evolutionary change results from competition among species. "Natural selection" determines who survives and prospers, and who fails. The ones who survive have adapted more successfully to their environment and the changes in it. Social Darwinism is the idea that natural selection can be extended and applied to the social realm. As competition among organisms drives biological change, competition among groups of people drives social evolution in human societies. Darwin himself described one possibility in 1871: "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world" /Descent of Man, chapter 6/. In drawing on the old distinction between "civilized" and "savage," Europeans could look down and claim jurisdiction over other areas simply by arguing that Europe was the fittest will survive, and they were the "fittest." The United States inherited and advanced this vision through the ideal of "manifest destiny" -- the belief that the United States had a mission to expand, spreading its form of democracy and freedom
6. A theme associated with social Darwinism is imperialism: the forceful extension of a nation's authority by territorial gain or by the establishment of economic and/or political dominance over other nations. During the Cold War of the last half of the twentieth century, the debate over imperialism focussed on whether it is essentially economic or political in nature. Whatever the answer, imperialism must be seen as an offshoot of the old idea of empire.
7. The legacy of expansion includes feelings of unrest (Paz) and major conflicts (Ling and Rieff) around the globe.
|Copyright ©2007 Stan Rummel. All rights reserved.|