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IS THE ANGLO-AMERICAN ‘SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP’ OVER?

WorldHistories
FRESH PERSPECTIVES ON OUR GLOBAL PAST

How has migration Plus
The murder

changed the world?
that reshaped
the American
civil rights
movement

Islam’s struggle
with modernity
How the faith adapted
to a new global order

Brazil: a nation
moulded by slavery

Israel and the Palestinians:
a history of conflict
On the trail of a fatal trek
into the heart of Australia
A VIDEOGAME HISTORY
OF THE UNITED STATES
Digital depictions that play with
our understanding of the past
Death on the Delta
A ring, found on the body of murdered
black teenager Emmett Till following his
lynching in Mississippi in 1955, etched
with his father’s initials. On page 62, we
chart how the case galvanised the US
civil rights movement for many decades
WELCOME ISSUE 11

Any attempt to explore the
breadth of global history –
its cultures, its stories, its
people – in 100 pages will
among the subjects explored in the latest book from
inevitably lead to unlikely writer and historian Ed Husain. He met fellow expert
juxtapositions and fusions. Tom Holland for a frank and fascinating discussion on
So it is this issue that one of history’s most intractable these and other questions, which starts on page 72.
conflicts, between Israelis and Palestinians, rubs The lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955,
shoulders with a look at how global Islam has adapted meanwhile, was both a human tragedy and an event
to the 21st century, along with the heartrending story around which the global civil rights movement
of a mother’s grief for her murdered son and that coalesced and gained momentum. From page 62,
incident’s impact on civil rights movements worldwide. BBC presenter Maria Margaronis investigates what
These are complex, weighty issues, so we have happened and why it continues to resonate in 2018.
dedicated large sections of this issue to exploring them If the past is rich in such diverse stories, the same
in depth. From page 44, Matthew Hughes focuses on is certainly also true of the present. This issue’s cover
eight key periods and turning points in the conflict feature explores what happens when these stories run
in the Middle East, a struggle that has scarred life for alongside each other, creating new frictions, and asks:
many of the region’s people across generations. This is how has migration changed the world? A panel of
not a definitive history – with fiercely contested inter- leading experts tackles that topic from page 16.
pretations, it’s impossible to reduce events to a sim- There’s much else to discover in the issue, too, from
plistic narrative – but an effort to place a story that is the feats of a female Viking
clouded by controversy into a longer historical context. voyager (page 42), to what
Another subject that regularly makes headlines is videogames can tell us
the rise of violent extremist groups claiming to act about the past (page 54).
in the name of Islam. The reasons for this trend, and We will be back from
how the faith should evolve within a 21st century west 5 September; for now,
that can seem at best indifferent to religious belief, are enjoy the issue.

Matt Elton
Editor, BBC World Histories

Available around Launched in 2016,
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5PAGE 24
COVER ILLUSTRATION: DAVIDE BONAZZI–SALZMANART. INSIDE FRONT COVER: ALAMY.
INSIDE BACK COVER: GETTY IMAGES. THIS PAGE: STEVE SAYERS–THE SECRET STUDIO 3
CONTENTS Features

A painting from
c1822 shows a pair
of black men
practising the
martial-art-cum-
dance capoeira in
Brazil. This issue we
explore how slavery
and a unique blend of
cultures shaped this
South American land

16 44
THE BIG QUESTION Israel & the Palestinians:
How has migration A history of conflict ✪
BY MATTHEW HUGHES
changed the world? ✪ Explore eight key periods in the ongoing
Eight experts debate how the movement of
hostilities in the Middle East
people has influenced societies throughout
history – from ancient Phoenicians crossing 54
the Mediterranean to Caribbean colonies
Playing with history ✪ ✪ On the
and 20th-century independence movements cover
BY JOHN WILLS
26 Switch on to the videogames that recreate
Brazil: a society shaped or reimagine important episodes and eras
by slavery ✪ 62
BY LILIA M SCHWARCZ
The legacy of Emmett Till ✪
How a South American land viewed as an
PUBLIC DOMAIN

BY MARIA MARGARONIS
earthly paradise by its Portuguese colonisers
Why a teenager’s brutal murder proved a key
was transformed by the migration of enslaved
moment for the US civil rights movement COVER ILLUSTRATION
labourers from Africa BY DAVIDE BONAZZI

4
CONTRIBUTORS

REGULARS Expert voices from the world of history
34 A Year in Pictures: 1894
by Richard Overy Gus Casely-Hayford
42 Extraordinary People: Gudrid The broadcaster, author and director of
Washington DC’s Smithsonian National
Thorbjarnardóttir by Eleanor Museum of African Art introduces a powerful
Rosamund Barraclough symbol of Swahili independence on page 98 –
a 17th-century ngoma kuu (big drum). “These
98 Museum of the World: Swahili ngoma drums embody Swahili concepts of statehood
kuu (drum) by Gus Casely-Hayford and sovereignty,” he explains.

THE BRIEFING Peter FitzSimons
6 Viewpoints: Elizabeth Gillespie McRae The historian and writer traces the 19th-century
trans-Australia expedition of Robert O’Hara
on US white supremacy, Kathleen Burk on Burke and William Wills on page 84. “Their
the ‘special relationship’ ✪, Hazel Smith wagons were laden with 600lb of salt pork,
on North Korean diplomacy, and Robert 400lb of bacon, 60lb of potted mutton, 150lb of
sperm-whale-wax candles, a dining-room table,
Bickers on China’s ‘anti-history charter’
oak chairs and a Chinese gong,” he reveals.
14 History Headlines: Discoveries and
developments in the world of history Ed Husain
“What does being modern and Muslim mean
today?” That key question is addressed by the
CULTURE author of The House of Islam in our interview on
72 The Conversation: Ed Husain and page 72. “Within Muslim tradition is a strong
Tom Holland discuss the former’s book precedent for empiricist thought, for being
critical of history, and of looking to the future
on the history of Islam ✪ and not necessarily imagining a perfect past.”
80 Agenda: The latest events and exhibitions
Maria Margaronis
JOURNEYS On page 62, the writer and presenter of a new
BBC Radio documentary explains why the bru-
84 In the footsteps of… a fateful expedition tal lynching of a 14-year-old boy in Mississippi
across Australia by Peter FitzSimons ✪ proved so pivotal. “Through that charmed coin-
cidence of history, politics and brave personali-
92 Global City: Arles, France ties, Emmett Till became the protomartyr of the
by Bijan Omrani civil rights movement,” she says.

94 Wonders of the World: Bagan, Marlou Schrover
Myanmar by Paul Bloomfield Migration has impacted on societies through
human history – but so has the movement of
ideas, says the professor of migration history at
24 Subscribe to Leiden University on page 23 : “Dutch students
BBC World Histories organise American-style baby showers, but this
is less to do with American migration and more
– enjoy the latest issue with watching American sitcoms.”
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5
The Briefing
The history behind today’s news

UNITED STATES

View- Gender politics
points Debates about white supremacy in the United
States have focused on the role of men – yet
women have also championed the cause
BY ELIZABETH GILLESPIE MCRAE

Expert opinions on
the historical issues
ecent incidents in the US investment in white supremacist
behind today’s news
R – including the murderous
rampage of white suprema-
cist Dylann Roof in a
politics. If we shift away from the
male-dominated, the dramatic and
the violent, and instead examine
church in Charleston, South Carolina in women’s participation, the mundane
2015, and the fatal violence at the ‘Unite and the grassroots, an equally instruc-
the Right’ march in Charlottesville, tive story emerges.
Virginia last year – point to a disturbing For decades, groups of white women
political reality. Indeed, the 2017 report have crafted multi-layered efforts to
by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center shape and sustain white supremacist
on Extremism noted a startling increase politics in the United States. They were
in domestic extremist murders in the US racial segregation’s constant gardeners.
committed by white supremacists. In 1920, as the woman suffrage
As a result, the violent and masculine amendment wove its way through the
nature of white supremacist politics has states, many southern white women
come to dominate the public narrative. It promised that their votes would uphold,
is easy to draw parallels between, on the not weaken, racial segregation.
one hand, southern lynch mobs and the To make good on that promise,
incendiary speeches of cigar-smoking the members of Georgia’s United
segregationists and, on the other, the Daughters of the Confederacy banned
white nationalist violence and rhetoric textbooks that painted slavery as the
of the alt-right today. cause of the Civil War. A (largely
This focus, however, obfuscates female) legion of social workers, school
the deep and widespread American teachers and public-health officials

6
Have your say Share your thoughts
on this issue’s columns by emailing us
at worldhistories@historyextra.com

implemented Virginia’s 1924 Racial
Integrity Act that instituted the
‘one-drop rule’ (legislating that anyone
with a single black ancestor should be
classified as ‘black’, and also included
in that category anyone previously
labelled Indian or ‘mulatto’).
Many white women involved in
such movements reported neighbours,
patients and pupils for ‘passing’ as white,
and made sure that racially ‘suspect’
individuals did not marry across
the colour line, did not attend white
schools, and were not admitted to white
hospitals. By 1940, South Carolina’s transport and other public facilities, As mothers, educators, voters and
Cornelia Dabney Tucker had orchestrat- legislated in so-called ‘Jim Crow’ laws storytellers, white women with similar
ed a takeover of the state’s Republican enacted in the late 19th century. In addi- concerns had shaped a Jim Crow nation
party, transforming it from a multi- tion to shouting at black schoolchildren through public welfare, public schools,
racial party to a lily-white one. integrating formerly white-only schools, and electoral and cultural politics.
By the time black southerners boy- in 1959 white Mississippi women award- Reflecting the broad and multilayered
cotted buses and achieved the integra- ed $500 to two high-school students nature of their work, the collapse of legal
tion of lunch counters in the 1950s, who wrote the best essays on the benefits segregation did not end their efforts.
white women had decades of experience of racial segregation. They had already schooled generations
in securing segregation in education, Networks of white women in the lessons of Jim Crow citizenship,
from South Carolina to California ensuring that the advocates of white
condemned the United Nations for supremacy would continue to animate
supporting African and Asian nations, the American political landscape.
Groups of white protested against raising money for
Unicef through Halloween trick-or-
When we confront these stories,
it becomes hard to imagine how this
women crated treating, and ousted school officials strand of American politics could
who adopted multicultural curriculum emerge without the work of white wom-
multi-layered materials. By the 1970s, some white en. They kept the ground well-fertilised
efforts to shape women in the urban north and west and productive, allowing white suprem-
took to the streets to protest bussing acist politics to grow and bear fruit
and sustain white (the practice of transporting black and decade after decade. Their work also
supremacist white students to previously segregated
schools) as a method of tackling
reminds us that the narratives of white
supremacist politics, past and present,
politics in the US educational segregation. must not ignore the mundane but Æ

ILLUSTRATION BY KATE HAZELL 7
THE BRIEFING
G Viewpoints

GLOBAL POLITICS

significant work done by activists
who might decry the violence of white
nationalism but still embrace policies
End of an affair?
that sustain racial inequities. The long-standing ‘special relationship’ between the
If we are to understand the persis-
tence of white supremacist politics, a US and UK may seem at risk – but it has endured
new narrative must emerge that recog- many shaky periods over the past 75 years
nises how increased violence, national
BY KATHLEEN BURK
rhetoric and partisan leadership have
coincided with periods of activism by
women-led grassroots organisations. For
example, it’s telling to recall the actions
of such organisations as the women of
Restore Our Alienated Rights in Boston his is undeniably an that the US and the USSR should work
who in the mid 1970s took to the streets
to prevent their children from being
bussed to different schools in order to
T awkward period for
Anglo-American relations.
Whether one looks at
together after the war, and that the UK
should be left out of the equation.
But how to convince Stalin of this
achieve ‘racial balance’. discussions between the leaders, probable profound change of mind and policy?
We must also confront the conse- future trade negotiations, Nato, White At the Teheran Conference between
quences of seemingly small-scale House tweets or British public opinion, the three in 1943, Roosevelt set out to
incidents, such as that reported by the relationship has not been this cool humiliate Churchill repeatedly in front
investigative journalist Nikole Hannah- for some years. President Donald Trump of Stalin, causing Churchill to stalk out
Jones in 2014, in which parents at a appears to prefer authoritarian leaders – of the room during one dinner. This
school meeting in a majority white, men who appear strong, who can walk change in the US-Soviet relationship
relatively affluent St Louis district confidently and authoritatively across did not ultimately happen, but that was
painted the influx of black students their own countries and into others – to not because Roosevelt had changed his
from a nearby school as a catalyst for ‘weak’ liberal democracies. In his mind mind – it was because he died. President
an educational, criminal and public- the Germans and most other European Harry Truman had a much less rosy
health crisis. states don’t fulfil financial obligations to view of the USSR than had his predeces-
When we look at how systematically Nato, Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau is sor, as did his most important advisors.
and widely political messages about “dishonest and weak”, the Mexicans are With the rise of the USSR as a hostile
white supremacy have been reinforced sending rapists across the border, the Brit- power, the change in perception and
at the local level by seemingly sensible, ish are at the mercy of terrorists – the list policy seemed permanent.
trusted civil servants and propagated could go on. But this matters most to the As a consequence, the UK assumed its
by widely accepted cultural messages, UK, which for a century has seen itself as place as the US’s closest ally. It was even
we should begin to reframe how we America’s closest – almost indispensable referred to as such in a US State Depart-
go about dismantling such systems – ally: it has the furthest to fall. The ques- ment policy paper in 1950, just before the
of inequity. Voting out the loudest tion is: has this happened before? And, outbreak of the Korean War: “No other
and most ham-fisted demagogues given the precedents, is there any chance
might feel good, but it falls well short of a recovery to the former position?
of addressing the systems, institutions The relationship between the prime
and individuals (many of them women) minister and president is what the public
that gave them power. notices the most. It might be a surprise
Roosevelt decided
to learn that the Churchill-Roosevelt that the US and
relationship began to break down in
Elizabeth Gillespie 1943. Roosevelt perceived the USSR as, USSR should work
McRae is Sossomon like the US, a socially reforming nation; together, and set
Associate Professor at conversely, he saw the UK as the control-
Western Carolina ler of a huge empire, antipathetic to out to humiliate
University, and author
of Mothers of Massive
American values. He also looked at the
USSR as a rising power and at the UK as
Churchill in front
Resistancee (OUP, 2018) a declining one. He therefore decided of Stalin
8 ILLUSTRATION BY KATE HAZELL
country has the same qualifications for the US government lost faith in the UK stationed in the UK be used to re-supply
being our principal ally and partner as and the link was temporarily broken. the Israelis, and refused to allow US
the UK… Most important, the British Yet though the relations between the planes stationed elsewhere to refuel at
share our fundamental objectives and leaders were crucial, the power of senior Cyprus. The Americans were outraged:
standards of conduct… To achieve our members of the administration and the did not the allies understand that at stake
foreign policy objectives we must have associated bureaucracy were also of great was preventing the Soviets from estab-
the cooperation of our allies and friends. importance. This was evident again in lishing a central position in the Middle
The British and with them the rest of the the early 1970s, when Edward Heath was East? After President Sadat of Egypt
Commonwealth… are our most reliable UK prime minister and Richard Nixon called for Soviet and American troops to
and useful allies, with whom a special re- US president. Nixon had distrusted separate the two sides, the USSR invited
lationship should exist.” This is followed Heath’s predecessor, Harold Wilson, and joint US-USSR military intervention to
by a warning sentence: “The relationship was prepared to welcome Heath with shore up the ceasefire and appeared to
is not an end in itself but must be used open arms as a fellow conservative when threaten the unilateral despatch of Soviet
as an instrument of achieving common he won the general election in 1970. It troops if the US declined. The US viewed
objectives.” But the succeeding sentence was not to work out. Nixon wanted to re- this as an ultimatum and, in the early
might have provided some reassurance pair the special relationship, which Heath hours of 25 October, moved military
to the British, saying that “We cannot persisted in calling the natural relation- forces worldwide to DefCon 3, the alert
permit a deterioration in our relationship ship. Heath also wanted to make it clear preliminary to war. The UK received one
with the British.” to the Americans that the UK’s future lay hour’s advance notice of this, at 1.15am;
Nevertheless, when the nations’ with Europe, not with the US. the other Nato allies received none. There
objectives were diametrically opposed During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, were other conflicts, and by the end of
during the Suez Crisis in 1956, many in the British refused to let American planes their respective terms Nixon and Heath Æ

9
THE BRIEFING
G Viewpoints

Have your say Share your thoughts
on this issue’s columns by emailing us
at worldhistories@historyextra.com

detested each other, barely able to be spite of their differences in politics and come and go but bureaucracies remain,
in the same room. On the other hand, policies, but that Blair should “hug them and are settled into habits of working
Henry Kissinger and the US State close”. This Blair clearly did. There was with each other. Foreign and some
Department certainly continued to a hiatus during the leadership overlap of economic interests are shared. The US
work with the British Foreign Office. Brown and Obama, whose policies and and UK are each other’s most important
This disenchantment continued dur- personalities apparently did not mesh, investors and trading partners. Also,
ing the 1970s, not because of personal but the expectations of both the British public opinion can change. British
animus but because the UK was increas- and Americans were high when it was public opinion swung from approval
ingly of less use to the US, largely because thought that Hilary Clinton would be of Obama to acute dislike of Trump; it
it appeared to the Americans to be falling elected president. could change again. American public
apart both politically and economically. When the British government opinion is less volatile, primarily because
Yet the Americans were worried because learned they would need to deal with most Americans are uninterested in the
the two had important military links, Trump, they did what British politicians UK (except for the royals), or indeed
through the nuclear and intelligence and officials tend to do: picked them- in many other countries save, perhaps,
relationship and through Nato. selves up, dusted themselves down, and their two neighbours. Fundamental
The election of Thatcher in 1979 set out to preserve the relationship they interests are slow to change, and the
and Reagan the following year was very considered vital to their security. pendulum will swing back.
important to the resumption of the President Trump appears not to Nevertheless, the world will have
relationship, partly for the same reason view the United Kingdom as anything changed. In his first 500 days as
that Nixon initially welcomed Heath special, in spite of the intelligence and president, Trump has – in my view –
– they were two conservatives – but in nuclear links. From his public activities managed to destroy any trust other
this instance they liked each other and and comments, and his ignoring of Brit- countries had in the veracity of the
largely shared political philosophies. ish interests and sensibilities, it could be president’s word and the stability of
Under Thatcher and Reagan, a close re- assumed that he has lumped the British American solidarity with her allies.
lationship flourished, which was crucial into the European pot. He respects The United Kingdom is apprehensive
for the UK during the Falklands War in strength, power and authority in a leader because it has few alternatives but to try
1982 when military supplies from the of a strong country. Neither Theresa to maintain the ‘special relationship’.
US were vital. The UK’s performance May nor the UK fit his template. Yet the United States will also suffer,
during the war convinced the Ameri- Can the relationship be saved? It because the president will ineluctably
cans that the British could once again is important to remember that leaders find that, when faced by his favourite
be vital military allies – a situation that type of authoritarian leaders, being
has continued, though with lessening Kipling’s “cat that walked by himself”
importance given the sharp decline in
British military strength.
Trump appears not can be a dangerous position.

Nevertheless, the UK’s close rela- to view the UK as
tionship with the US was replicated
during the leaderships of Bill Clinton anything special, Kathleen Burk k is a
and Tony Blair, George W Bush and in spite of the historian and writer. Her
Blair, and Barack Obama and David new book is The Lion and
Cameron. When Clinton was leaving intelligence and the Eagle: The Interaction
office, he warned Blair that he should
not distance himself from the new
nuclear links with of the British and Ameri-
can Empires, 1783–1972
president and his administration in the United States (Bloomsbury, 2018)

10
NORTH KOREA
But the global media coverage, with

Peace (and poverty) its excessive concentration on the two
personalities, has obscured the immedi-
ate threats facing North Korea’s popula-
The summit between US president Trump and tion of over 25 million people.
Right now, in 2018, North Korea
North Korea’s leader King Jong-un ended with can no longer feed its people from its
promises of peace – but didn’t address the spectre own resources. With sanctions biting,
agricultural production has fallen by
of famine in the northern half of the peninsula nearly a million tonnes – about enough
BY HAZEL SMITH to feed one-fifth of the population for
one year. Neither are there sufficient
funds to import food, energy or the
agricultural products necessary to pre-
t’s easy to see why the North Korea can vent the reoccurrence of the widespread

I summit in Singapore this
June between US president
Donald Trump and Kim
no longer feed its
hunger and starvation of the mid-1990s,
which killed between half a million and
three-quarters of a million people.
Jong-un, state leader of the Democratic
people from its The CIA ranks North Korea’s
People’s Republic of Korea (more widely own resources, and economic health (in terms of GDP per
known as North Korea), received capita) at 214 out of 228 countries.
massive global media coverage. The two has insufficient Assessments of GDP per capita range
chief protagonists made for mesmerising funds to buy food between US$600 and US$1700; by
clickbait. Just days before the summit, contrast, the latest figure for China is
Trump dismissed and insulted demo- US$16,600, while South Korea has a
cratic allies, going so far as to call per-capita GDP of US$39,400. South
Canadian prime minister Justin post-Second-World-War American Korea’s Bank of Korea estimates that
Trudeau “dishonest”. In contrast, foreign policy practice. A number of North Korea’s entire Gross National In-
Trump subsequently argued that he has Republican presidents, who could never come (GNI) stood at US$32.4 billion in
“developed a very special bond” with be accused of being soft on communism, 2016; to put this figures in perspective,
Kim Jong-un, the dynastic head of have made strategic, dramatic and un- the annual budget of the UK’s National
a brutal, anachronistic political system, expected realignments towards former Health Service is five times that figure,
who in 2013 authorised the execution ideological enemies. at around US$160 billion.
of his uncle and former mentor Jang Then-president Richard Nixon’s Of course, as state leader Kim Jong-
Song-thaek, and who reputedly oversaw meeting with Chairman Mao in Beijing un is responsible both for the welfare of
the 2017 murder of his half-brother Kim in 1972 reversed the policy of total the population of North Korea and for
Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur airport. isolation of China – a policy enforced the illegal nuclear programme current-
Yet it would be a mistake to dismiss to the extent that the United States had ly sanctioned by the United Nations
the strategic significance of the summit, refused to allow the communist People’s Security Council. Yet in the euphoria
which symbolised the end of the threat Republic of China, established in 1949, surrounding the summit, it would have
of a potentially global war in Korea and to take its seat in the United Nations been good to see someone asking the
the realignment of political relations Security Council until 1971. question: “We’ve had the circus… now,
between the United States and North The 1987 Reagan-Gorbachev where’s the bread, when’s it coming, and
Korea. The end-of-summit statement Summit in Washington DC, along with who’s going to pay for it?”
committed these two nuclear states, the 1989 George HW Bush-Gorbachev
which have been in a highly conflictual Summit held at sea off Malta, presaged an
relationship for 70 years, to building even bolder change in policy. The United Hazel Smith is profes-
“a lasting and stable peace regime” on States committed publicly to end the sorial research associate
the Korean peninsula. North Korea also political, economic and military (through at the Centre of Korean
agreed “to work toward complete denu- proxy wars in Latin America and Africa) Studies, SOAS Uni-
clearisation of the Korean Peninsula”. conflict that had existed between the two versity of London, and
The Trump-Kim meeting was not superpowers for much of the period since author of North Korea
merely an idiosyncratic exception to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia. (Cambridge UP, 2015) Æ

11
THE BRIEFING
G Viewpoints

CHINA

Anti-history charter?
A new law in China forbids defamation of the
nation’s ‘martyrs’ – and serves as a reminder that
the critical appraisal of our global past remains key
BY ROBERT BICKERS

his May, it became a civil socialism (as he put it in his diary) – system in which the language of employ-

T offence in China to insult,
defame or otherwise
infringe “on the names,
a young soldier who died in 1962 when
a telephone pole fell on him, and who
became the focus of repeated propagan-
ability and skills has become pervasive.
Arts and humanities scholars have
robustly defended themselves against
likenesses, reputations, or honour of da campaigns using his diary and photos such philistinism, but we might also
heroes and martyrs”. This was part of – which are now widely believed to have learn from China’s example to identify
a package of measures in a wide-ranging been partially or completed fabricated. other reasons for defending history as
Law on Protection of Heroes and The new law does not protect the past; a discipline and a practice.
Martyrs that also instructed government it is instead a charter against history. It is precisely because illiberal states
departments, among other directives, to In 2003, the UK’s then secretary accord great importance to history that
mark an annual Martyrs’ Remembrance of state for education, Charles Clarke, they prioritise and control its teaching,
Day with appropriate ceremonial, to remarked that he did not “mind there guard access to its records, censor and
protect and enhance sites associated with being some medievalists around for monitor its dissemination, and enact
martyrs, assist their families, and ‘guide’ ornamental purposes” but that there was legislation to protect historical figures.
public remembrance of their ‘spirit’. “no reason for the state to pay for them”. For example, from the mid-1990s
“Society shall honour, study and More recently, the then vice-chancellor onwards, Chinese archives began to
champion the heroes and martyrs,” it of Queen’s University Belfast thought open up access to their holdings. On my
demanded, their “deeds and spirit… an fit to argue that “society does not need first foray into Shanghai’s Municipal
important manifestation of the common a 21-year-old that’s a sixth-century Archives in 1991, I was given a reader’s
historical memory and core socialist historian”. These were high-profile, but ticket and a cup of tea, and told that
values of the Chinese ethnicity” (an not unusual, dismissals of the utility of everything I wanted to see was closed.
English translation of the law is available teaching and studying history – which In 1995, the first of some 20,000 files
to read at chinalawtranslate.com). stood also as a proxy more widely for relating to the foreign-run Shanghai
The catch is that at no point in the the arts and humanities – in a university Municipal Council were opened up.
legislation’s 30 articles is any definition From 2000 onwards, the Second
of a hero or martyr provided. Not only Historical Archives of China (part of the
does China’s modern history show us state national archives) opened almost
that the fortunes of the dead can wax “Things that 60,000 files of the foreign-staffed
and wane quite dramatically, but this
deliberate ambiguity essentially means
should not be Chinese Customs Service. In 2004, the
Chinese Foreign Ministry opened an
that any historical figure might fall discussed” include archive of almost 80,000 files. Just about
within the reach of the law, should the all of this material is no longer accessi-
state decide it. Any historian or novelist “historical mistakes ble. I can now get a nice cup of coffee in
(or anybody else) might therefore find by the Party” such the archives in Shanghai, but I can get
themselves liable to a legal challenge. very few files.
Not only that, but one of the modern as the violence The closure of archives has out-
state’s most famous ‘heroes’ probably
did not exist in the first place. This was
of the Cultural raged China’s own historians, who find
themselves having to try to find funds
Lei Feng, a “cog in the machine” of Revolution to consult records overseas. Meanwhile,

12 ILLUSTRATION BY KATE HAZELL
Have your say Share your thoughts
on this issue’s columns by emailing us
at worldhistories@historyextra.com

the new legislation “encourages and sup- ‘civil rights’, press freedom and other More pity is merited, perhaps, for those
ports research on the deeds and spirit of “things that should not be discussed”, who ‘protect’ their heroes.
heroes and martyrs”, and “efforts to re- as a directive in 2013 put it, which But pity, too, those societies that
search, compile and publicise historical included “historical mistakes by the think history serves an ornamental
materials” about them. This builds on Party.” This last includes those purpose. Open societies should learn
well-funded initiatives to scour archives ‘mistakes’ that the Party itself has in one thing from China’s example: history
internationally for materials to secure the past acknowledged, such as the is important. We should support its
evidence of Japanese wartime atrocities, policies that prompted the 20th teaching and discussion in universities
for example. Archives and historical century’s worst famine, and the and schools, and we should spare no
research are of vital importance – but violence of the Cultural Revolution, ‘heroes’ the sceptical analysis that the
not if that scholarship does not serve the during which many of those previously practice of history demands.
interests of the ruling party. and now again regarded as revolution-
The political context for this law is ary heroes were attacked, jailed and, in Robert Bickers is
the tightening of Communist Party many cases, lost their lives as a result. professor of history at
control under its leader, Xi Jinping. The German playwright Bertolt the University of Bristol.
BHAGESH SACHANIA

Concern about the potential under- Brecht missed a thought in the famous His latest book is
mining of the state by the growth of exchange in his 1943 play Life of Galileo. Out of China: How the
a more independent-minded civil “Unhappy the land that has no heroes,” Chinese Ended the Era of
society has seen crackdowns on any ventures one character. “Pity the land,” Western Domination
public discussion of ‘universal values’, retorts Galileo, “that needs a hero.” (Allen Lane, 2017)

13
THE BRIEFING History Headlines

1 GREENLAND
Frozen assets
Analysis of lead pollution trapped in layers of Arctic

History ice has revealed details of the changing economic
landscape of ancient Europe. The pollution is thought
to have been generated during the smelting of lead ore
Headlines to produce coins, providing economic context for some
of the key moments during the Roman empire. The
highest levels of pollution from coin production were
found to have occurred during the Pax Romana –
an era of relative peace from 27 BC to AD 180. The Greenland ice sheet was
polluted with lead emitted
by smelting for Roman coin 1
production, providing clues
to ancient economic activity
2 FRANCE
Heritage lottery
French president Emmanuel Macron has announced
plans for a national lottery to raise funds for the resto-
ration of historic art and buildings. Sites set to receive
funding from the €15m scratchcard scheme – which will
launch in September
– include an 18th-
century island
fortress off the coast
of Brittany, a Roman
aqueduct, and the
historic homes of
writer Pierre Loti and
Martinican intellectual
Aimé Césaire.

The historic home of
French naval officer and
novelist Pierre Loti will
receive funding from
a new French lottery

4
3 POMPEII ITALY 4PACHACAMAC PERU
Deadly debris Rare relic
The headless skeleton of a man crushed to death by a A large funerary bundle containing
falling rock while running away from the eruption of a 1,000-year-old mummy has been
Mount Vesuvius has been discovered near Pompeii. discovered at the pre-Colombian site
Experts believe that the man may have escaped the of Pachacamac near Lima by archae-
initial stage of the volcanic eruption in AD 79, only ologists from the Université libre de
to be hit soon afterwards by a stone sent flying by Bruxelles. This relic is an extremely rare
the eruption along with the resulting ash cloud. find because most burial chambers in the GETTY IMAGES/UNIVERSITY LIBRE DE BRUXELLES/
The man’s head has not yet been unearthed. area – later home to a 15th-century Incan
healing temple
– were looted
FUSCO-EPG-EFE-REX-SHUTTERSTOCK

during the Span-
ish conquest.
Experts will A funerary
use X-ray and bundle
3D imaging containing a
mummy dating
tools to study
from about
the mummy 1,000 years ago,
The recently discovered without un- discovered at the
skeleton of a man crushed wrapping it. pre-Colombian site
by a falling rock during the
of Pachacamac in Peru
eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79

14
5 URALS RUSSIA
Ice Age idol
New analysis shows that a carved wooden idol found in the Ural
Mountains was made 11,600 years ago, making it one of the
world’s oldest pieces of symbolic art. The Shigir Idol, thought
to have been created during the last major glacial period, was
The Shigir Idol,
discovered in a peat bog in 1894. Professor Thomas Terberger discovered by gold
of Göttingen University stated that pushing back the idol’s date prospectors in the
of creation, previously estimated at c7600 BC, by 2,000 years Ural Mountains in
“dramatically changes our views about the birth of ritual art”. 1894, may be 2,000
years older than
previously thought

5

2

3

7

6 GISBORNE NEW ZEALAND
Subterranean settlement
The remains of a 14th-century Maori
village have been discovered 2.5 metres
underground in the city of Gisborne, on the
east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
Discoveries at the riverside site include
obsidian tools and fish hooks made from the
bones of the now-extinct moa bird. The rare
find is expected to help archaeologists to
piece together a picture of Maori settlement
in the area before the arrival of Europeans.

6

7 ABEL BETH MAACAH ISRAEL
Mysterious monarch
Experts have been baffled by a 3,000-year-old
sculpture unearthed in northern Israel. The 5cm-
high bearded head wears a crown, and is therefore
ALAMY/ILAN BEN ZION-AP

believed to portray a royal figure, though his identity A 5cm-high sculpture
remains a mystery. According to dig archaeologist carved from a glass-like
Naama Yahalom-Mack, a clue to the figurine’s material in the ninth
identity could be his “very interesting hairdo”, century BC, discovered
at Abel Beth Maacah, an
similar to the way in which ancient Egyptians
archaeological site in
depicted people in the Near East; it may indicate northern Israel
that it represents a monarch from the region.

WORDS ELLIE CAWTHORNE 15
16 ILLUSTRATION BY DAVIDE BONAZZI
THE BIG
QUESTION

How has
migration
changed
the world?
Throughout human history, men and women have travelled
across continents and oceans, in search of opportunities,
seeking refuge from war or persecution, or transported as
slaves. Eight experts discuss the impacts these people had
on the places they settled – and the lands they left behind

Æ
17
The Big Question: How has migration changed the world?

Robert Garland Jessica Gibbs

“Migration was central to “Migration has had an
growth and sustainability enormous impact on the
for both ancient Greek US – its economic and
and Roman civilisations” political development,
culture and demography”
According to United Nations Refugee
Agency (UNHCR) figures, as of June
2018 there are 68.5 million forcibly Since its founding as an independent
displaced people worldwide. nation in the late 18th century, the United
An unprecedented crisis? Hardly. States has been home to many millions of
Though the scale was much smaller in migrants and the dream destination of
antiquity, proportionately the suffering millions more. Migration has had an
was just as great. Before the Persian inva- enormous impact on the United States –
sion of Greece in 480 BC, the Athenians its economic and political development,
evacuated some 100,000 women, children, elderly and slaves culture and demography. It has also
to the Peloponnese and islands off the coast of Attica. When shaped its foreign policy in important
the Athenians finally arrived at their destinations, there were and enduring ways. The lively US interest in the Northern
no medical services, no reception centres, no aid workers, no Ireland peace process under President Bill Clinton related to
supplies of clothing, bedding or clean water to greet them. The Irish-American identity, as did Fenian American advocacy
evacuees returned to their homes to find them burned down – for Irish independence in the 19th century.
not once but twice. Had the Persian invasion been successful, During the Cold War, the openness of the US political
they would have been either enslaved or massacred. system and the enormous power the United States wielded in
Both Greek and Roman civilisations were dependent the world, together with the refugee origins of much migration,
upon the movement of displaced persons, though they rarely encouraged the development of organised diasporic foreign
feature in ancient accounts, largely because no one much policy lobbies. One prominent example were Cubans,
cared. The Greeks exported their surplus population around welcomed as refugees from the 1959 revolution and initially
the Mediterranean. When the island of Thera (now called pawns of the CIA in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of
Santorini) experienced a severe famine, it sent an expedition 1961. However, as the Reagan administration came to office,
to Libya. The enterprise failed, and the would-be settlers his first national security advisor, Richard Allen, urged a small
sailed home. However, on their return their compatriots group of Cuban-American conservatives to create an American-
pelted them with rocks and ordered them not to land – such style lobby. The Cuban American National Foundation
was the extremity of their hunger. Sending out boatloads of (CANF) became privileged participants in policymaking.
refugees has always been a hazardous enterprise and then as They championed Reagan initiatives in Cuba, Central
now, no doubt, many thousands perished at sea. America and Angola, and received government funding for
By contrast, Rome’s rapid demographic growth depended pet Cuba projects while contributing to politicians’ election
on an influx of foreigners, many of them refugees. Romulus, campaigns. In the post-Cold War period, as old reasons for
its first king, established an asylum on the Capitoline Hill “to economic warfare against Cuba disappeared, Cuban-Americans
which a mixed rabble, some free – others servile – fled from and their congressional allies intensified sanctions in the 1992
the neighbouring communities eager for new opportunities,” Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act.
as the historian Livy put it. Whether this impact of migration is viewed as positive
Greek civilisation spread because of the willingness of or negative depends partly on an evaluation of the objectives
its population to be displaced, whereas Roman civilisation themselves. In contrast to CANF’s punitive approach, other
grew because of the willingness of its population to accept groups lobbied Washington for more economic assistance or
outsiders. Migration was thus central to the growth and trading opportunities for their home country. Diasporic
sustainability of both civilisations – a readiness to migrate lobbies may provide a corrective in an environment otherwise
and a readiness to host. That is no less true for the growth dominated by economic or security interests, but they can also
and sustainability of modern societies. remove policy areas from debate by a wider public as politicians
pander to a mobilised but unrepresentative section.
Robert Garland is the Roy D and Margaret B Wooster Professor
of the Classics at Colgate University, New York Jessica Gibbs is a lecturer at Aberystwyth University

18
Sumita Mukherjee
“Anti-colonial struggles and
fights for universal human
rights in the 20th century
were shaped by migration”
Enforced migration underpinned much
change. Transatlantic slavery involved the
enforced displacement of African men, women
and children. In addition, after the abolition of
slavery an estimated 3.5 million Indians were
forced into indentured bondage and displaced
to colonial plantations in the Caribbean,
Africa and parts of the Pacific. The labour
of African slaves, indentured Indians and
Chinese workers shaped the infrastructures and economies of so
much of the world, through the building of railways and roads,
and through the wealth generated through their plantation labour.
But how do we measure change? The original question implies
that change is easy to measure and easy to notice. Change does not
just take place because ‘great individuals’ shape history. How do
we measure the stealth of migration – the long-term changes that
migrant communities have influenced, shaping language, food,
Cubans demonstrate against Fidel Castro in Florida in 1994. Cuban
music and other forms of culture? How do we measure shifts in
conservatives who fled to the US during the revolution or after the social attitudes over time?
communist regime took power became influential in US foreign policy Migration shaped European empires and the nature of imperial
conquest in the 18th and 19th centuries. Colonial officials,
military officials, merchants, missionaries and labourers from
Europe were involved in migrations to colonise various parts of the
world, through trade, conquest or settlement. Communities were
changed in many ways through contact with these European
migrants, not least through decimation or subjection.
But imperial migration was not one-way. Migration also helped
to eventually dismantle empires. Anti-colonial struggles and fights
for universal human rights in the 20th century have been shaped
by migration. Many leaders of anti-colonial movements in Asia
and Africa started their political careers as students in European
or American universities. Feminist struggles were similarly shaped
by migrants.
Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and Jawaharlal Nehru had
formative student experiences in Britain that they brought to the
nationalist struggles in Ghana, Kenya and India, respectively.
Migration has been hugely beneficial for aspiring political leaders
through the centuries – in meeting new people, in learning about
different societies and cultures, in communicating important
GETTY IMAGES

messages, and in realising how connected we are as human beings,
whatever our background.

Sumita Mukherjee is senior lecturer in history at the University of Bristol,
Kwame Nkrumah, first president of independent Ghana, dances with
Queen Elizabeth II in 1961. Nkrumah’s time studying in the US and UK and author of Indian Suffragettes: Female Identities and Transnational Networks
informed his later efforts to win independence for his country (Oxford University Press, 2018) Æ
19
The Big Question: How has migration changed the world?

David Abulafia Meleisa Ono-George

“The greater the mix of “Enslaved people, working
peoples, the more cities under brutal conditions,
have flourished culturally helped generate individual
and economically” wealth and fuel Britain’s
national industrialisation”
We are all migrants, at least by descent.
The ‘racial purity’ preached by the When people consider the Anglo-
Nazis has no biological foundation Caribbean region and migration, they
whatsoever. Studies of the human may think only of postwar migration
genome reveal that every population of Caribbean people to Britain – the
consists of a mixture – even, beyond Windrush generation. However, from the
sub-Saharan Africa, a mixture with our first English settlement in the region, the
Neanderthal cousins. Caribbean has been both the destination
Two groups of migrants can be for and source of migrant labour from
distinguished. On the one hand, we have peoples who have across the British empire and the world.
moved en masse, such as the Germanic peoples who invaded English colonial involvement in the region from the 1620s
the Roman empire (and were themselves a great ethnic mix), ensured a steady flow of migrants to the Caribbean in search of
or the enormous wave of European settlers in the Americas, opportunity and a better life for themselves and their families.
or the vast numbers of African slaves transported to the With few such opportunities at home, indentured labourers
Americas over several centuries in vile conditions. from the British Isles moved to the region to work on tobacco
The arrival of the Germanic invaders caused the plantations in hopes of achieving some wealth after a short con-
breakdown of the old political, social and economic order as tract. As sugar plantations developed in the mid-17th century,
these newcomers established their own kingdoms from the opportunities for indentured European labourers declined as
fifth century AD onwards. These became the basis for they were replaced by forced migrants – enslaved people from
several of the states we recognise today: the Franks in France, the African continent.
the Angles and Saxons in England. Yet this was a complex Enslaved people worked under brutal conditions but, by
legacy – the marriage of Roman and Germanic cultures – their labour, helped generate incredible wealth for individuals
as is revealed by the survival in Spain, Italy and France of and fuelled national industrialisation in Britain. The introduc-
languages based on Latin, not German. tion of enslaved labour did not stop British migration to the
The second group of migrants consists of small groups region. Many men (and rather fewer women) migrated to the
of merchants who transformed the economy of places they Caribbean with the intention of exploiting the opportunities
settled. Beginning with the ancient Phoenicians around that developed throughout the 18th century around sugar
900 BC, the Mediterranean – from Lebanon to beyond production, hoping to make their own fortunes.
the Strait of Gibraltar – became an integrated trading zone. But migration to and from the Anglo-Caribbean was not
The Phoenicians shipped silver and copper from Spain and just from Europe or Africa. Following the abolition of slavery
elsewhere to the Middle East, and they also transformed in the British Caribbean in 1834, planters sought workers
north Africa by founding a flourishing and famous city at from Asia. Indentured labourers from India and, to a lesser
Carthage, near modern Tunis. These exploits were repeated extent, China migrated to the region to work plantations
across the millennia by others who brought their business throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century.
skills to every city in the Mediterranean: Genoese, Venetians, While many returned at the end of their contracts, many
Portuguese Jews, Armenians, and so on. more remained.
The greater the mix of peoples, the more the world’s cities Migration, whether forced or free, created large-scale shifts
have flourished culturally and economically. The simple in demographics and the establishment of diaspora communi-
answer to the question ‘how have migrants changed the ties. These communities have contributed to the culture, ideas
world?’ is that migrants have madee the world. and wealth of the countries in which they settled, creating the
globalised world that is so familiar to us today.
FRAN MONKS

David Abulafia is emeritus professor of Mediterranean history at
Cambridge University. His books include The Great Sea: A Human Meleisa Ono-George is senior teaching fellow in Caribbean history at
History of the Mediterranean (Allen Lane, 2011) the University of Warwick

20
BRIDGEMAN

Slaves in a Cuban sugar-cane field, depicted in a painting of 1874. Millions of enslaved Africans were transported to work
plantations in the Americas, later joined by indentured labourers from Asia. “Migration, whether forced or free, created
large-scale shifts in demographics and the establishment of diaspora communities,” says Meleisa Ono-George Æ
21
The Big Question: How has migration changed the world?

Martin Pitts

“The real global migrants
with lasting impacts
were oten the objects
that travelled with people
in the Roman empire”
Migrants had a huge impact on the
success and longevity of the Roman
empire. The urbanisation of a peripheral
province such as Britannia would have
been impossible without high levels of
human mobility. Migrant communities
settled several of Britain’s first cities, no-
tably London, Colchester and York. The
Roman system depended on soldiers,
colonists and their families from the breadth of the empire,
living in new settlements on confiscated land – as illustrated
by the tombstone of centurion Marcus Favonius Facilis, one
of the first Romans of Italian descent who we know died near
the new veteran colony of Colonia Claudia Victricensis (Col-
chester) shortly after the invasion of AD 43. He had gone to
the trouble of importing his tombstone all the way from the
Rhineland, where his legion was previously based.
Roman soldiers set up camp, as depicted in a scene from Trajan’s column
However, the real global migrants with lasting impacts (completed AD 113). “The Roman system depended on soldiers, colonists
were often the objects that travelled with people, illustrated by and their families from the breadth of the empire,” explains Martin Pitts
three cremations excavated at Roman Exeter, which was estab-
lished in AD 55 as a legionary fortress and initially inhabited
by men of largely Italian origin. The first grave (AD 55–70)
contained objects typical of cemeteries at legionary bases
across Europe, such as red-gloss terra sigillata pottery and
glass vessels. The cups and plates in such graves were at the
forefront of a Roman consumer revolution, and were essential
in the spread of new dining practices throughout Britannia.
Another grave of the same period contained an unusual
decorated beaker but no sigillata, instead resembling the graves
of local communities some 200 miles away in Essex and even
farther afield in northern Gaul. These selections highlight the
culturally diverse customs of the Roman military, and may
indicate that the grave belonged to a Gallic auxiliary soldier.
A third grave dates from AD 70–90, after the Roman
army had left. Revealing the influx of local people in the
city’s population, the grave includes a locally made Durotri-
gan-style bowl but also lots of terra sigillata plates and cups,
GETTY IMAGES

illustrating the uptake of globalised practices and the influ-
ence of migration even after the military had moved on.

Martin Pitts is associate professor in Roman archaeology at the
Vincent van Gogh’s The Potato Eaterss (1885). “Dutch peasants stopped
University of Exeter, and author of Globalisation and the Roman World: eating potatoes for breakfast because they no longer had to, not because
World History, Connectivity and Material Culturee (Cambridge, 2015) the arrival of migrants changed their world,” says Marlou Schrover

22
Marlou Schrover James Evans

“Migrants changed the “The arrival in North
world when colonising America of England’s more
European empires began ‘vivid people’ was a positive
to enslave, educate, rule thing for the world”
and kill others”
Otto von Bismarck and Winston Church-
ill – two figures with very different views
Migration history did not start when on many things – did at least agree on one
Syrians left refugee camps after April point in particular: the most important
2015. Nor did it start with the migra- fact in world history is that North America
tions from the former European colonies speaks English. From a less lofty vantage
to Europe in the postwar decades. point, I think that they were right.
Migrants certainly did change the Additionally, the fact that the United
world when European empires embarked States speaks English – a fact that also
on their colonial projects, and in tandem stands proxy for the defining role of English law and culture –
developed pseudoscientific racist is the single most powerful example of a way in which migrants
theories on which the colonisers based the right to enslave, (the hundreds of thousands of English men, women and
educate, rule and kill others. children who travelled across the North Atlantic during the
So when, then, did migration history start? With the 17th century) have changed the world.
arrival of modern humans in Europe 40,000 years ago, Funnily enough, the position of English today as a global lan-
replacing and interbreeding with the Neanderthals? That guage owes little to England but everything to the fact that the
might be too much ground to cover. The truth is that people US – the world’s most powerful country – speaks it. In a census
have always migrated, either to find work, fortune, love or conducted more than 30 years ago, some 40 million US citizens
freedom, or because somebody forced them onto a boat, train claimed descent from an English migrant. Today, the total is
or plane, or drove them out on foot. There are few people much larger – and that’s not even considering Canadians. His-
on this planet today who can trace their family tree for three torians have talked of a “swarming” of the English (the image of
generations without encountering a migrant of sorts. bees in a hive has been common in discussions of population),
Migration is as much part of life as marriage, birth and death. impressed by what they have called a “huge flow of people”. It’s
Some of my students in the Netherlands organise US- interesting that in the ‘New World’, many words that today seem
style baby or bridal showers, but this has nothing to do with distinctively American – for example, the use of the word ‘fall’
large-scale American migration to Europe, and more with for the autumn season – were in fact commonly used in 1600s
growing up watching American sitcoms. Similarly, the England before falling into disuse in the mother country.
popularity of Italian food in north-western Europe since the Of course, migrants have not improved things for everyone:
1960s was partly connected with the migration of Italian the arriving multitudes of Europeans certainly didn’t improve
guest-workers – but much more a result of new opportuni- things for the Native American populations they encountered
ties for holidays in Italy. For several years the September – just as they didn’t for subject populations on numerous other
issue of the glossy monthly magazine Allerhande, one of the occasions and in many other destinations in colonial history.
most popular titles in the Netherlands, presented Italian They did change things, though, and on balance the arrival
recipes under headlines such as ‘What shall we eat after our in North America of those described as being England’s more
holiday?’, not ‘What our new migrants have to teach us’. “vivid people” – younger, more energetic and determined to
Societies change for a large number of reasons. Dutch improve things for themselves – is a positive thing for the
peasants stopped eating potatoes with vinegar and coffee for world. I would also argue that, for all the uncertainty that
breakfast – immortalised in van Gogh’s painting – because rapid immigration might bring, in postwar England as a whole
they no longer had to, not because the arrival of migrants it has been a positive thing – diversifying its culture, and
changed their world. adding dynamism and a willingness to take on different work
Did migration change the world? Of course it did. But in a job market that might otherwise have struggled to adapt to
technological and economic changes were far more important. a world that has changed very fast.

Marlou Schrover is professor in economic and social history with James Evans is a historian, broadcaster and author of Emigrants:
a special interest in migration at Leiden University Why the English Sailed to the New World (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2017)

23
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Brazil:
Early European visitors to eastern South America
described an earthly paradise inhabited by naked
cannibals – one soon inundated with African slaves.
Lilia M Schwarcz explores the modern legacy of
past colonisation and exploitation in Brazil
TRANSLATED BY RAHUL BERY

ttRags and riches
Enslaved people wash diamonds
in Brazil, guarded by armed
overseers, in a German
engraving of 1828. Diamonds
were discovered in Minas Gerais
state in the late 17th century

26
a society
shaped by
slavery
ALAMY

Æ
27
Brazil’s troubled history

I
deas of ‘nature’ and of ‘natives’ have played a major the historians are in agreement, although its extent is debated:
part in the way Europeans have portrayed Brazil some claim that between 1493 and 1650 the Americas lost a
throughout the country’s history – or, rather, ever quarter of their population; others suggest that the population
since Portuguese colonisers landed in a territory decline was in the order of 95% or 96%. There were a number
that was already densely populated by Amerindian of factors responsible for this terrible loss of life, including war
people. On the one hand, the natural environment and unfamiliar diseases such as the common cold, but slavery
was portrayed as a paradise: an amenable climate, was also a major cause of death.
the absence of extreme weather, crystalline rivers,
waterfalls set in verdant surroundings, fruit falling Negotiating a name
from the trees and dolphins leaping from the seas. Because of The name of the new Portuguese colony generated much
this, Portuguese America was considered to be an example of debate, a discussion also influenced by the question of ‘nature’
the ‘placid tropics’, with only insects interrupting the natural and ‘natives’. The church wanted to name its dominion Terra
harmony of the landscape. de Santa Cruz (Land of the Holy Cross) in tribute to the place
But if ‘nature’ was seen through an Edenic lens, the ‘natives’ where the first outdoor mass had been held. Merchants argued
of this land were viewed with suspicion from the very start. In for Brazil, the name of a tree that grew widely in coastal areas
his letter to King Manuel I of Portugal dated 1 May 1500, (and which ended up being totally decimated); its wood was
explorer Pêro Vaz de Caminha – a knight serving in the first used for making furniture, and its red sap was used for dyeing
European fleet to land in what’s now Brazil on 22 April 1500 clothes. The market claimed victory in this initial battle just
– described how the indigenous people “went about naked… a dozen years after the Portuguese first arrived, and this corner
with their private parts on display”, and noted that the ‘natives’ of the New World came to be associated with the colour red –
also engaged in polygamy, a habit he judged to be decadent. the red of the dye from the Brazilwood tree, but also the
However, what most struck the first travellers was the infernal red of hell, which was how indigenous people and
practice of ‘cannibalism’: this was a people who “ate their their anthropophagy were represented.
peers” in order to sate their hunger. Without ever so much as The fact is that these different portrayals became jumbled
stepping foot in Brazil, in the late 16th century the engraver together, with Brazil sometimes viewed as a place of biblical
Theodor de Bry made a fortune from his images of the promise, at other times as ‘the land of the devil’. For many
country’s natives greedily gnawing on the legs and arms of people this vision would become all too real – above all for
their enemies. Today we know that this was not ‘cannibalism’ the enslaved natives, as well as those enslaved people who
but ‘anthropophagy’ – the people were practising a ritual were beginning to arrive from different parts of the European
whereby enemy tribes ate only the prisoners they considered to continent. The language of slavery entered the country
be worthy and strong. These were people who communicated and took its time in leaving. The arrival of the first African
through war, forming vast networks that quite clearly did not slaves, who were shipped mostly from Angola and west Africa
respect the boundaries created by Europeans. between Benin and Nigeria, was recorded towards the end
Both Europeans and the indigenous population found of the 16th century, when the cultivation of sugar cane
the other equally strange. The Portuguese traveller was introduced.
Pêro de Magalhães Gândavo was certain of his As nature adapted to the whims of the
claim, made in the 1570s, that the native market, the soil experienced great cycles
peoples had “no F, L or R”: no faith, no laws, of monocultural production. Brazil’s
no king (in Portuguese, Rei). Understood north-eastern region, especially Bahia and
only in terms of what they ‘lacked’, in the Pernambuco, was the first area to prosper
majority of cases the Brazilians were thanks to the sugar planted there, which
thought of as groups of children. In the guaranteed a steady supply of money until
most negative of visions they were consid- the end of the 18th century. From the
ered ‘degenerates’, and thus the war against late 17th century, news of the discovery of
them was seen as being a ‘just’ one, as if gold and diamonds in the region of Minas
spreading the Christian faith was something Gerais sparked a gold rush. This arid, flat
absolutely ‘necessary’. shrubland, so unlike the fertile tropics, was given
Such attitudes had consequences on an Fall from heaven? the designation cerrado, denoting a closed or
immense scale. Estimates of the population Iguaçu Falls, on the Brazil- fenced-off zone. Finally, in the 19th century, it
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Argentina border. Such
of the South American lowlands at the time the cascades contributed to
was the turn of coffee, referred to as ‘black gold’,
first Europeans arrived range between 1 and 8.5 Portuguese views of Brazil that shifted the economic axis to the south-east-
million. As to the magnitude of the catastrophe, as an earthly paradise ern region: first to Rio de Janeiro, then to São
28
Eating the enemy
Indigenous people eat the
flesh of enemies in a late-
16th-century engraving
by Theodor de Bry. Witnessing
such ‘cannibalism’, actually
ritualised anthropophagy,
reinforced Portuguese beliefs
that the ‘natives’ they
encountered were savages
ALAMY

Æ
29
Brazil’s troubled history

Fight club
Capoeira performers in
Salvador, Bahia, eastern
Brazil. Originally a fight
disguised as a dance,
capoeira evolved from
practices and rhythms
that arrived in Brazil
with slaves from Africa

Black gold
A c1900 advertisement for Brazilian coffee.
During the previous century the expanding coffee
industry demanded huge amounts of manual
labour, fuelling the transatlantic slave trade

Paulo. It was assumed that the soil had no limits, but
that human arms were needed to extract its resources. Slave ships transported
This is why, in Brazil, the idea of manual labour was
intimately linked to the African worker. Portugal controlled more than just captives.
some trading posts on the African coast, notably Luanda (now
capital city of Angola), and soon realised that the ‘trafficking of They brought religions,
souls’ could be as lucrative a trade as the commercialisation of
agricultural products. Brazil become the most frequent
rhythms, languages
destination for slaves: according to some estimates, between
38% and 43% of all the Africans forced to leave their conti-
and symbols to Brazil
nent were received there. In addition, Brazil sent slaves across
the whole territory, from north to south, and was the last place
in the Americas to abolish the practice of slavery in 1888. structured the etiquettes of obedience, and created a society
But the tumbeiross – slave ships – transported more than just conditioned by paternalism and strict hierarchy. It was a means
captives. These vessels, the Portuguese name of which literally of social communication – one that had grave consequences.
means ‘coffin bearers’, also brought the religions, rituals,
rhythms, visual cultures, languages and symbols of the people Fighting back
they transported. This process led to Brazil’s Africanisation, as Slaves in Brazil fought back in many ways: they killed their
it became populated by various groups of people who made masters and plantation owners, fled into the forests, and
indelible marks on the territory’s social and cultural landscape. mounted revolts. Right from the start, they never ceased to
The forced coexistence of indigenous people, Europeans negotiate their conditions, fighting for leisure time, the means
and Africans quickly resulted in a mestiço, or mixed, society, to support their families, and the right to practise their customs
albeit one characterised by the inequality in the different and worship their deities. They also tried to adapt their
groups’ relationships with one another. Mestiçagem means cultural practices, putting them in mestiço form.
‘mixture’, but also ‘separation’ – that is, cultural inclusion A good example is capoeira. The name comes from
accompanied by a great deal of social exclusion. vegetation born after virgin forest is destroyed, but it took on
Slavery, because it was so widespread, ceased to be the other meanings as well. Originally a kind of fight, the practice
exclusive privilege of the great landowners; priests, soldiers, often became described as a dance – quite the apt metaphor:
functionaries, craftsmen, merchants, small farmers and even a fighting style disguised as a dance, thus hiding its true
freed slaves possessed slaves. Therefore it was much more than intentions. But not every reaction was this subtle, and
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a mere economic system: it shaped the way people behaved, many were violent.
defined social inequalities, turned race and colour into the Of course, a system based around the idea that one person
traits of fundamental differences between groups of people, can possess another can sustain itself only through violence.
30
Stolen cargo
An English engraving of 1830
shows the layout of a slave ship
bound for Brazil, which was
the final destination for an
estimated 5 million Africans
before slavery was finally
abolished there in 1888

Slave masters would consult manuals, which circulated the state of Pernambuco in 1597. They ascended the Barriga
back and forth across the Atlantic, that offered advice about mountain range, in the present-day state of Alagoas south-east
how to punish and control slaves. In response, many slaves of Pernambuco, arriving at an uninhabited place where the
escaped, had abortions, murdered and poisoned their mountains acted as ramparts. The region’s palm trees provided
masters, or killed themselves. a living and sustenance: their leaves were woven together to
There were also examples of organised insurrections in create animal traps, items of clothing and roofs for rudimenta-
which the slaves’ resistance led to the creation of quilombos, ry dwellings, and they also gave the settlement its name.
places where those who had escaped would come together. Palmares was not just a refuge for the enslaved, but also
The term originated on the African continent, specifically in an extensive confederation of different communities capable
Angola, where it designated a kind of military encampment in of conducting their own business and of choosing their own
which warriors would undergo rites of initiation and embrace leaders. At its peak, 20,000 people found shelter there –
military discipline. The proliferation of quilombos across the a population far bigger than that of Rio de Janeiro at the time,
American landscape between the 16th and 19th centuries was which had only 7,000 inhabitants in 1600.
the result of a complex variety of political situations. They were
not just transitory, isolated places. They represented an alterna- A new religion
tive way of life while at the same time forming a part of the The slaves also bargained with their masters for the right to
slaveholding society that surrounded them, with which they play music, dance and sing, in accordance with their rituals.
were intimately linked in a variety of ways. This gave birth to candomblé, a name given to a set of recon-
In the mid-18th century Buraco do Tatu, a quilombo structed religious practices that, from the 19th century
located not far from Salvador, was kept financially onwards, took the traditions of Africa’s Yoruba
afloat through robbery, which it achieved by Out of Africa people, together with some other west African
maintaining a complicit relationship with the A carved wooden relief influences, as its base. In this new environment,
depicting the candomblé
community of slaves and freemen in the city. orisha (deity) Oxalufan.
candomblé was responsible for mediating the
In the lower Amazon region, in the far north The religious practices of differing realities of the Africans, mestiços and
of the country, slave refuges were established candomblé evolved from indigenous peoples. It’s no coincidence that, to
on the ‘white water’ of the river in a densely forested African Yoruba beliefs this day, the version in Bahia – the state most
BRIDGEMAN/GETTY IMAGES

area near the border with Suriname. strongly identified with Afro-Brazilians – called
The biggest community of escaped candomblé de caboclo venerates the spirits of
slaves, however – and possibly the one that indigenous ancestors.
survived the longest in Portuguese Over time, quilombos and differing cultural
America – was Palmares. This quilombo’s traditions blended together. Brazil today is still
original nucleus comprised around marked by this unequal, hierarchical mixing
40 slaves who had escaped from a mill in of so many African and Amerindian Æ
31
Brazil’s troubled history

An American Eden
A coloured engraving from
Historia naturalis palmarum,
a book based on the 1817–20
travels of German botanist Carl
Friedrich Philipp von Martius.
The fertility of Brazilian soil was
believed to have no limits – but
needed human labour to work it

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32
Harsh reality
Children pictured in a favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro in 2014.
Widespread poverty and social inequality plague Brazil

Brazil today is still
marked by the unequal,
hierarchical mixing
of many African and Rainbow nation

Amerindian nations A Brazilian woman of African descent in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval,
a Catholic festival celebrated with African-influenced samba music

nations, and of the European and East Asian immigrants system of racial discrimination that affects how they enter
who arrived at the end of the 19th century. the job market, their birth rates, rates of criminalisation and
The country still suffers from a democratic deficit. even how they spend their free time. There is still inequality of
Patrimonial and clientelistic practices, inherited from the opportunity, along with daily displays of racism in both private
era of slavery and recreated in the present, cling on in the and public. And, though torture has not been state policy since
political system and in public institutions. The electoral base the 1980s, it continues to be widespread, used in a concealed
may have been expanded, but an ethical agenda capable of way by police officers in some poor neighbourhoods where
transforming the electoral system and the behaviour of the rampant violence primarily affects young black men.
political parties has been found lacking; there is a serious risk Problems are environmental as well as social. Abundant
of corruption, associated as much with the mistreatment of cultivation without crop rotation has led to the deterioration
public funds as with the lack of control over governmental of once-productive areas such as the old sugar-growing region
politics, becoming endemic. of the Bahian Recôncavo, and the Paraíba Valley in Rio and
São Paulo states. Both have been victims of the frenzy for
The challenges continue immediate profit – as, too, has the Amazon, where rivers are
Many problems that characterised the past have persisted to still being polluted and the misdeeds of humans have created
the present day. Poverty continues to ravage a significant chunk veritable deserts.
of the population, and various indicators place the country These problems indicate the extent to which Brazil’s
among the global champions of social inequality. In many present rings with echoes from its past. Brazil today is in
places, women earn less than their male counterparts despite crisis. But every crisis has its positive side: on the one hand it
carrying out exactly the same tasks, and ‘crimes of passion’ – is exposing the fallacies of Brazilian democracy and the way
a euphemism used to define the violent practices that charac- in which the nation uses its
terise gender differences in the country – are still common- natural resources; in another
place. While newer familial arrangements based around sexual sense, it invites the country’s Lilia M Schwarcz is
and gender diversity are defended in public, many Brazilian citizens to respond and react. professor of anthropology at
citizens continue to be victims of sexist practices rooted in an It’s possible, indeed, that
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the University of São Paulo,
intolerance towards difference. such challenges represent the and co-author (with Heloisa
Despite the politics of affirmative action, descendants of beginning of a new chapter M Starling) of Brazil (Allen
African slaves still inhabit the reality of a well-documented in Brazilian history. Lane, 2018)

33
A year in pictures: 1894

AKG-IMAGES

34
Pole position
Norwegian botanist and expedition
doctor Henrik Greve Blessing fishes for
algae alongside the icebound schooner
Fram in July 1894. Norwegian explorer
Fridtjof Nansen and his hand-picked
crew had set out a year earlier on the
purpose-built ship to try to reach the
uncharted North Pole. He planned to
sail to a northerly latitude where the
ship would become icebound and drift
with currents across the Arctic. After
nearly 18 months locked in ice, Nansen
realised the ship would not drift far
enough north, so he set off on dog sleds
towards the pole. He failed to reach
90° north, but returned to Norway
a hero, having collected a wealth of
new scientific information.

A YEAR
IN PICTURES

1894
Exploration and
engineering, riots
and Russian rulers

As the 19th century drew to a close,
innovations in technology, art and
entertainment reflected the sense
of fin de siècle. Richard Overy
introduces the characters and
key events of a year in which
change was in the air Æ
35
A year in pictures: 1894

The 1890s was
a decade of inventions, scientific
breakthroughs and cultural innova-
tions. In hindsight, it seems as if the
fin-de-siècle era was imbued with
a sense of ending; it’s remembered (in
Europe, at least) for both cultural dec-
adence and ideas of new beginnings.
In 1894, precocious young Italian
engineer Guglielmo Marconi devel-
oped the radio transmitter; Karl Benz
patented the first petrol-driven large-
scale-production automobile; moving
pictures were presented commercially
for the first time through the new
Kinetoscope; John Harvey Kellogg
produced his first flaked cereals; and
Coca-Cola was sold in bottles for the
first time. The art world, meanwhile,
was challenged by the avant-garde
style of French artist Paul Gauguin
and the Norwegian Edvard Munch,
and by the emergence of the art
nouveau movement.
In international politics, imperial
expansion continued without serious
friction, radical nationalism not
yet posing a threat to the dominant
global position enjoyed by the major
European empires. The French and
Russian governments signed an
alliance, ostensibly to counterbalance
the alliance between Germany and
the Austro-Hungarian empire – an
event that had a delayed but dramatic
impact 20 years later as a major factor Clash in the east
in the start of the First World War. Japanese troops defeat Chinese forces at the
For most governments in the west- battle of Seonghwan on 29 July 1894, the first
ern world, the chief threat was internal major land clash of the First Sino-Japanese
political conflict, notably with the rise War. This Japanese print also shows war
of organised labour movements. In reporters and artists observing from a nearby
the summer, the United States rail- tree. Over the previous two decades the newly
modernised Japan had begun to extend its
road system was almost brought to a
influence in Korea, a Chinese protectorate.
halt by a nationwide strike. In Europe, In June 1894, China had sent troops into
socialist parties played an increasingly Korea to help suppress the peasant Donghak
important part in national politics, rebellion; Japan responded by sending forces
challenging the existing liberal and to protect its interests on the peninsula.
monarchical orders. Late in the year, According to the treaty that confirmed
Nicholas II acceded to the throne of Japanese victory the following April, Korea
the Russian empire, determined that became nominally independent, but in reality
was dominated by the Japanese presence. In
radical political change should be kept 1910, Japan annexed Korea as a colony.
firmly at bay. This year marked the
TOPFOTO

start of tsardom’s own fin de siècle.

36
Justice perverted
French army captain Alfred Dreyfus defends himself
against charges of treason at a military court in
December 1894, as depicted in an illustration in
Le Petit Journal.On 22 December he was found guilty
of passing secrets to the Germans, and was sentenced
to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island off French
Guiana. However, the evidence against Dreyfus had
been fabricated, and the head of French counter-
espionage soon discovered that the true culprit was
another French officer, Ferdinand Walsin-Esterhazy.
The ‘Dreyfus Affair’ divided French public opinion,
exposing widespread anti-Semitism, particularly in
the military and in sections of the media. The debate
TOPFOTO

about the case continued for a dozen years until 1906,
when Dreyfus was fully exonerated. Æ
37
A year in pictures: 1894

Icon of engineering
Traffic crosses London’s Tower
Bridge shortly after its official
opening by the Prince of Wales
(later King Edward VII) on
30 June 1894. First planned
in the late 1870s, work began
in 1886 but construction of
such a complex design – two
suspension bridges flanking a
central roadway that lifted to
allow ships to pass through –
took eight years to complete.
It soon became a London icon,
akin to the Eiffel Tower in
Paris, and remains so today.

Rail riots
Firemen tackle a blaze engulfing 600
Pullman freight cars in Chicago started
by rioters on 6 July during the national
railroad strike in the United States, and
depicted in a contemporary illustration.
The strike, which ran May–July 1894, was
called in protest against wage cuts imposed
by the Pullman Company. It was supported
by the American Railway Union, formed
the year before by Eugene Debs to give a
voice to workers. Railway traffic was halted
or disrupted across the western and central
states, and strikers were responsible for
widespread violence and arson. President
Grover Cleveland ordered the army to
break the strike, and by July it had petered
out – but not before the railroads had
suffered $80 million of damage and
30 people had died.
ALAMY

38
Tropical trinity
Day of the God, painted by Paul Gauguin
(1848–1903) in 1894 after his return to
France from Tahiti. The painting, notable
for Gauguin’s hallmark use of contrasting
colour, flat surfaces and semi-abstract images,
possibly depicts Ta’aroa, supreme deity in
the pantheon of gods in French Polynesia,
who created the Earth. The three naked
figures symbolise birth, life and death.
Gauguin’s work had an immense impact on
the modernist art movements of the following
decades, particularly influencing the fin-de-
siècle symbolism and escapism that permeated
much of the culture of the 1890s.

Personal picture palace
A row of machines in a Kinetoscope parlour
in San Francisco, opened in 1894. The
Kinetoscope, patented by the Thomas Edison
laboratory, played the first motion pictures,
albeit without sound. Each contained a
celluloid roll printed with images passed
rapidly across a lightbulb and viewed through a
peephole at the top of the apparatus; the viewer
paid 25 cents to watch ten short movies. The
machines became an instant hit, helping to
ALAMY

launch the age of the movies that dominated
American culture in the century that followed. Æ
39
A year in pictures: 1894

Strong showing
A poster advertises the
German strongman Eugen
Sandow (born Friedrich
Wilhelm Müller, 1867–
1925), who wowed American
audiences in 1894 during
a nationwide tour staged
by the impresario Florenz
Ziegfeld. Sandow pioneered
the idea of what he called
‘bodybuilding’, employing
weight training and a proper
diet to develop a strong,
healthy body. He organised
the first bodybuilding
competition at the Royal
Albert Hall in London,
and later founded the first
fitness centres, forerunners of
modern gyms.
BRIDGEMAN

40
Rising tsar
Russian tsar Nicholas II is crowned
in the splendour of the Uspensky
(Dormition or Assumption) Cathedral
in Moscow’s Kremlin, as painted by
French artist Henri Gervex. Nicholas
acceded to the throne on 1 November
1894 following the death of his
father, Alexander III. He was little
prepared for his new responsibilities,
but stated from the outset that he
believed profoundly in the necessity
of autocratic rule and would not yield
to popular demands for constitutional
reform. His unbending attitude
contributed to the revolt against the
monarchy and the revolution that
ended his reign 23 years later.

Queen of the court
Blanche Bingley Hillyard (1863–1946),
pictured in 1894 – the year she won the third
of her six Wimbledon ladies’ singles titles,
beating Edith Austin (later Greville) in
straight sets 6–1, 6–1. Among the most
successful British tennis players of all time,
she also played in seven other Wimbledon
finals, a record that still stands today.
Hillyard won her final title in 1900, aged 36,
playing in the customary long, awkward
tennis dress reaching down to the ankle.

Radio age
A replica of the first radio transmitter built
by Guglielmo Marconi – then just 20 years Richard Overy
GETTY IMAGES/BRIDGEMAN

old – in 1894 in his attic room near Bologna. is professor of history
He was the first to recognise the possibilities of at the University
wireless telegraphy using recent discoveries in of Exeter, and
the detection and transmission of radio waves,
editor of The Times
initially demonstrating his transmitter to his
mother. He later developed intercontinental Complete History of
wireless telegraphy and founded a successful the World (William
telecommunications and engineering company. Collins, 2015)

41
EXTRAORDINARY
Y PEOPLE

Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir (born c980)
‘FAR-
R-TRAVELLED’ ICELANDIC PIONEER TO AMERICA
Old Norse sagas laud the exploits of Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson, but their real hero
is female. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough introduces the first lady of Viking Vinland

T
he cartoon stereotype of remains of several Norse buildings were Gudrid urged Karlsefni to make the
the Viking age is decidedly discovered in the 1960s. journey. Once in Vinland, Gudrid gave
male: bearded blond men in Gudrid is described in The Saga of the birth to a son, Snorri – the first baby born
boats raiding the coast- Greenlanders as “a woman of striking to a European on the North American
lines of western Europe, appearance, and wise”. In both texts, her continent, if the account is true.
discovering and settling new lands. Yet dramatic story began when she and her Gudrid is the real hero of the Vinland
from the Valkyries of Norse mythology father sailed west from Iceland to join sagas – such an important character in
to female prime ministers and presidents, Erik the Red’s new colony in Greenland. The Saga of Erik the Red that it’s been
and from legendary shieldmaidens to That sea journey was notoriously suggested the story would be more aptly
other trailblazers of socially progressive dangerous and, according to The Saga of named Gudrid’s Saga. In her older years,
gender politics, the Nordic world has a the Greenlanders, Gudrid, her husband she continued her travels, undertaking
long history of extraordinary women. and several others were shipwrecked, then a pilgrimage to Rome. She became a
No one epitomises this heritage better rescued by Leif the Lucky, son of Erik the formidable matriarch, ancestor to many
than Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, a Norse Red. Sickness afflicted the colony that illustrious Icelanders – it is her line listed
explorer known as the ‘far-traveller’, born winter, and Gudrid’s husband died, but at the end of The Saga of the Greenlanders,
on Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula in the Gudrid lived to fight another day. not that of Erik the Red. As the pagan
latter part of the 10th century. What The Saga of Erik the Redd tells of no seeress in The Saga of Erik the Redd told
we know of her life story is derived from shipwreck and no husband. In it, instead, her: “from you will be descended a long
two Old Norse sagas, The Saga of Erik when Gudrid arrived Greenland was in and worthy line, and over all the branches
the Redd and The Saga of the Greenlanders. the grip of a famine. Though a Christian, of that family a bright ray will shine”.
Together they are known as the ‘Vinland she took part in a pagan ritual, helping a A modern sculpture of Gudrid at her
sagas’, because they describe voyages seeress called Thorbjorg to chant songs to birthplace, Laugarbrekka in western
sailing to the fringes of North America charm the spirits and end the famine. Iceland, depicts her standing on a ship,
around the year 1000. The Norse named Both sagas tell us that Gudrid married one hand resting on the square, toothy
these lands ‘Vinland’, apparently because Thorstein, son of Erik the Red and dragon’s head that forms the bow. On her
of the wild grapes that grew there. younger brother of Leif the Lucky shoulder she balances her little son Snorri,
The sagas were first recorded in (Eriksson), then spent a dark, terrifying his face lifted upwards, arm raised to the
13th-century Iceland over two centuries winter at the farmstead of a pagan farmer, sky. Gudrid’s eyes, though, are fixed firm-
after the events they describe took place, which was struck by a deadly plague. ly ahead, on the long sea road before her.
their tales having been transmitted The tale cites supernatural forces: at one True, the sagas are by no means
down the years in oral form, retold and point, the farmer’s wife looked out into straightforward historical records. But
reshaped as the stories passed from gen- the yard to see the figures of those who they are our main source of information
eration to generation. They contain ele- have died, waiting menacingly for her – about the remarkable people who un-
ments we might expect to see in fantasy and among them saw herself and dertook long and dangerous sea voyages,
films – dragons, trolls, zombies – but they Gudrid’s husband, Thorstein Eriksson. building new lives far from home and
are our main textual sources for Norse By the morning she was dead. Thorstein discovering new lands – and Gudrid was
activities at the far-western margins of died a few hours later, but – true to form perhaps the most extraordinary of all.
the medieval world. It was thanks to the – Gudrid survived another deadly winter.
sagas that archaeologists began to search Gudrid’s next husband was an Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough is
for material evidence of these journeys Icelander, Thorstein Karlsefni, with associate professor of medieval history and
– for example, at L’Anse aux Meadows whom she travelled to Vinland – indeed, literature at Durham University, and author
at the tip of Newfoundland, where the The Saga of the Greenlanderss tells us that of Beyond the Northlandss (OUP, 2016)

42
Vinland bound
Old Norse sagas describe Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir as “the loveliest of women and
noble in every trait”. But this far-travelled Icelandic woman was eulogised largely not
for her beauty and charm but as a strong-willed survivor who married three times and
bore a son, Snorri, in Vinland (North America) during one of her intrepid voyages

ILLUSTRATION BY LYNN HATZIUS 43
Israel &
the Palestinians:
A HISTORY
OF CONFLICT
in eight key episodes
As violent protests following the move
of the US embassy to Jerusalem CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:
attest, the prospect of lasting peace An Israeli soldier aboard an
armoured personnel carrier
between Israel and the Palestinians waves his national flag as Israeli
troops advance into Syria in
seems as remote now as ever. Seventy October 1973 during the
Yom Kippur War
years after the founding of the modern The last British soldiers
board a ship sailing from the
state of Israel, Matthew Hughes Mediterranean port of Haifa in
June 1948, six weeks after the
charts eight key moments in the state of Israel was declared

Demonstrators wave a flag
history of the hostilities showing Palestine Liberation
Organization leader Yasser
Arafat in the West Bank in 1988
during the first intifada (uprising)
against Israeli expansion

A Palestinian village is
destroyed by British forces in
1938 during the Arab Revolt
GETTY IMAGES

(1936–39), a conflict fuelled
by the proliferation of Jewish
settlements on land previously
owned by Palestinians

44
GETTY IMAGES

45
Æ
Israel and the Palestinians

Men from Bethlehem in Jerusalem in 1894, when the territory identified as Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire. At the start of the 19th century
Palestine’s population was mostly Arab, with a small Jewish minority, but from the 1880s waves of settlers rapidly augmented the Jewish population

1 Early Jewish years before the British took control,
Palestine had been divided into
in the 1880s, making their homes on
land bought from Palestinians.
settlement provinces of the Ottoman empire, and This brought a new type of Jew to
had very few Jewish inhabitants. Palestine, there to settle the land; these
19th century Indeed, at the start of the 19th centu- adopted tough new names such as Oz
ry the Jewish population of the territory (‘strength’). More settlers followed as
Palestine did not formally exist as soon to be defined as Palestine was small Jewish people fled anti-Semitic pogroms
a country before the First World War, – only about 3%. The majority of the in Europe, a situation exacerbated by the
when the British fixed Palestine’s region’s inhabitants were Arabs, mostly rise of rightwing sentiment that presaged
borders after their conquest of what Sunni Muslim, who had occupied the Nazi rule of Germany from 1933.
would become Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, region since the seventh-century Arab Settlement was core to Zionism –
Lebanon and Syria. For hundreds of conquest; there was also a sizeable Chris- a Jewish nationalist movement – because
tian minority. Together, these formed the it demanded land for a Jewish state.
population that would be considered – Zionists based their national claim to
despite the lack of a formally recognised Palestine on ancient Jewish settlement
country – as Palestinians. of the area before the Romans expelled
The Jewish people of Palestine in Jews from the region in the second
1800 were not farmers or settlers but century AD following two major Jewish
instead lived in towns and worked as revolts against their rule. Zionism and
merchants or religious teachers. As the Jewish settlement were seen as a return
19th century progressed, European Jews to an ancient Jewish Palestine. “A land
– influenced by the rise of nationalism in without a people for a people without
Europe – began to look to Palestine as a land” ran a pithy Zionist slogan –
GETTY IMAGES

the place for a possible Jewish homeland. yet this was not accurate: the land was
A view of Jerusalem from the north in about A wave of Jewish people came to the already occupied by predominantly
1870, when it lay within the Ottoman empire country in an Aliyahh (‘ascent’) starting Muslim communities.
46
2 The seeds 3 Riots and revolt significant Jewish population) and
providing for British control of
of conflict 1917–20 Palestine. The Jewish settlers depended
1896–1917 on Britain for their survival and, until
the Second World War, worked with the
In 1917, during the First World War, British authorities to maintain security
British-led troops conquered southern in Palestine. Jewish settlement was met
Palestine and took Jerusalem. In the with local resistance: in 1920, for
same year, the British foreign secretary, instance, rioting broke out as Palestini-
AJ Balfour, issued the so-called Balfour ans opposed British-facilitated Jewish
Theodor Herzl’s Declaration. Sent as a letter to the immigration. More violence was to
pamphlet Der
Judenstaat (1896),
Jewish (and Zionist) Lord Rothschild erupt throughout the next two decades.
proposing a on 2 November, and published a week Jewish-European settlers in this
Jewish country later in The Times, it was a deliberately period recorded the mood of colonial-
ambiguous statement of British intent ism. “We must not forget that we
In 1896, an Austro-Hungarian Jewish towards Palestine. It did not promise are dealing here with a semi-savage
intellectual, Theodor Herzl, published the Jewish people a state in the country; people, which has extremely primitive
Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), instead, it vaguely expressed the concepts,” one wrote at the time.
a pamphlet outlining the intellectual sentiment that “His Majesty’s Govern- “And this is his nature: if he senses
basis for the idea of a Jewish country. ment view with favour” the establish- in you power, he will submit and will
There was initially much discussion ment of a Jewish “national home” hide his hatred for you. And if he
among Zionists about whether such in Palestine, while also recognising senses weakness, he will dominate you.”
a place was to be in Palestine or that the region had an existing, non- Amid such colonial views, the British
elsewhere. Early schemes proposed Jewish, population. veered between support for Jewish
such disparate locations as Canada, The declaration helped Britain’s war settlers and for the Palestinians. Their
parts of South America, and British- effort in various ways, boosting support goals were diverging and becoming
run East Africa around what is now in the United States (which had a seemingly irreconcilable.
Uganda and Kenya. European Zionist
Jews were looking for a place to make
real the Jewish state, and the debate
fell between two major camps. The
first was willing to accept a Jewish
state anywhere, while the other
was determined to forge a state in
historic Palestine.
In 1905, at the Seventh Zionist
Congress in Basel, the dispute was
settled in favour of a Jewish state in
Palestine rather than some part of the
world with no religious or historical
connection for Jewish people. Many
Palestinians resisted this move to
settle in the territory, and expressed
their own national identity through
channels such as Falastin, a newspaper
founded in Jaffa in 1911 and named
for their homeland. Other responses
were more direct, with Palestinians
aggressively targeting landowners who
sold land to Jewish settlers.
Jewish immigration and settlement
set the two communities on the road to
war. It would be a struggle in which the
GETTY IMAGES

Zionists, armed with modern European General Edmund Allenby enters Jerusalem on foot on 11 December 1917 during
nationalist ideas, organisation and the British campaign in Palestine against Ottoman forces in the First World War Æ
technologies, had the edge.
47
Israel and the Palestinians

Jewish families evacuate
Jerusalem’s Old City in 1936,
during the Arab Revolt – an
uprising that followed several
years of violence between
Palestinians and Jewish settlers

4 Full-scale political and economic structures,
having already established a defence
become sufficiently powerful and
mobilised to fight Britain, and good
conflict organisation, Haganah. Jewish preparation won the day.
The Jewish community pushed into Jewish terror attacks against British
1929–47 new land with numerous settlements, targets helped to force Britain to
and set up a Jewish presence across reconsider its geopolitical priorities.
As violence erupted between the two Palestine. By this point, the Palestinians In one of the most infamous attacks,
communities, Jews and Palestinians were in conflict with both the Jews and in 1946 the wing of the King David
divided, and people had to take sides. the British authorities in Palestine, Hotel in Jerusalem that housed a British
Early Jewish inhabitants in Palestine, reaching a crescendo in a mass revolt in headquarters was blown up, killing
and Mizrahi (‘oriental’ or ‘eastern’) 1936. The British army crushed the almost 100 people. In 1947, Britain
Jews who came to Palestine from Arab revolt by 1939, but resistance and decided to leave Palestine. Meanwhile,
countries and who spoke Arabic, were preparation for further attacks by both survivors of the Holocaust who
now confronted by politically mobilised communities remained the pattern for emigrated to Palestine further boosted
European Jews arriving to settle the land the rest of the 1930s and throughout the the territory’s Jewish population.
and build a Jewish state. Many of these Second World War. In the November of the same year,
long-time Jewish occupants of Palestine By the time of the Second World the United Nations General Assembly
and the Middle East cut their ties to War, the British had shifted their policy passed a resolution that proposed the
their Arab neighbours. from support for Zionism to blocking partition of Palestine into Jewish and
An outbreak of extreme violence in Jewish immigration to Palestine. They Arab states. Under the plan, Jerusalem
1929 dashed any faint hopes of Jews and did this, again, to bolster support for would be an internationalised city.
Palestinians combining, and revisionist their war effort, this time from Arab The suggestion was accepted, albeit
rightwing Zionist organisations grew. allies. In the face of Jewish people escap- reluctantly, by Jewish representatives
Palestinians and Jews prepared for a ing the unfolding Holocaust in Europe, in the region, because it offered some
full-scale conflict. Militant Muslim this caused growing resentment and international acceptance of their aims
GETTY IMAGES/ALAMY

preachers such as Shaykh ‘Izz al-Din conflict with Zionists who were trying of establishing a state. Palestinian and
al-Qassam mobilised Palestinians, prim- to save European Jews by helping them Arab groups rejected it, however,
ing them for jihad. The Jewish popula- get to Palestine. arguing that it ignored the rights
tion prepared much more thoroughly, After the war ended in 1945, the of most of the population of Palestine
building a proto-state alongside nascent Jewish population of Palestine had to decide their own destiny.
48
British servicemen search the wreckage of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946 after it was bombed by the Zionist Jewish organisation Irgun.
The hotel had housed a British headquarters, and became a target after the British blocked Jewish immigration during the Second World War Æ
49
Israel and the Palestinians

GETTY IMAGES/MAP: BATTLEFIELD DESIGNS
5 The birth which point Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan,
Lebanon and Syria attacked Israel in
little military power. In general,
though the Arab forces looked
of modern Israel support of the Palestinians. impressive on paper, the military
Israel was born from war, both the quality of their fighting power and the
1948–49 legacy of the Holocaust and more political unity of their command across
immediate conflict when the Arab different national forces were poor and,
The First Arab-Israeli War of 1948–49 armies attacked in May 1948. Fighting as a result, they lost.
followed on from the violence between against the new Israeli army continued Israel’s success allowed it to expand
Jews and Palestinians as neighbouring until early 1949. Local Palestinian its territory to include all of British-run
Arab states – for their own political militia units supported the war effort, Palestine, with the exception of the
motives as well as to help their Pales- but were poorly organised and had hilly West Bank next to Jordan, east
tinian Arab brethren – intervened in
the hostilities. In May 1948, as British
troops left Palestine, Zionist leader
(soon to become the first Israeli prime
minister) David Ben-Gurion declared
the formation of the state of Israel, at

Palestinian refugees
pictured during the first
Arab-Israeli War in 1948.
At the conclusion of the
war the following year,
some 700,000 Palestinians
had fled or been expelled
from the new state of
Israel and were refugees
in neighbouring territories

50
Jerusalem (including the Old City), and the Arab-Israeli conflict. For the events, and in different ways. Indeed,
the territory known as the Gaza Strip, Palestinians this was the nakba histories of this period quickly reveal
running along the Mediterranean Sea (catastrophe) that turned hundreds of how divisive this time remains, with
just northeast of the Sinai Peninsula. thousands of them into refugees; for accounts often skewed significantly
The result of this expansion was that Is- Israel, it was triumph in a war of toward one side or another.
rael controlled more than 75% of what independence in the face of a full-scale The conclusion of the First
had formerly been British-run Palestine assault against its Jewish people. Arab-Israeli War left two significant
– or, in other words, the Palestinians Both communities saw the events in political problems, both of which
now held less than 25% of Palestine. very different ways. From an Israeli remain largely unresolved today.
What happened next has informed perspective, the Arabs were hell-bent First, more than 700,000 Palestinians
a great deal of how we now understand on destroying Israel in 1948, and the now lived in refugee camps in the
war they provoked ended up making Egyptian-run Gaza Strip, throughout
thousands of Palestinian people neighbouring Arab nations, and in the
refugees. From a Palestinian view- Jordanian-controlled West Bank.
point, the Israelis were acting on a plan Stateless, without passports and
to expel them and thus ethnically dispossessed, theirs was a squalid
cleanse the country. existence, and no one addressed their
Israel did expel Palestinians, but lack of political rights.
others simply left as their society Meanwhile, Israel built a function-
collapsed under the pressure of war; ing Jewish state, drawing in more
even so, more than 100,000 Palestini- Mizrahi Jews who had lived for
ans remained inside Israel after 1949. centuries in Arab countries but who
Massacre was followed by counter- were no longer welcome there. But
massacre: Jewish forces killed around though the Zionists had realised their
100 Palestinian villagers at Deir ambition of a Jewish state, no Arab
Yassin, just west of Jerusalem, in April states recognised it, meaning that Israel
1948; shortly afterwards, Arab fighters was flanked by hostile neighbours.
killed some 80 Jewish medical staff The consequences of the failure to
near Jerusalem. settle the political needs of both
These massacres reveal how both communities were to feed directly
sides emphasise different historical into the wars that were to come.

Israel and neighbouring territories, 2018

Æ
Note: this map is for illustrative and location purposes only
51
Israel and the Palestinians

6 Further Arab- fighting, Israeli forces destroyed the
armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and
Israeli wars occupied vast new tracts of land in the
Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank
1956–73 and Golan Heights. Israeli paratroopers
also took east Jerusalem, which included
Depending on your viewpoint, the the Old City, home to holy sites such as
causes of the Arab-Israeli wars that the Jewish Western Wall and the area
followed Israel’s formation lie either with known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif
an aggressive expansionist Israeli state and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
that preferred war to diplomacy, or with This was a stunning military success
an intransigent Arab front that refused for Israel, but the 1967 war also led to
to talk to Israel, wanting instead to political change. A messianic, less
eliminate the Jewish state. The Palestini- secular, settler-based Zionism grew in
an people were caught in the middle. the recently conquered West Bank, Gaza
Israel escalated border tensions in the Strip and Golan. These settlers formed
early 1950s. This led in 1956 to what Gush Emunim (‘Bloc of the Faithful’)
became known as the Suez Crisis – an in 1974 as an orthodox activist organisa-
invasion by Israeli, British and French tion to reflect the new mood in Zionism,
forces of Egypt under its dynamic new while Israel’s Jews divided into the more 7 Stalemate
pan-Arab leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. secular versus the more religious.
Israelis considered that Nasser started Meanwhile, humiliated, the Arabs and resolution
the war by launching attacks into Israel refused to accept their defeat. The result
and blockading the port of Eilat, but the was yet another conflict: the Yom Kippur
1987–96
war’s origins are contested. Israel won War in 1973, named for the Jewish holy
the conflict militarily but there was no day of atonement, on which Egyptian The lack of any wider political progress
political resolution, and another war and Syrian forces attacked. Though this had provoked simmering anger among
followed little more than a decade later. war proved more successful for the Arabs Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza
The conflagration of June 1967 had in its initial phases, the Israelis successful- territory occupied by Israel in 1967. In
major consequences. Across six days of ly counter-attacked. The conflict led 1987, this finally erupted into a full-scale
Israel and Egypt to sign a peace uprising in Gaza – the intifada – which
treaty in 1979. Despite a historic soon spread to the West Bank. Mass
visit to Israel by the Egyptian riots saw people, including children,
leader, Anwar Sadat, the issues throwing stones at Israeli troops and
underpinning the conflict had tanks. Soldiers responded with physical
still not been fundamentally violence, some aimed at the children,
resolved. The Palestinians and with lethal force. The resulting
remained without a state, and images, beamed around the world, were
their war went on. terrible PR for the Israelis.
Indeed, after the peace Israel’s military power was not so
with Egypt, Israel invaded effective against unarmed demonstrators
Lebanon in 1982 to attack as it was against conventional armies.
Palestinian fighters based there. The asymmetric battle between hi-tech
They remained in southern weapons and stone-throwers revealed
Lebanon, finally pulling out that the side that seemingly holds more
in 2000 when faced with a new power does not always get what it wants.
foe in the shape of Lebanese This helped to push the two sides to
Muslim Shia militia forces talk, and Yasser Arafat for the Palestini-
such as Hezbollah. ans and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak
Rabin eventually forged a deal – of sorts.
US president Jimmy Carter In 1993, the two sides signed a deal
witnesses an Arab-Israeli peace that was marked, historically, by Arafat
GETTY IMAGES

treaty in March 1979, flanked by
the signatories, Egypt’s president
shaking hands with Rabin on the lawn
Anwar Sadat (left) and Israeli of the White House in Washington DC
prime minister Menachem Begin in front of the US president. It was a
52
8 The continuing
conundrum A Palestinian prepares to
hurl a rock at Israeli forces
at the Gaza-Israel border
1996–present in spring 2018. Protesters
demanded that Israel allow
the return of Palestinian
The lack of political dialogue has led to refugees. More than 100
further conflict. Palestinian attacks on Palestinians were killed
during the campaign
Israeli civilians after 1996, and the
Young Palestinians flee
Israeli soldiers during riots in launch of a second intifada in 2000, led
Gaza City in 1993. The violence to Israel retaliating with the construc-
of the Palestinian intifada tion of a huge ‘separation’ wall to stop
(uprising) eased briefly when
suicide bombers and blockade the West
the Oslo Peace Accords were
signed in September 1993 Bank, while simultaneously building
new settlements on land taken in 1967.
A withdrawal of Israeli settlements
significant moment for Rabin who, for from Gaza in 2005 came shortly before
many years, had seen Arafat as an a split within the Palestinians between
implacable terrorist foe. the Islamist Hamas movement based in
The window of peace opened briefly, Gaza and, on the West Bank, Palestine
and then closed. One view of why talks Liberation Organization-led secular
failed is that the Israelis were unwilling political groups centred around the
to trade land for peace; another is that nationalist party Fatah. The internal
the Palestinians, preferring war to peace, divisions within the Palestinian camp
were unwilling to accept any realistic that caused this split made it hard to
deal offered to them. Whichever present a unified front in any negotia-
perspective is correct, the inchoate tions with Israel. This made a peace
Ivanka Trump, daughter
negotiations shuddered to a halt in 1995 deal problematic because there were and senior advisor of US
when a religious Israeli extremist, angry now two Palestinian camps – one of president Donald Trump, at
at Rabin’s peace moves, shot him dead which, Hamas, had Israel’s destruction the opening of the new US
embassy in Jerusalem on
in Tel Aviv. explicitly written into its charter. 14 May 2018. The relocation
Chaos followed. Extremists on both Many Israelis were convinced that of the US embassy from Tel
sides, opposed to any peace deal that the Palestinians were not serious about Aviv angered Palestinians
would involve some degree of compro- peace. Israeli invasions of Lebanon
mise, took charge. Palestinian suicide provoked another conflict with
bombers blew up Israelis on buses and in Lebanon’s Hezbollah (backed by Iran),
marketplaces. In 1996, a rightwing which attacked Israel in 2006. In 2014,
government led by Benjamin Netanyahu Israel launched large-scale attacks into
came to power in Israel, aiming to block Gaza in response to rocket fire from
the political changes made by Rabin. Hamas militants; more recently,
Critics argue that Netanyahu, who Israeli soldiers have shot protesters
is in power again today, has worked from Gaza who have moved against
assiduously to smash any political Israel’s border fence.
dialogue that would lead to Israel giving The conflict rumbles on. Despite
up land for a lasting political settlement, ongoing efforts to find a resolution, it
preferring instead stagnant talks and the still takes a determined optimist to see Matthew Hughes is professor of military
offer of patchy autonomous areas of much future for a two-state solution in history at Brunel University London. His latest
ALAMY/GETTY IMAGES

control to the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s which the Israeli and Palestinian states book, Britain’s Pacification of Palestine, will be
supporters see his policies as the natural coexist alongside each other. Similarly, published later this year by CUP
result of Palestinian unwillingness to a binational solution resulting in a single DISCOVER MORE
forge a compromise deal and accept Israeli-Palestinian state as a home for all Follow events in the Middle East
Israel’s right to exist. communities also seems unlikely. online via BBC News at bbc.co.uk

53
History in videogames

54
PLAYING
WITH

From simulations of Cold War catastrophe to seemingly
realistic evocations of life in the Wild West, many
videogames have explored episodes and characters from
across history. John Wills explores the titles that reveal
how digital worlds have represented our global past
ILLUSTRATION BY MICHAEL KIRKHAM

Æ

55
History in videogames

Point and shoot
In recent first-person shooter
Call of Duty: WWII, players make
their way through the war-torn
Europe of 1944. It features several
real-life military campaigns

n April 2018, Grand Theft Auto V, a mature-rated
videogame depicting criminal life in Los Santos – SOPHISTICATED 3D
a fictionalised version of Los Angeles – became
the most successful entertainment product ever GAMES TRANSPORT
released. Having moved more than 95 million
units and amassed over US$6 billion in sales, it PLAYERS TO THE
surpassed even the biggest Hollywood movies in
terms of revenue. Once dismissed as novelty items BEACHES OF D-DAY
that led kids astray, videogames now represent an
established and highly successful entertainment medium. In AND THE REALMS
the UK alone, an estimated 32.4 million people play videog-
ames. Globally, the figure exceeds two billion. OF ANCIENT EGYPT
The cultural impact of videogames continues to grow.
A number of movies inspired by videogames have been
produced over the years – from Tron (1982) and WarGames
(1983) to this year’s Ready Player One – as well as film versions
of titles such as Tomb Raider (1996). Games have been used as and 1980s, titles set in the past took players on the most basic
recruitment tools for the United States military, as apps to of journeys, depicting events in a rudimentary, pixellated
entertain voters during recent US elections, and as ‘brain-train- fashion. Interaction was limited to simple action sequences
ing’ mental-health tools for seniors. The front line of digital or textual commands. More recently, sophisticated three-
culture, videogames have trained us to interact and communi- dimensional games have transported players to the beaches
cate online and to embrace virtual reality. of the Second World War D-Day landings in Call of Duty:
Over the years videogames have tackled all manner of World War II, and to the realms of ancient Egypt in Assassin’s
ACTIVISION

subjects, from delivering newspapers in Paperboy (1985) to Creed: Origins. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed even sports a combat-
saving Earth from alien attack in titles such as Space Invaders free ‘discovery’ mode, transforming the game into a virtual
(1978). Games have also explored world history. In the 1970s museum of historical artefacts. Videogame companies such
56
Alternative Egypt
Cleopatra, as depicted in the 2017
action-adventure game Assassin's
Creed: Origins. Set near the end of
the Ptolemaic era, the title offers a
fictionalised account of real events

as Ubisoft and Rockstar Games conduct significant historical – they get to shoot back. In historical games, players contribute
research for their titles, visiting archives and speaking to the unfolding narrative: they ‘play’ history. Gameworlds
to experts. therefore intimately involve players in all kinds of recreations
Given the increasing sway of videogames over popular of historical moments. They, in turn, have the ability to
culture, it is natural to assume they now exercise some level ‘reshape’ those moments, raising all kinds of dilemmas over
of influence over how we negotiate the world. For decades, counterfactual history and authenticity.
popular literature, film, radio and television have had a In autumn 1971, three trainee teachers huddled in a
powerful impact on mass understandings of history. From janitor’s closet at a Minnesota college to work on a prototype
Shakespearean plays to Vietnam War movies, fiction has educational computer game. Don Rawitsch, Bill Heinemann,
framed the past. As Adam Chapman, a leading scholar in and Paul Dillenberger were creating The Oregon Trail (1971),
digital history, argues: “for most of us imagery and under- a text-based adventure designed to teach students the history
standings drawn from popular media probably construct the of westward migration in the United States. The game asked
past as much, if not more, than the books of professional students to budget for a journey by wagon to Oregon in the
historians”. Videogames help shape the historical imagination. 1840s. Along the route they would need to negotiate rivers,
hunt wild animals, barter with Native Americans and
Digital pioneers sometimes catch diseases such as dysentery. Pupils loved it,
In 1903, American film projectionist Edwin S Porter produced and the Minnesota Education Computing Consortium soon
The Great Train Robbery, a 12-minute black-and-white silent rolled out the game across the state.
movie. Constructed as a series of action-packed set pieces, By the late 1970s, The Oregon Trail was being played across
Porter’s film helped establish the Western genre. In the final the US. This education title portrayed the American frontier
scene of the movie, an outlaw played by Justus D Barnes looks as an exercise in linear progress, with players guiding their
directly at the camera, lifts his revolver and fires. Immersed wagons on a simple, set route toward success. The computer
in the moment, feeling helpless and dumbfounded, audiences game reflected a traditional historical interpretation of frontier
reeled in shock. progress, and celebrated the journey of the white settler, but
UBISOFT

Yet videogames go one step further. Unlike in Porter’s lacked an understanding of multiple borders and the true
movie, they actively involve players in the unfolding storyline complexities of migration. However, it excelled at capturing Æ
57
History in videogames

1 2

3 4

© THE OREGON TRAIL USED COURTESY OF HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT/ALAMY/UBISOFT/GETTY/FIREAXIS GAMES-2K
5 VIRTUAL LANDMARKS

1 The Oregon Trail, created by trainee teachers at Carleton College,
Minnesota. Players of the pioneering educational game, reworked in
various formats since its first release in 1971, experience life on the 19th-
century migration route, facing afflictions such as measles and dysentery

2 The idea for Atari’s Missile Command came from a magazine story
about satellites and radars. The game proved a phenomenal arcade hit,
and a 1981 conversion for the Atari VCS console sold 2.5 million copies

3 In strategy game Civilization, players build an empire, choosing from
a range of cultures including the Aztecs and the Mongols. A sixth version,
pictured here, was released in 2016; series sales have passed 40 million

4 Computer-based military simulations offer new ways to explore
military conflict. The 1992 title History Line: 1914-1918 is significant in
its attempt to represent the First World War as realistically as possible

5 Players of British-made ‘historical simulation’ JFK Reloaded take
Lee Harvey Oswald’s role in the shooting of John F Kennedy. On its
release in 2004 it proved highly controversial; its publisher defended
the game, claiming that its aim was to “bring history to life”

58
CIVILIZATION TAPPED Meier’s title was ingenious. It offered a technology tree to
master, and competing empires to negotiate with or conquer.
Meier tapped into a desire to play god with history. The game
INTO A DESIRE TO actively indulged the egos of its players: those who performed
admirably were lauded by a digital populace who raised palaces
PLAY GOD – AND in their honour. While offering the player a multitude of
options, Meier’s Civilization nonetheless sanctified very
ALSO GLORIFIED particular notions about progress. The game glorified western
science and technology, while indigenous groups in the game
WESTERN SCIENCE were forced to ‘become civilised’ or face extinction. Five
subsequent sequels, and numerous ‘expansion packs’, have
AND TECHNOLOGY modified which civilisations players can control, while
maintaining the same underlying gameplay mechanics.
Titles such as Civilization pandered to grand concepts
of history and empire, but other videogames tackled specific
events and incidents. For example, the strategy game History
the feel of the trail – the personal hardships, the dangers, the Line: 1914-1918, released by German company Blue Byte in
daily grind. The game highlighted the potential of the entire 1992, recreated military campaigns of the First World War
medium to educate and inform – to teach history. Games with distinct educational overtures. The turn-based wargame
became part of the teacher’s toolbox in the United States and began with a realistic depiction of the assassination of
around the world, introducing pupils to both new technology Archduke Franz Ferdinand before launching the player into
and new historical ideas. a series of challenging tactical scenarios, requiring them to
move military units across a hexagon-based map. Intriguingly,
War games History Line didn’t allow players to deviate too much from the
As with all media, videogames reflect the historic moments of historical record. It also forged a sense of atmosphere by
their production. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghani- regularly feeding the player contemporary newspaper stories
stan and Margaret Thatcher assumed power in the United and facts about wartime conditions.
Kingdom; the following year, former Hollywood actor Occasionally, games provoked controversy with their
Ronald Reagan was elected US president. With a new vitriol colourful takes on history. In 2004, Scottish-based Traffic
to superpower sparring, Cold War tensions escalated. Software released the ‘historical simulation’ title JFK Reloaded.
Media culture of that era reflected the sudden rise in public Exploring the assassination of President John F Kennedy on
anxiety about the possibility of nuclear exchange – and this 22 November 1963, the game puts the player in the position of
included videogames. In 1980, Atari released the arcade Lee Harvey Oswald, replaying his actions on that fateful day in
machine Missile Command. This cast the player in the role of Dallas, Texas, by shooting at the presidential motorcade. The
a defence co-ordinator tasked with protecting six cities from aim was to test the official report of the Warren Commission
nuclear attack by shooting down incoming missiles. The game (and the broader historical record); in a sense the game
proved a phenomenal success. It also presaged Reagan’s encouraged the player to solve a lingering historical conspiracy.
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, dubbed ‘Star Wars’ by the Unsurprisingly, the choice of topic offended many. Despite
popular press), a proposed programme that would use numerous freely accessible documentaries on the shooting
satellites, lasers and missiles to defend the US against attack. of the president, as well as the footage captured by amateur
However, in contrast to Reagan’s promise of a nation protected cameraman Abraham Zapruder, who filmed the Kennedy’s mo-
from fallout, Atari’s title painted only a bleak picture of torcade as it drove through Dallas, ‘playing’ through the event
conflict. The cities in Missile Command could never be saved – itself appeared quantifiably more offensive. It was an example
their destruction was merely delayed. The game, and with it of a game pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
nuclear war, proved practically unwinnable. Missile Command
captured the historical moment and gamified nuclear fear. Living in the past
As videogame technology advanced in the late 1980s, One of the most consistent aims in videogame design over
the potential for games to present more complex simulations the past four decades has been the emulation of real life.
increased. In 1991, MicroProse released Civilization, an Throughout the 2010s, the quest for realism has edged closer
advanced strategy title designed by Canadian-American and closer to perfection. With the advent of photorealistic
Sid Meier. The game required the player to create an empire graphics and virtual-reality headsets, the gap between the real
and manage its development across time. and the imagined has reduced significantly. These heightened Æ
59
History in videogames

Simulacrum city
The virtual cityscape of 2013’s
Grand Theft Auto V, based on LA
and other places in California.
This game is the fastest-selling
entertainment product in history

A brief history of videogames
Key moments in half a century of digital gaming
The first videogames were developed Its risk-and-reward format – evade While Nintendo was influencing the
in the United States in places where com- the ghosts, chomp the pellets – proved west from Japan, 1984’s Tetris was the
puters were available to workers, often hugely compelling, and even today Pac- first piece of entertainment software
in military installations and on university Man remains one of the most recognisa- to head from the Soviet Union to the US.
campuses. In 1962, Massachusetts Insti- ble symbols of western 1980s culture. Programmed by Russian game designer
tute of Technology students Steve Rus- Another game that remains instantly Alexey Pajitnov, it requires players to
sell, Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen identifiable thanks to its bizarre set-up, tessellate a never-ending onslaught
programmed Spacewar! Inspired by the Donkey Kong (1981) sees Mario, the lead of brightly coloured geometric shapes.
Cold War, the combat game reimagined character, jumping across platforms A handheld version released for Ninten-
the space race between Russia and the in a bid to save a damsel in distress from do’s Game Boy console five years later
US as a battle between two tiny space- the clutches of an angry, barrel-hurling secured its lasting global popularity.
ships. Wiitanen departed the project gorilla. By far the most successful of Not all videogames rely solely on
before completion, being called up for Japanese company Nintendo’s early reflexes. Will Wright’s SimCity (1989) is
military service in Berlin. attempts to tap into the US market, by rather more considered, tasking players
Ten years later, electronics engineer June 1982 it had made around $180m. with transforming a barren plot of land
Nolan Bushnell released Pong, a basic into a bustling metropolis. Providing
simulation of table tennis. It was a huge options to manage everything from road
commercial hit, and traditional amuse- networks to waste disposal, its open-
ment companies soon jumped on the ended, world-building structure
videogame bandwagon. Chicago-based launched an entire genre of games.
Midway released a range of arcade titles Though many games had experiment-
including Gun Fight (1975), an action ed with three dimensions, Doom (1993)
game based on the historical US frontier, was the first really successful effort.
in which two cowboys face off on screen. Its demons-in-space plot may be dispos-
Still one of the most instantly rec- able (and sparked tabloid ire thanks to
ognisable titles in videogame history, its mix of violence and satanic imagery),
1978’s Space Invaders pits players but the influence of its 3D gameworld
ALAMY/ROCKSTAR GAMES

against wave after wave of pixellated can be traced through scores of titles
alien attackers. An arcade sensation, released in subsequent decades.
it made a profit of some $450m. Pixel progression From cowboys and archaeologists to
While many arcade titles navigated A 1977 iteration of Pong, a very basic the criminal fraternity of 2013’s Grand
similar themes of interstellar con- simulation of table tennis. The initial Theft Auto V, videogames now offer an
flict, 1980’s Pac-Man strayed into very version, released in 1972, was one of increasingly diverse range of settings,
different territory, creating a new genre. the earliest arcade games characters and player experiences.

60
New frontiers
Western-themed action adventure
Red Dead Redemption, set on the
US-Mexico border in 1911, has
sold more than 15 million copies
since its release in 2010

from taming wild stallions to stealing a supply train from the
LIKE A HOLLYWOOD- Mexican army.
The attention to historical detail was striking and, indeed,
STYLE GUNSLINGER, Rockstar promoted its title as an authentic historical product.
Players live and breathe Rockstar’s Wild West. The game offers
PLAYERS ARE ABLE an unrivalled sense of immersion, along with the opportunity
to revisit a rare historical moment: the demise of the Wild West
TO CONSISTENTLY at the dawn of a new century.
Yet Red Dead Redemption clearly takes its inspiration from
SHOOT THEIR WAY the Hollywood Western, itself a fictional, largely mythic and
decidedly visual interpretation of events. It enforces common
OUT OF TROUBLE misunderstandings about history by presenting the gun,
rather than the plough or the dollar, as maker of the frontier.
Much like a Hollywood-style gunslinger, Marston consistently
shoots his way out of trouble.
Popular gaming has thus
levels of realism, immersion and complexity also apply to reproduced some of the errors John Wills is reader in
videogames exploring historical topics. and omissions of popular American history and culture at
In 2010, Rockstar Games released Red Dead Redemption, history. Indeed, though many the University of Kent. His recent
an open-world adventure set in the American West of the modern videogames may have project ‘Playing Cowboys and
early 20th century. Demonstrating the leap forward from the perfected the look of history, Criminals: Videogame Depictions
simple pixellated cowboys seen in early games such as the programmers and players alike of the Frontier and Urban West’
ROCKSTAR GAMES

hugely popular 1975 arcade shooter Gun Fight – the first video- have more work to do before was exhibited at the British
game to depict two humans fighting – the game brims with games truly offer balanced, Academy Summer Showcase.
frontier atmosphere. Assuming the role of retired outlaw rounded accounts of global For more details, see britac.ac.uk/
John Marston, the player tackles a diverse variety of challenges, historical realities. events/summershowcase/2018

61
The murder of Emmett Till

Emmett Till pictured with his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, in the early 1950s

ALAMY

62
Emmett Till was a happy, confident
teenager. In August 1955 he travelled
south to visit relatives in Mississippi.
Eight days later he was dead,
killed by two men who accused
him of whistling at a white woman.
His brutal murder was just one
of thousands of racially motivated
lynchings in the American South –
but it proved to be a pivotal moment
in the civil rights revolution.

By Maria Margaronis

ACCOMPANIES MARIA’S BBC RADIO 4 DOCUMENTARY
ARCHIVE ON FOUR: THE BALLADS OF EMMETT TILL

Æ
63
The murder of Emmett Till

O
n 20 August 1955, Mamie Till
Bradley reluctantly put her 14- Mamie Till Bradley
year-old son Emmett – ‘Bo’, to his
family – on the train from Chicago insisted on an open
to Mississippi with his great-uncle
Moses Wright, who had come up to coffin so the world
Chicago for a family funeral. Bo’s
favourite cousin, Wheeler Parker, could see what had
was going down south with Uncle
Mose for a summer holiday, and Bo didn’t want to miss out on been done to her son
the swimming and the fishing, the food from the gardens, the
adventures and the starry nights. He was a confident, cheerful,
kid, big for his age, a joker with a playful swagger in spite of the
stutter left by a bout of polio. to Chicago, told the undertaker not to clean up his pulped
Mamie worried that Bo’s confident Chicago manners head, and insisted on an open coffin so that the world could
would get him into trouble in the small community of Money, see what had been done to her son.
deep in the American South, where black subjugation was The funeral service was held on 3 September at Chicago’s
policed by a rigid code of behaviour and enforced by murder- Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Tens of thousands
ous terror. She had prepared him carefully for his trip to the of people filed past Emmett as he lay in state for four days
place her parents had left three decades before in search of afterwards, dignified in a dark suit in defiance of the white
work and safety: don’t speak to white folks unless you’re spoken men’s violence. Some fainted at the sight. The horrifying pho-
to, step off the sidewalk when they pass, never look them in the eye. tograph of his disfigured face was published in Jett magazine
She had packed some fried chicken and cake for him in a and reprinted everywhere, passed round, cut out and shown to
shoebox, because she knew he wouldn’t be allowed to use the African-American children for years afterwards as a warning.
dining car. At Cairo, Illinois, he and his cousins would have The image was a deliberate reversal of the white supremacist
to move to the crowded ‘colored’ car behind the locomotive – tradition of lynching photographs – gruesome images of black
the noisiest and smokiest on the train. men hanging from trees while white families looked on –
Emmett came back to Mamie two weeks later in a pine box printed and sold as postcards in the segregation-era South.
packed with lime, his face mutilated and swollen beyond rec- When an all-white Mississippi jury acquitted Milam
ognition, one eye missing and the other hanging halfway down and Bryant in a brief trial in the town of Sumner, near Money,
his cheek, his skull split and pierced by a bullet hole. At 2am that September, news of the verdict travelled round the world.
on the morning of Sunday 28 August, he’d been taken from The dancer Josephine Baker led a protest in Paris, and letters
his great-uncle’s house by two white men, Roy Bryant and demanding justice for Till arrived at the White House from as
JW Milam, who claimed he’d flirted with Bryant’s young far away as Norway and the Kremlin. Rallies were held across
wife, Carolyn, as she minded the couple’s general the American Midwest; in Harlem, Mamie addressed
store. Bo had gone in to buy bubblegum the pre- a huge crowd alongside leaders of the National
vious Wednesday evening; his cousins recalled Association for the Advancement of Coloured
that he’d whistled when Carolyn came out. People (the NAACP), the Abyssinian Baptist
They whisked him away from the store, Church, and black unions.
but the white men came for him anyway, In November, Mississippi civil rights
bundled him into the back of a pickup activist TRM Howard spoke about Till
truck with a couple of Milam’s black hired at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in
hands, drove him around half the night, Montgomery, Alabama. The pastor of the
then tortured him in a barn before shooting church was the 26-year-old Martin Luther
and killing him. A black teenager called Willie King Jr, and among the congregation was
Reed who happened to pass by heard the terrible the seamstress Rosa Parks. Four days later she
screaming; later he saw something wrapped in refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white
a tarp loaded onto the truck. Emmett’s bloated The accused man, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott.
GETTY IMAGES

body was found in the Tallahatchie River by Roy Bryant and JW Milam during Many years afterwards she said: “I thought of
their trial in September 1955.
a fisherman three days later. The all-white jury acquitted both
Emmett Till and I couldn’t go back.”
Mamie refused to bury her boy in the Delta defendants after deliberating Thousands of black men and boys had been
mud. She made sure that his body was sent back for just over an hour lynched on lesser pretexts, their killers never
64
Final rites
Mamie Till Bradley is
comforted as her son’s coffin
GETTY IMAGES

is lowered into its grave in
Alsip, Illinois, on 6 September
1955. The funeral followed
four days in which Emmett
Till’s body lay in state Æ
65
The murder of Emmett Till

American race relations
Ten key moments in the history of the
black experience in the United States Designs for flags used in
the Confederate States
of America 1861–65

1861 1861–65
The Confederate States The American Civil
of America is formed War is fought between
after slave-holding the United States and
states in the south the Confederate States
declare secession of America. By its end,
from the United States at least 750,000
over disagreements people have been
about the expansion killed and the
of slavery Escaped slaves, pictured in 1861. The secession of southern Confederacy collapses
states, in part due to disputes over slavery, sparked civil war

1941 1896 Late 19th century
The US joins the Second In a landmark case, So-called ‘Jim Crow’
World War following the US supreme court laws are enacted locally,
the bombing of upholds the constitu- enforcing racial
Pearl Harbor. The tionality of racial segregation in public
nation’s military segregation of public facilities in the South
remains segregated facilities as long as they and reversing the
throughout the conflict are ‘equal in quality’ gains made by African-
Americans after the war
A sign for the ‘colored’ waiting
room at Memphis bus station, 1943

1948 1954
Executive Order 9981 is State school segregation
passed, proscribing is ruled unconstitutional.
racial discrimination in This landmark victory
the US armed forces. It for the civil rights
marks the first step in the movement is met with
eventual desegregation resistance, and further
of the military legislation is required
An African-American army for it to be fully enacted
corporal, c1953. The last all- Black students arrive at a Tennessee school in
black unit was disbanded in 1954 1956, shortly after desegregation was ordered

1964 1963 1955
The Civil Rights Act is passed, Martin Luther King begins Emmett Till is murdered.
prohibiting discrimination in a campaign against racial Activist Rosa Parks
GETTY IMAGES/ALAMY

employment based on “race, segregation in Birming- hears a speech about his
color, religion, sex, or ham, Alabama. Later that death; on 1 December, she
national origin”. Further year, the Ku Klux Klan refuses to give up her bus
legislation a year later bombs the city’s 16th seat to a white passenger
revokes other ‘Jim Crow’ Street Baptist Church, Protesters march in the wake in Montgomery, Alabama,
killing four children of the 1963 Alabama bombing
laws restricting voting rights sparking a bus boycott
that killed four black children
66
arrested, let alone brought to trial. But it was Emmett Till’s
murder that galvanised the burgeoning civil rights movement
and broke through white America’s silence about racist killings.
Mamie’s courage in displaying her son’s body was essential to
its impact; so, too, was the historical and political context of
the time at which it happened.

T
White defiance
ill’s lynching united in grief, solidarity and anger Members of the White
the black communities of Mississippi and Chi- Citizens’ Council of Greater
New Orleans at a meeting
cago, which had been separated but not severed in 1960. Such groups used
by the ‘great migration’ that began around 1915 intimidation and violence
and, over the next five decades, saw six million to oppose racial integration
African-Americans move from the rural south of the US to
the cities of the north-east, west and midwest. In some ways, it A few months before Till’s kidnapping, on 7 May 1955,
began to crystallise a national black consciousness. The hugely minister and voting rights activist George Lee was shot dead in
popular TV show I Love Lucy was interrupted to announce the Belzoni, Mississippi. Police claimed he had died in a traffic
discovery of Till’s body; the trial was international news, with accident, and that the shot found in his mouth was loosened
TV cameramen crowding the square outside Sumner’s court- dental fillings. Reverend Lee was given an open-casket funeral;
house. White liberal reporters from the north saw Southern his photographs, in life and in death, appeared on the cover of
racism up close for the first time; black Chicago’s confident Jet. But the far more shocking images of the cheeky Chicago
publications, especially Jet magazine, understood and framed boy who’d gone South to visit family and been slaughtered for
the story in the context of the civil rights movement gathering nothing more than teenage high spirits, mourned by a young
strength in the South, and the white backlash against it. mother who was also light-skinned enough to please the
The year before Emmett was killed, a unanimous decision warped ‘colorist’ prejudices of the time, gave the NAACP
by the Supreme Court in the case of Brown vs Board of a much better vehicle for its anti-lynching campaign. As Till
Education had declared unconstitutional the state laws scholar and film-maker Keith Beauchamp puts it, Till’s murder
establishing separate schools for black and white students. was “the perfect storm”. It was through that coincidence of
It was a landmark ruling that opened the first real crack in history, politics and brave personalities that Emmett Till
the legal structures of white supremacy, and set the Federal became the protomartyr of the civil rights movement, and his
government on a collision course with Southern racism. mother its grief-stricken but determined Madonna, a model for
That victory had given a new impetus to the black freedom countless others deprived of their sons and daughters.
movement, but also to white supremacists, who joined White

E
Citizens’ Councils (a sanitised retooling of the Ku Klux Klan) mmett Till’s story lives on in literature, music,
in droves to protect their ‘way of life’. The thought of their art and film, in commemorations and museums,
daughters sharing classrooms with black teenage boys was in activism and the unfinished search for justice.
anathema to those people. Racist fantasies about black Those streams converge and cross like the rivers
sexuality and horror at the notion of ‘miscegenation’, or ‘racial of the Mississippi Delta, so that it’s hard to say
mixing’, were driving forces behind Emmett’s murder, where one ends and another begins; the waters began to flow
as they were behind so many previous lynchings. at once, and still flow on today. Despite confessions by Milam
Between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,000 African- and Bryant soon after the trial, no one has ever been convicted
Americans were lynched in Southern states – that is, whipped, of Till’s murder. The FBI reopened the case in 2004 after
castrated, tortured, burned alive or strung from the trees Keith Beauchamp, working closely with Emmett’s mother,
by white mobs – a form of terrorism meant to enforce the discovered new evidence. No one was indicted then but,
subjugation of the entire community. Nearly 200 anti- since Carolyn Bryant confessed that she lied at the trial in
lynching bills were introduced to Congress between 1882 and an interview with historian Timothy Tyson for his 2017 book
1962, but this seemingly obvious measure was blocked every The Blood of Emmett Till, there’s been pressure to reopen the
time by Southern Democrats. (In 2005, the Senate finally case again.
issued a formal apology for its failure to act.) The NAACP had The first blues for Emmett Till was written by Harlem
made the passage of anti-lynching legislation a primary goal Renaissance poet Langston Hughes almost immediately;
GETTY IMAGES

since 1912; now, with the victory of Brown vs Board and the during the first weeks after Emmett’s murder, the leftwing
backlash against it, America’s oldest grassroots civil rights Daily Worker and Chicago Defender carried an outpouring of
organisation was determined to redouble its efforts. elegies. In 1960, the great Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks Æ
67
The murder of Emmett Till

Freedom of movement
Members of the Freedom
Riders pictured in New York
City, 1961. This organisation
travelled in multi-ethnic
groups to protest against
laws enforcing the racial
segregation of public
transport in the US South

Empty places
The creeper-shrouded
store in the Mississippi
town of Money, 60 years
after the encounter
there that led to
Emmett Till’s death

Class unity
Pupils in Washington
DC shortly after the
1954 legal decision to
integrate US schools.
The move “opened
the first real crack in
the legal structures
of white supremacy”

68
Today, as the Black
Lives Matter movement
takes Till as an ancestor,
rappers pepper songs
with his name

published a pair of poems that put Carolyn Bryant and Mamie
Till Bradley at the heart of the story. The first is a free-verse
exploration of Carolyn’s imagined thoughts, incisively honest
and bravely empathic: Brooks’ Carolyn is both complicit and
a victim of the men around her. The second gives us Mamie’s
Modern tensions unspeakable grief from a respectful distance, in the restrained
Crowds gather in the third person. Together, the poems map the two women’s roles
California city of Santa in the system that both holds them and keeps them separate,
Barbara in August 2013 putting gendered power at the core of white supremacy.
for a rally and march for
In the early 1960s, when young Freedom Riders (northern
Trayvon Martin, a black
teenager shot dead in civil rights activists, both white and black) went south to
Florida the year before support black activists who were putting their lives on the line,
Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris all sang about
Emmett Till. James Baldwin wrote a play, Blues for Mister
Charlie, based on the murder and the trial. Memoirs by Anne
Moody, Muhammad Ali, Miles Davis and John Edgar Wide-
man all mark Till’s death as a moment of awakening. Today,
as the Black Lives Matter movement takes Till as an ancestor,
rappers pepper songs with his name. As many as three films on
the subject are currently in development, including one co-pro-
duced by actor and presenter Whoopi Goldberg. A new wave of
writers are mining the connections, such as the playwright Ifa
Bayeza, whose Ballad of Emmett Till was revived in Washing-
ton this June, and Chicago-born poets Nate Marshall, Eve
Ewing and Patricia Smith, whose fiery collection Incendiary
Art weaves sonnets about Till with poems about more recent
killings of young black men. The controversy over a painting
of Till by (white) artist Dana Schutz in last year’s Whitney
Biennial made it painfully clear that the past is still present.

A
nd yet it took 50 years for Till’s death to
be commemorated in Mississippi. This summer
I drove the Emmett Till Memorial Highway
through the Delta, under a sky heaped with tall
clouds that burst one afternoon in sluicing,
An artistic legacy thunderous rain. The wide, flat fields are empty, straddled by
US singer Emmylou long sprinklers like giant insects, haunted by the thousands of
Harris pictured in the souls who worked and suffered there or tried to run away, with
1960s. She is one of no place to hide but muddy ditches and thin bands of trees.
many artists, musicians
and authors to refer to
The towns, too, are half empty. Absentee agribusiness firms
Emmett Till’s life and now run the big plantations; the Delta ekes out a living from
death in their work casinos, prisons, and tourism based on its rich blues heritage. Æ
69
The murder of Emmett Till

Symbol of resistance
A demonstrator in Ferguson,
Missouri wearing a shirt
depicting Emmett Till, August
2014. Some of the protests
that followed the shooting
of black teenager Michael
Brown here turned violent

the general store is empty except for a cooler and bags of chips.
Till’s story echoes every Men without work sit outside in the middle of the afternoon.
Meanwhile, in the spectacular new National Museum
time that the killing of African-American History and Culture in Washington,
DC, Till’s real restored casket, white and lined with silk,
of an African-American lies in state in a room that is more shrine than museum
display. Photographs cover the walls; gospel legend Mahalia
person by a white man Jackson sings over the loudspeakers. Visitors file out in tears,
sometimes too overwhelmed to speak. “Your heart just drops,”
goes unpunished one woman said. “So much sacrifice, so much blood, and it’s
not over yet.”
In a way, Till’s funeral never ended. His story echoes every
time the killing of an African-American person by a white man
Till is making his own small contribution to local regenera- goes unpunished – especially
tion. The restored Sumner courthouse where his murderers when the victim is young, as
were acquitted is now a centre for projects aimed at truth and Trayvon Martin was when he Maria Margaronis is a writer
reconciliation. Sites related to his kidnapping and death form was shot by a neighbourhood and broadcaster. She is London
part of a national Civil Rights Trail. A small museum in the watch volunteer in 2012 at the correspondent for The Nation,
hamlet of Glendora, former home of JW Milam, includes an age of 17, or when the body is the oldest political weekly
effigy of Till in his coffin, the head made from clay and the left in public view like that of a magazine in the United States
body stuffed with straw by the local undertaker. lynching victim, as 18-year-old
DISCOVER MORE
But while black America remembers, much of white Michael Brown’s was in Missouri
Archive on Four:
America still wants to forget. The sign by the Tallahatchie in 2014. The wound is raw, The Ballads of
River where Till’s body was found was shot full of holes two and regularly reopened. As Till’s Emmett Till,
years ago; the one by Bryant’s store has twice been vandalised. mother used to say, “You must presented by Maria Margaronis,
The store has almost vanished, pulled down by a tangle of continuously tell Emmett’s story is scheduled to be broadcast
GETTY IMAGES

on BBC Radio 4 in August.
creepers. Nothing remains of Milam’s house but its concrete until man’s consciousness is After that transmission it
foundation. Glendora itself has also been forgotten. Rickety risen. Only then will there be will be available online at
houses straggle along a dirt road by an unfenced railway line; justice for Emmett Till.” bbc.co.uk/radio4

70
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71
Culture
Books, exhibitions, films and more

“I’m arguing that we need
to bring back a spirit of
critical thought to Islam”
Ed Husain’s new book, The House of Islam, explores the history behind
the challenges faced by Muslims around the world in the 21st century.
He met historian and broadcaster Tom Hollandto discuss his thoughts

72 PORTRAITS BY FRAN MONKS
The
Conver-
sation

Æ

73
CULTURE The Conversation

“Muslims were the global
superpower, and they were
suddenly reduced to losing
imperial territory” ED HUSAIN

Tom Holland: Rather than begin at the beginning of your and chemistry sets, and the Islamic world had to wake up
fascinating new book, I want to start at the end, with its final to what was going on in Europe. To what extent do you
paragraph: “The House of Islam is on fire”. That’s a very think the need to integrate western ideas and technology
dramatic image. Why is the House of Islam on fire? helped or hindered the formation of the kind of Islam
that you favour?
Ed Husain: The main reason – to continue the metaphor –
is because there are ‘arsonists’ within the house, who have The battle of ideas is key. The Ottomans tried to emulate
the shelter and protection of parts of the global Muslim everything western, from military attire to the latest guns,
community. They are adherents to a form of thinking but they couldn’t understand what was driving that innova-
expressed in bodies such as the government of Iran and tion, nor the wider European thought process. And behind
extreme Islamist organisations such as the Muslim Brother- that thought process were two or three big ideas that are still
hood, Hamas and Hezbollah. An entire category of people has with us, and which still haven’t had the necessary impact on
reduced Islam to a political, confrontational ideology. the Muslim world today.
The first is the pursuit of complete individualism.
Why do you think they are doing it? What is feeding Napoleon’s invasion wasn’t the first time the Muslim
these flames? world encountered the west: they’d had a sustained two-way
conversation with the crusaders, for instance, for at least
In the book, I explain the 120-year humiliation that most 200 years. But the crusaders weren’t able to leave behind
Muslims experienced stretching from Napoleon’s invasion of a legacy that troubled the Muslim world because they did
Egypt in 1798 through to the First World War. That period not bring a world view that stood in complete contradistinc-
was very painful for Muslims, because it didn’t reflect their tion to the way in which the Muslims lived.
history, and it didn’t chime with who they felt they were
supposed to be: a warrior people with an upper A 14th-century illustration shows Because they were Christians...
hand globally. For 1,000 years Muslims were a Mongol prince studying the
the global superpower, and they were suddenly Qur’an. Muslims believe this Yes. The crusaders, too, had a holy book, their
central religious text of Islam was
reduced to losing imperial territory and the revealed to the Prophet Muhammed
fight was over a holy land, and both Muslims
technological race. That loss of empire and the and Christians broadly agreed on the place of
Ottoman decline led to the formation of the man in the spiritual universe. Napoleon and
Muslim Brotherhood and a whole range of the French Revolution had a very different idea
extreme and sometimes violent organisations. of man’s place, and of individualism, which remains
a shock to the Muslim mind to this day.
I absolutely agree with you that Napoleon’s invasion Another key idea was the pursuit of rational
of Egypt was a key event, even if symbolically, thought – wherever that thought process led –
because up until that point Islamic civilisation independent of religion or tradition. That, too,
had been a world unto itself. It hadn’t really had was hard to absorb, because in most Muslim
any need to take much interest in, say, what the communities ideas such as tradition and family
BRIDGEMAN

Franks in the barbaric reaches of western were much more important than they were for,
Europe were up to. And then suddenly say, Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques
Napoleon crashed in with his hot-air balloons Rousseau or Voltaire.

74
Napoleon leads his
army at the battle of
the pyramids
(21 July 1798) in
a 19th-century
painting. French
post-revolutionary
ideas of individualism
and rational thought
were a shock to
Muslims who first
encountered them
when Napoleon
invaded Egypt

The third key idea for the French revolutionaries, and for Christians had to face when, for instance, Notre-Dame de
those who aspired to be more like France and Europe, was Paris was converted from a Catholic cathedral into a Temple
that history was a burden that had to be forcefully removed. of Reason during the French Revolution, before Muslims
Yet for most Muslims, history was sacred and ought to be had to put up with Napoleon turning up in Cairo.
revived. Indeed, unlike followers of the French Revolution And so, as a result, there is a sense in which if you are
or the Enlightenment, who believed the best days were yet to a believer – whether a Muslim, a Christian or a Hindu –
come, many Muslims saw their best days as being in the past. faced with the manifold challenges that modernity repre-
All of this, sadly, meant that many Muslims started to sents to traditional paradigms of faith, you have, to be
define themselves against the west. If the west was going to be very reductive, two choices. One is to go with the grain
individualistic, they were going to be collectivist. If the west of modernity, which is what you, Ed, are doing, and what
was going to be logical, they were going to become excessively liberals in Christian churches and Reform Judaism and so
emotional and angry. If the west was going to disregard history, on do. The other is to take the fundamentalist option.
Muslims would reimagine a perfect form of history. Essentially, the problem for Muslims – as for everyone else
What was lost was an understanding that, even within – is that although you may have a sense of what your faith
Muslim tradition, there is a strong precedent for empiricist was in the past, when it wasn’t challenged by modernity, we
thought, for being critical of history, and of looking to the can’t ever get back to it. Whether we’re fundamentalist or
future and not necessarily imagining a perfect past. Take, liberal believers, in other words, the past is still gone.
for example, the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the
Ottoman empire in 1858: the Ottomans, supported by But the past also lives on. It lives on in my recital of the Qur’an,
prominent Muslim thought-leaders, were at least a century for instance, and in my upholding of the teachings of the great
ahead of the west. Homosexual acts were was seen as a matter philosophers, prophets and poets of the past.
between individuals and God, not something the state should
be involved in. That was revolutionary – but, rather than build Yes, I was very struck by your book’s beautiful articulation
on that thought process, what followed was a conscious of your love of poetry and of the great poets of Persia and
rejection of everything the west stood for. Al-Andalus. It seems to me that it’s a hymn of love to
BRIDGEMAN

a great civilisation, not just to what we’d now call a religion.
The struggle to cope with being religious in the modern It’s about this extraordinary civilisation that simply didn’t
world is, of course, not exclusive to Islam. It’s a challenge that have to cope with anything that lay outside it. In a sense, Æ

75
CULTURE The Conversation

Muslim scholars in the
library at Basra, depicted
in a 13th-century painting.
Islamic thinkers have long
welcomed ideas from outside
traditions, says Ed Husain:
“I don’t think most Muslim
scholars ever thought that
every answer to every
question was in the Qur’an”

Ed Husain and Tom Holland
in London. “[Islamic
scripture] is probably more
living and meaningful
history to a believer than
the past is to someone
who approaches it simply
as stones, pottery and
manuscripts,” says Husain

76
“You begin with Muhammed’s
life and the revelation to him
of the Qur’an – but that isn’t
really history, is it?” TOM HOLLAND

isn’t it a bit like me wistfully citing [17th-century English to us. I think that’s also valid and is also important. I’m not
poets] John Milton or John Donne in memoriam of a saying that there weren’t excesses in some of the layering of his-
vanished Christian faith? Aren’t you mourning a civilisation, tory, and that’s where I think that the academic rigour is useful
rather than a religion? to us, but at the same time it is history. It’s probably more living
and meaningful history to a believer than the past is to some-
Well, firstly, hats off to you for encapsulating the essence one who approaches it simply as pottery and manuscripts.
of the book. You’re absolutely right: it is a hymn of love.
But I don’t think I am mourning Islam as a civilisation; if You have a really intriguing line about the Hadith – the
anything, I’m genuinely resuscitating its spirit. This religion sayings of Muhammad that provide the fabric of traditional
doesn’t have to take the form of the Alhambra, of the Blue Islamic understandings of God. You write that “very little
Mosque or of the Taj Mahal, because those are all external thought is given to the fact that the Hadiths were written
manifestations. Inner comfort, serenity, beauty and meaning so long after the Prophet’s passing” – which, of course, is
in the modern world must take different manifestations – something that I’d absolutely agree with, although my take
the big question is what those are today. would be is that they’re most unlikely to have come from
We haven’t found answers yet. What does being modern the mouth of the Prophet himself. To be rude, it seems to me
and Muslim mean today? Where are the great artistic that you’re saying that any Hadith with which you personally
achievements of the modern Muslim world? To my eyes, disagree is unreliable and not to be trusted. Is that unfair?
there’s too much mimicking going on and not enough native
expression of beauty in Jakarta or Dubai, Delhi or Lahore – It is somewhat unfair! I’ve struggled with Hadith over the
nor, indeed, in the west. And that’s what worries me: that years, because the Qur’an describes a prophet as a mercy unto
we’re losing the spirit that inspires that beauty. mankind or to the universe – and then you come across claims
of Hadith in which the Prophet was allegedly violent. Early
You begin your book with the life of Muhammed and the Muslims had deep reservations about Hadith, too, and there
revelation to him of the Qur’an. You know what I’m going was a famous incident in which a caliph forbade many of the
to say: this book is subtitled ‘A Global History’, but this isn’t companions of the Prophet from even attempting to write
really history, is it? You are giving the received account of the down Hadith. My issue is that, among Muslims today, we’ve
traditional Muslim understanding of Muhammed’s life… lost a critical approach to Hadith literature. It was written at
least 120 years after the Prophet, after all.
And you’re Tom Holland, famous for refuting it! You’re more
than welcome to refute it, too – indeed, you should, and you But my understanding is that, while scholars in Islam’s
should bring the rigour of the modern historical methodology early centuries appreciated that there was the risk of fakes
to it. But while I respect that historical criticism, academic and fabrications, there was also a science for evaluating
history is a relatively modern innovation…
BRIDGEMAN/FRAN MONKS

authenticity and authoritative collections that were, essen-
tially, to be relied upon. So doesn’t taking the approach of
But isn’t it part of why modernity is so threatening to belief? saying that any Hadith you dislike are unreliable risk tug-
ging on a thread that might pull the entire tapestry apart?
I think that history is just as much received wisdom, though.
History is what Muhammed and his companions said he said, I’m not saying for a moment that if one doesn’t like a particular
as well as how that’s been passed down through the generations Hadith then it’s not reliable. I’m arguing that we need to bring Æ

77
CULTURE The Conversation

“Whether it’s gender equality or
gay marriage, these are ‘tier two’
issues – the existence of God is
what matters most” ED HUSAIN

back a spirit of critical thought, the spirit of a Prophet who is really only in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries that
kind, logical and thoughtful. So I think that Hadith have to be people started arguing that the whole institution should be
in keeping with the spirit of the Qur’an. abolished. I suppose that, as a result, an Isis ideologue would
argue that the notion of slavery as an evil institution is
So do you think that you can apply that same critical spirit a western idea that has infected Islam, and that nobody in
to the Qur’an, or is everything in it true? the faith’s classical period had such an idea.

For me, as a Muslim, everything in the Qur’an is true. You’re right – that’s exactly what they’d say. That’s why groups
But it’s important to say that the biggest reservations and such as Isis are so dangerous: because they are literalists who
areas of contention between Islam and modernity aren’t in want to go back to an imagined ‘year zero’. That’s why most
the Qur’an at all. Most of them, whether they concern suicide Muslims, and indeed most other people, disagree with them.
bombings or apostasy [the abandonment
of religious belief], are in the claims of The implication of this is, actually, rather
Hadith literature. hopeful. If the vast majority of Muslims
accept that the institution of slavery
Yet there are also verses within the is evil, yet also acknowledge that’s an
Qur’an which have been used to justify idea derived from European tradition,
war, violence and, indeed, slavery – a fact then there is scope for a kind of Islam
that groups such as Isis have notoriously that welcomes ideas and thoughts from
pointed to in support of the idea it should outside traditions.
be reintroduced.
It’s revealing to me that you think that’s
But the vast majority of the world’s a big moment, because Islam has always
Muslims have rejected that. There’s “You can find plenty been exactly that. It has absorbed from
a well-established principle, born in of evidence and other cultures, including Byzantine, the…
the very early days of Islam and carried thought in early
throughout history, of a consensus of …but my understanding is that Muslims
the mainstream. What’s interesting is that Islam to support have classically understood Islam as the
the early Muslim scholars always looked the development of final, perfect revelation, as humanity’s
to what the Prophet tried to do, and to his a fully modernised, last chance, and that it is therefore in
attitudes to injustice such as slavery. secularised state a sense complete.

But, as in Christianity, with very few
today without It’s ‘complete’ in the sense that there’s
exceptions there doesn’t seem to have compromising an a verse in the Qur’an in which God says
been the mental leap to criticise the individual’s piety” “today I have completed your faith”, but
institution of slavery. It was treated in Hear more of Husain and Holland’s
I don’t think that most Muslim scholars
a similar way to forces such as hunger discussion on our biweekly podcast ever thought that every answer to every
or disease: it was seen as an ill, but question was in the Qur’an. If that were
just something that was there. It was historyextra.com/podcasts indeed the case, we would not have

78
A 15th-century decorated
book of Islamic law,
traditions and obligations.
Islamic societies developed
diverse schools of thought
on jurisprudence and
practice, says Ed Husain

developed such diverse schools of thought on jurisprudence two’ issues as opposed to the ‘tier one’ issue – the existence
and practice. of God. That’s what matters.
What you have in the Qur’an are broad base principles. If the thrust of modernity were to force me to say that there
One of the greatest beauties of Islamic history and its legacy was no divine existence, no way to communicate with God,
is a continued focus, from the 10th and 11th centuries onward, and no divine accountability for my actions, that would be
on the same overarching objectives: preservation of life, family, a problem. For Muslims, what matters are the wonders of God,
religious worship, intellect and private property. Those are the communication through the Prophet Muhammed, and the
five fundamentals we all have to preserve. Everything else is idea of an afterlife. Everything else is detail, which has always
open to debate and discussion. been contested. The problem with modernity is that the ‘tier
By that measure, what we’re seeing is that living in the west two’ issues are seen as primary.
is fully in keeping with what it means to be a Muslim. Nobody
in the west is persecuted for being a Muslim, unlike in China, A slightly more depressing take on the prospects for Islam,
where you cannot observe religious freedom. and for faith generally, is that there are people who feel
that liberal manifestations of those faiths are slightly pallid.
Is the fact that you and other believers can look back to the You see that in the Islamists but also in new, militant strands
example of the Prophet’s life, and the revelations given to of Hinduism, for instance, as well as in the Orthodox Chris-
him from God, a help in negotiating modernity – or is it tianity of Putin’s Russia. Is there perhaps a sense that, rather
a hindrance? Essentially, do you not than what we might call the ‘Thought
have to continually adjust your inher- for the Day’ approach to religion in
itance of scripture and tradition to your ABOUT THE AUTHORS which an imam or a priest says totally
gut instincts as a liberal living in the inoffensive things on the radio, there’s
21st century, and to issues such as now a global phenomenon of people
slavery or gay marriage? wanting a bit more ‘red meat’?
I’m not saying that this is exclusive
to Islam, by the way – it could apply Ed Husain I think here we can apply a political
just as much to any religion. Believers is the author of The House maxim often cited in the United States:
gain immense sustenance from their of Islam: A Global History ‘if you’re in your 20s and not a socialist
faith, but at the same time there is a (Bloomsbury, 2018) and you have no heart, and if you’re in your
sense it prompts them to recalibrate The Islamist (Penguin, 2007) 40s and not a conservative you have
elements within that tradition that are no brain’. I think there’s some of that
problematic to the way in which they at play for the younger rebels: a desire
see the 21st-century liberal order. Tom Holland to change the world.
is a historian, broadcaster But as long as those on the more
Inherent in your question is an emphasis and author of books modernised, thoughtful and pluralist
on what I call ‘tier two’ issues as including In the Shadow arm of civilisation continue to assert
being completely primary and of vital of The Sword: The Battle our values, continue to refuse to say
BRIDGEMAN

importance to a believer. Whether it’s for Global Empire and the that the Islamists and extremists are
homosexuality, gay marriage, gender End of the Ancient World somehow right, and continue to not
equality or apostasy, these are all ‘tier (Little, Brown, 2012) give up, I remain optimistic.

79
CULTURE Agenda

Agenda
EXHIBITIONS, TV,
FILMS AND
MORE

80
GOLDEN GIFTS
There’s colour and gold galore inkstand is one of the collection’s
in a new exhibition of artefacts highlights. Crafted from gold,
presented to the Prince of Wales enamel and a multitude of precious
– later Edward VII – as he toured stones, its prow adorned with a
the Indian subcontinent in 1875 peacock, it was given to the prince
and 1876. Aiming to bolster ties by the maharaja of the sacred city
between the British crown and local of Benares (now Varanasi).
leaders in anticipation of Victoria
Splendours of the Subcontinent:
being named Empress of India, the A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-6
prince’s itinerary traversed areas of until 14 October at The Queen’s Gallery,
what are now Nepal, India and Buckingham Palace
Pakistan. This lavish barge-shaped royalcollection.org.uk/whatson
ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST-© HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2018

Æ

81
CULTURE
E Agenda

An early 20th-century
necklace, in a style
worn in Oman, east
Africa and south Asia,
features in the new
exhibition

CHRIS BROWN-KRANNERT ART MUSEUM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS /THESECRETSTUDIO.NET/©THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD
PAST MASTERS
Leading global historians, many of
them contributors to this magazine,
will be sharing their expertise at
two BBC History Magazine History
Weekends in October. Speakers at the
events in Winchester and York include
Michael Wood on the Trojan War,
OCEAN CURRENTS
Sarah Churchwell on the evolution Africa’s Swahili coast, spanning parts to photographs and books – with origins
of America First, and former British of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and in cultures from Asia, Africa, the Middle
Museum director Neil MacGregor nearby Indian Ocean islands, is rich East and Europe. It’s also a story that
on the role of gods in diverse human in natural resources that have long reveals wider influences such as migra-
cultures. If you’re going to be in the attracted diverse cultures to the region’s tion and the blending of cultures.
UK this autumn, this is a great chance shores and ports such as Mombasa, The exhibition moves to the Fowler
to hear the latest thinking first-hand Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. Museum at the University of California
– and to explore two historic British A new travelling exhibition, calling in Los Angeles from 21 October 2018
cities at the same time. at the National Museum of African to 10 February 2019. And as an enticing
History Weekends, Art in Washington DC this summer, taster, historian Gus Casely-Hayford
5–7 October (Winchester), 19–21 October (York) celebrates the dynamic artistic traditions highlights one of the artefacts from the
historyweekend.com
that emerged along the Swahili coast, the exhibition in our Museum of the World
name of which derives from the Arabic feature on page 98 of this issue.
word for ‘edge’ or ‘coast’. Reflecting the
World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across
cosmopolitan heritage of the region, the Indian Ocean, until 3 September at the
the collection features more than 150 National Museum of African Art, Washington DC
artefacts – from jewellery and clothing https://africa.si.edu

The Windrush as pictured on
a postcard sold on board the ship MEMORIES OF MIGRATION
during its 1948 voyage to Britain
Seventy years ago, the Empire Windrush arrived in the UK,
carrying migrants invited from the Caribbean – a milestone
moment that hit recent headlines when some of those passengers’
descendants were threatened with deportation. A new British
Library exhibition explores the human story behind the politics
– why these voyagers made the trip, what they left behind, and
the ways in which their migration forever changed life in Britain.
Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land, until 21 October at the British Library, London
bl.uk/events/windrush-songs-in-a-strange-land

82
A young boy milks a cow in the US state of
Massachusetts in 1913, and (above) a 1941
poster extolling the virtues of drinking milk

DAIRY TALES
A new book from American writer in part because it spoiled so quickly; Milk consumption became fashionable
Mark Kurlansky explores the history of instead they used it to make cheese and from the 18th century, partly because of
milk, from its significance in the ancient yogurt. In ancient Rome, for instance, the popularisation of ice cream but also
world to current debates about genetic it was mostly farmers who drank milk, because women began to turn against
modification and animal rights. Here, which is why the Romans were so con- breastfeeding and nursemaids, and
Mark skims through the ways in which temptuous when they went to northern towards ‘artificial feeding’ – giving chil-
the liquid has shaped our past. Europe and saw so many people drinking dren milk from animals. It was also part-
it. They thought that Europeans were ly because of a change in fashion among
Many cultures have creation myths backwards, barbaric people because they the wealthy: women’s clothes were not
about milk. It’s how the Milky Way acted like a bunch of farmers! what we could call ‘breast-friendly’!
got its name, for instance: the stars
were thought to resemble spilled milk. Observing Tibetan dairy farming The transition from breastfeeding
Hindu mythology, as well as a number today is like looking back into medieval babies to using animal milk proved
of African cultures, also features times. I studied the history of medieval fairly disastrous. Animal milk can kill
milk-based creation stories. It’s not too dairies in Europe, then watched if it’s not clean, and at that time nothing
surprising, because milk gives life – it’s Tibetans milking their yaks – and they was known about hygiene or germs.
what newborn babies need, after all. were doing exactly the same things. Pasteurisation, developed in the 1860s,
They don’t have milking parlours, for was a big step in reducing fatalities,
It’s not known which animal was instance, so just milk out in the fields. particularly from tuberculosis. Interest-
first milked for human consumption, ingly, it wasn’t originally associated with
though because the practice seems to Only about 40% of humans worldwide milk; Pasteur developed it for use with
have started in the Middle East it was today are not lactose intolerant – in wine – much more French! In the process
probably either a goat or a camel. Cows other words, more people are than of his work he discovered microorgan-
came to be favoured because they’re the aren’t. A large proportion of people in isms that cause disease, and that they can
most efficient: you have to feed a cow Africa are lactose intolerant, for instance be eliminated with heat. Though that
a lot, but you get a lot of milk in return – apart from groups such as the Maasai, had obvious implications for milk,
– far more than from a sheep or a goat. who are cattle herders. It testifies to the it wasn’t developed for the reasons we
dominance of white European culture often think – and it was the British and
The first people to milk animals that, because most Europeans are able to Americans who applied the process to
BRIDGEMAN

probably lived in hot regions including drink milk, it’s come to be accepted as milk from the late 19th century.
the Mediterranean and the Middle East. the norm – even though so much of the Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas is out in
They didn’t drink milk much, however, world is lactose intolerant. August, published by Bloomsbury

WORDS MATT ELTON 83
Journeys
Stories and sights from global history

In the footsteps of…
a 19th-century
expedition across
Australia’s wild heart
In 1860, a band of intrepid explorers set out from
Melbourne on a mission to cross Australia from south
to north, traversing lands known only to Indigenous
peoples. Peter FitzSimons follows the travails of the
ill-fated expedition led by Robert O’Hara Burke
GETTY IMAGES

84
The raw red earth, scrub and ridges
of the Selwyn Range in western
Queensland stood between Burke
and Wills’ expedition and their goal:
the north coast of Australia
GETTY

Æ

85
JOURNEYS In the footsteps of a 19th-century expedition across Australia

The Victorian
Exploring Expedition:
Key characters
ust over a century and a population, and vital with the ebb and

J half ago, two-thirds of Aus-
tralia remained a mystery
to its European inhabitants.
flow of a periodical tide of travellers.”
Things did not, though, move quick-
ly. It wasn’t till June 1860 that funds
Robert O’Hara Burke
Born in County Galway in 1821, Burke
served in the Austrian army then as a
Though by the 1850s Australia had been were raised for the Victorian Exploring police superintendent in rural Victoria.
colonised for a good six decades, Euro- Expedition and a leader appointed: His appointment to lead the expedition
pean settlement was mostly clinging to a charismatic Irish police inspector, was controversial: many doubted his
the edges of the continent like cats on a Robert O’Hara Burke. Charming and character and experience.
curtain. The interior was almost entirely well-connected, Burke was also known
unexplored by the colonists. for gambling, drinking and a quick George James Landells
Born in Barbados in 1825, Landells moved
What lay in the heart? Was there an temper – though not for bushcraft. It
to India around 1842 and began importing
inland sea? Perhaps rich grazing lands, was said that he was not able to tell the horses and then camels to Australia.
where the first to arrive could grow rich difference between north and south, and Originally Burke’s second-in-command,
off the fat of the land, as they had done one colleague later recalled that: “Burke the men soon fell out and Landells left the
in Victoria from the 1830s? Or maybe was the worst bushman I ever met, and I expedition on 16 October 1860.
they would find another Ballarat, with have known him to lose himself even on
alluvial gold lying around to the point a blazed track.” Still, he would be joined William John Wills
Born in Devon in 1834, Wills worked at his
that “a poor man can go down a hole, by other, perhaps more capable men: the
father’s medical practice in the Ballarat
and come out a rich man”? initial party of 19 included a medical goldfields in the 1850s. The expedition’s
Among those asking these questions officer, a surveyor, a naturalist, an surveyor and astronomer, he became
in the late 1850s were members of the English camel importer and four camel second-in-command after Landells left.
recently established Philosophical handlers from the Indian subcontinent.
Society of Victoria (renamed the Royal John King
Society of Victoria in 1859). On 21 Weight of expectations An Irishman born in 1838, King served
October 1857 these men discussed a When they set off from Melbourne’s with the British army in India, where he
met Landells, later sailing to Australia
proposal to mount an expedition right Royal Park on 20 August 1860, before a
with the camels. Sole survivor of Burke’s
across the heart of the continent, from crowd of 15,000, the expedition’s wagons forward party, he never fully recovered,
Melbourne in the south all the way to were laden down with food to last dying of tuberculosis in 1872.
the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north and 18 months: 600lb (270kg) of salt pork,
back. If done properly, Melbourne’s 400lb (180kg) of bacon and 60lb (27kg) Charles Gray
Argus enthused on 1 September of potted mutton, plus a dining-room A Scotsman of unknown age, Gray sailed
1858: “A ghastly blank will no table and oak chairs, 150lb (70kg) to Australia and worked the Bendigo
goldfields. He met and was recruited by
longer stare us in the face when of sperm-whale-wax candles and
Burke at Swan Hill just a few weeks into
we bend our eyes upon the a Chinese gong to summon the the expedition; he caught dysentery, and
map of this continent, and men to their meals. Together died on 17 April 1861.
the track of the explorers the supplies weighed 20 tonnes,
winding over that white plain, hauled or carried by 24 camels, William Brahe
may become one of the 26 horses and six wagons, one Born in Germany, in 1835, Brahe arrived
highways of commerce, of which was amphibious in Victoria in 1852 and worked the
dotted with centres of (in case the fabled inland goldfields. Charged with manning the
depot camp on Cooper’s Creek, he left
sea was discovered).
the morning before Burke, Wills and King
Robert O’Hara Burke, So heavily returned. He survived the expedition,
(1821–61), expedition overladen were the dying in Melbourne in 1912.
leader, had been
wagons that one
known “to lose himself
even on a blazed track” broke down just Æ Ludwig Becker
Another German, Becker was 52 when
he joined the expedition as artist and
Burke was charming and well connected naturalist. A member of Wright’s relief
party that headed to Cooper’s Creek from
– though not a great bushman. It was said Menindee in January 1861, he painted a
ALAMY

number of new species before dying of
he was not able to tell north from south malnutrition and dysentery in April.

86
Burke and Wills turn back
before reaching open sea,
defeated by boggy ground
and dense mangroves

Rations run shor t and
the men
grow weaker. At Camp
42R
they kill a camel, Boocha, ,
dry its meat for food and

Burke, Wills, King and Charles
Gray head north for the coast,
instructing the remaining men
to wait three months for them
Four days after Gray dies,
Burke, Wills and King reach the
depot – hours after the depot party
left, leaving supplies buried under
a tree. They are too weak to follow

Burke’s advance party arrives
at Cooper’s Creek, roughly
Burke and Wills die separately on the
halfway between Melbourne
creek. King is rescued by Aboriginal
and the north coast at the
Yandruwandha people and found
Gulf of Carpentaria
by a relief party in September

Burke’s party arrives at
Menindee. Second-in-
command George Landells
resigns and is replaced by
William Wills. Burke heads
north with seven men
The expedition crosses the
Murray River at Swan Hill into
New South Wales, and starts the
slog through dense mallee scrub

The Victorian Exploring Expedition,
led by Robert O’Hara Burke, leaves
Melbourne with camels and carts
carrying 20 tonnes of supplies

Æ
ILLUSTRATION BY THERESA GRIEBEN 87
JOURNEYS In the footsteps of a 19th-century expedition across Australia

As the sun set, Burke
200 metres after departure. And that was and his companions thrashing” by Burke. The camel Boocha
just the start of the expedition’s travails. and Burke’s horse Billy, starved and
Burke slowly led his cavalcade north from arrived back at the exhausted by the long journey over
settled districts through muddy swamps,
taking three weeks to reach Swan Hill,
depot camp – to find rapidly changing terrain – from bog to
the orange rock ridges of the Selwyn
where he recruited new members only the remains of a Range, and back again, then that arid
including Scotsman Charles Gray. Stony Desert once more – were butch-
Tensions soon grew within the party,
fire, ashes still warm ered, their flesh dried for meat. Despite
not least because of Burke’s high-handed that extra protein, the men were fading
attitude and resistance to the methods of fast, and on 17 April 1861 Gray died, just
his second-in-command, the camel right to the boggy ground and mangrove a short distance from the depot camp.
importer George James Landells, who swamps lining the Gulf of Carpentaria On 21 April, four months and five
– along with medical officer Hermann on Australia’s north coast. days after Burke’s forward party had left
Beckler – resigned on 16 October at The conditions Burke and his men Cooper’s Creek, Brahe and his men –
Menindee on the Darling River, the last encountered were nothing if not varied: having used up almost all of their own
spot offering any chance of picking up arid deserts, swamps and mountain supplies – had to make the tough
significant supplies. Here Burke ranges, freezing nights and searing days. decision to break camp. Brahe buried
promoted expedition surveyor and Fifteen decades later, when I followed a small cache of supplies beneath a
astronomer William John Wills to their route, I was stunned by the terrible coolabah tree, and at 10am reluctantly
replace Landells, and split the men, beauty of the landscape, the shocking headed south towards the Darling River.
leading a forward party on a quick march barrenness of some stretches, the sheer The timing couldn’t have been more
to Cooper’s Creek while leaving most distance – and the heat! I was exhausted heartbreaking. As sun set that evening,
of the equipment to follow later with after an air-conditioned fortnight, and so after a long, hot, exhausting day, Burke
a newly appointed local, William was my 4WD, which suffered hundreds and his two human companions, along
Wright, who would await funding for of dollars’ worth of wear and tear. with two surviving camels, arrived at the
more supplies from Melbourne. depot camp. They found not friendly
Three months after setting out from So near, so far faces and food but the remains of a fire,
Victoria, on 20 November Burke’s party On 11 February 1861 – nearly six its ashes still warm. Dazed and uncom-
reached Cooper’s Creek, a green streak months and some 2,000 miles after their prehending, Burke wandered around in
straddling the border of New South triumphal departure from Melbourne – a state of “bewildered astonishment”. In
Wales and Queensland. There, Burke Burke and Wills, having left Gray and contrast, the effect of the situation was
took stock. The only way to proceed, he King at the edges of the mangroves, were “to excite a feeling of merriment in the
decided, was to leave five men and most forced to admit defeat. Though they mind of Mr Wills”, King later recounted.
of their supplies here by a coolabah tree, knew the sea was almost within sight The situation was dire. Their only
with a depot party under the command – they could see the water in the muddy remaining supplies were “a pound and
of a young German, William Brahe. flats rising and falling with the tides – a-half of dried meat” – the last of poor
Meanwhile, Burke and three others – the two men could not find a route to Billy the horse. With relief they spotted
Wills, Gray and a young Irishman, John the coast itself, nor the energy to keep the word Brahe had carved into the bark
King – along with six camels and his searching for one. of a nearby coolabah tree: “DIG”. Doing
beloved horse, Billy, would race for the Shattered, they turned back, picking so, they discovered the cache – not much,
Gulf of Carpentaria. Burke, always up King and Gray en route. They had but enough to keep them alive for a few
bullish, told Brahe to wait three months used two-thirds of their supplies on the weeks. For some days they rested at the
at the depot for their return; Wills took trek north, and on the return leg, with camp, too weak to try to catch up with
Brahe aside and quietly instructed him little food and having endured the Brahe’s party, and discussed their next
to stay for at least four months. harshest of conditions, things fell apart. steps: should they retrace their steps to
On 16 December, the four men By now on starvation rations, the men Menindee, or push south-west to the
headed off on an odyssey that took them killed and ate a python – after which closer police outpost at Mount Hopeless?
through Sturt’s Stony Desert (named for both Burke and Gray contracted They decided on the latter – but their
an earlier explorer who’d traversed this dysentery. Caught by Wills surreptitious- strength was ebbing.
inhospitable region in 1844), up and over ly eating food pilfered from the depleted Taking pity on them, the local
mountain ranges, through scrub and supplies, Gray was given “a good Yandruwandha people offered help,

88
A contemporary painting
reflects public enthusiasm
for the expedition. On
20 August 1860, some
15,000 people crowded into
Royal Park to cheer off the
party, which numbered 19
men, 24 camels, 26 horses
and six wagons laden with
20 tonnes of supplies

William John Wills
(1834–61), the
expedition’s surveyor
and astronomer, who
was made second-in-
command part-way
through the journey

A memorial at the
‘Dig Tree’ at Cooper’s
Creek, in remote
south-west
Queensland, under
which supplies were
cached by William
Brahe for Burke and his
forward party on their
return from the coast
BRIDGEMAN/ALAMY/GETTY IMAGES

Mangroves on the Gulf of
Carpentaria in far northern
Queensland, near where
Burke and Wills tried to
reach the coast but were
stymied by the boggy terrain
of the mangrove swamps
Æ
89
JOURNEYS In the footsteps of a 19th-century expedition across Australia

An 1880 engraving
depicts John King,
sole survivor of the
expedition’s forward
party, mourning the
death of Robert O’Hara
Burke in late June 1861

TOPFOTO
“a whole tribe coming down, all painted, too, died around that date at another two-way traverse of Australia, returning
and with fish in small nets carried by two spot on Cooper’s Creek. The Yandru- from the north coast with no loss of life
men”, and also handed over food made wandha then took pity on King, feeding – in stark contrast to the catastrophic
with nardoo (a kind of fern). But Burke and caring for him for many weeks until expedition led by Burke.
misinterpreted the intentions of the the arrival on 15 September of a rescue In 1860, before setting out on his epic
Aboriginal people and, becoming party led by English bushman Alfred but ill-fated journey, Burke proclaimed
enraged by them, ordered King to fire Howitt. The only man who survived, that: “I have only one ambition, which is
his pistol over their heads. King, was the one who respected the to do some deed before I die, that shall
Aboriginal way of life, and had been entitle me to have my name honourably
Final mistake looked after accordingly. inscribed on the page of history. If
That was a fatal error of judgement. When news of the expedition’s fate I succeed in that I care not what death,
Without the help of those locals, the reached Melbourne, it caused an outcry. or when I die.”
Europeans were left to starve – and did A government enquiry largely blamed His expedition – and, particularly, his
just that. They gathered and ate nardoo Wright, the man whose relief expedition leadership – may today be judged as an
but, without using the correct method of from Menindee had been delayed by honourable failure. And with monu-
preparation known to the Yandruwand- bad conditions, and Brahe, for leaving ments, memorials and statues erected
ha, it merely weakened them further. the camp. Burke and Wills themselves across Victoria, the page of history
And despite the abundance of edible fish were feted, thousands paying respects to certainly bears his name.
in nearby billabongs and creeks, they their recovered bodies as they lay in
were unable – or not skilled or aware state in Melbourne.
enough – to catch the ready food that On 21 January 1863, Burke and
could have sustained them. Wills were given Victoria’s first state Peter FitzSimons
Wills, insisting that the others leave funeral. On the same day, explorer John is a former Australian
him behind when he became too frail to McDouall Stuart was received in international rugby
walk, perished around 30 June; Burke, Adelaide, having completed a successful union player, journalist,
broadcaster and
biographer
Burke ordered King to fire his pistol above the DISCOVER MORE
heads of the Aboriginal people who’d offered Burke & Wills: The Triumph and Tragedy
of Australia’s Most Famous Explorers by
food to the starving explorers – a fatal error Peter FitzSimons (Constable, 2018)

90
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JOURNEYS

Global City Arles France

‘Little
Rome’ of
Provence
The picturesque streets, squares
and ancient sites of Arles inspired
19th-century painters including
Vincent van Gogh

Throughout the past et at the apex of the Rhône combat; bullfights have been held here

26 centuries, Arles S delta in Provence, Arles has
long been a crucial gateway
between the Mediterranean
since its 19th-century restoration. The
Roman Theatre nearby is more refined,
though much less well preserved: after
has been a key trading and the heartlands of western Europe. By the Roman period it was used as a stone
the 6th century BC it was a busy Phoeni- quarry and its stage became a nunnery’s
post, a major Roman cian trading port, and over the centuries garden. Two giant columns of exotic
regional hub, and muse it drew Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, stone still stand, reminders of its original
Franks and Saracens. To explore its early grandeur and the arrival of Roman high
to 19th-century artists. history, visit the Musée Départemental culture in this provincial city.
Arles Antique. Among its treasures are a The forum was the heart of Roman
Bijan Omrani explores magnificent 31-metre-long Roman barge Arles. Today, only fragments of its struc-
raised from the bed of the Rhône, and tures still stand, built into the walls of the
the Provençal city at statues and inscriptions of eastern cults – Place du Forum. However, you can grasp
Cybele, Mithras, Isis – imported from the its original scale at the Cryptoporticus, a
the mouth of the Rhône farthest reaches of Roman territory. c90-metre-long, three-sided subterranean
Signs of 500 years of Roman rule, stone arcade on which the forum’s portico
beginning in the first century BC, are was built – a breathtaking testament to
everywhere. Most impressive is the Roman engineering.
amphitheatre; like Rome’s Colosseum, Arles became an important adminis-
it was built around AD 70, but is better trative centre later in the Roman period
preserved. After the empire collapsed, when the frontiers were under pressure,
Arles suffered frequent raids; the amphi- and the Baths of Constantine signal its
theatre became a fortified mini-town, continuing prosperity into the fourth
with four defensive towers built into its century. In medieval times this com-
walls, probably in the eighth century. You plex was converted into a palace for the
Bijan Omrani can see marks on its stonework made by counts of Provence, but you can still see
the beams of hundreds of dwellings built the remains of a pool and hypocausts.
GETTY IMAGES

is a historian and author
of Caesar’s Footprints: inside, removed in the early 19th century. Elsewhere, a section of the Roman
Journeys to Roman Gaul In Roman times, the amphitheatre walls still stands, and on Boulevard Émile
(Head of Zeus, 2017) staged gladiator fights and animal Combes you can see where the aqueduct

92
brought water into the city. Follow the
aqueduct’s route a few kilometres east to
Arles’s backstreets ARLES IN NINE SITES

Barbegal to see the remains of the com- are lined with grand 1 Musée Départemental Arles Antique
Fascinating archaeological museum
plex of 16 Roman watermills, built in the
second or third century AD, that could medieval houses in housing a 31-metre Roman barge

grind enough wheat to feed more than a state of elegant 2 Roman Amphitheatre
First-century-AD venue for gladiatorial
10,000 people daily.
Arles has long been famous for its and evocative decay fights and animal combats
3 Roman Theatre
Roman cemetery, the Alyscamps, estab-
lished outside the city walls alongside the Home of Roman high culture
Aurelian Way. It became sought after for 4 Cryptoporticus
Christian burials in the fourth century Rhône silted up, trade and commerce Vast array of subterranean arches built
after Christ reputedly appeared here, moved elsewhere, and Arles became a to support the portico of the Roman forum
an incident marked by the Chapelle de backwater and fell into decline. In the 5 Baths of Constantine
la Genouillade. Though fractured by 19th century, the sense that Arles was Fourth-century Roman baths complex
railways built in the 19th century, an untouched by the modern age appealed with remains of a pool and hypocaust
atmospheric avenue lined with late to poets and artists. Wandering the back- 6 Alyscamps
Roman tombs was preserved, inspiring streets, lined with grand medieval houses Atmospheric Roman necropolis that
paintings by Vincent van Gogh. in a state of elegant and evocative decay, inspired Vincent van Gogh
By the 12th century Arles was the it is not difficult to see the attraction. 7 Church of St Trophime
second-largest city in Provence, and in Discover Arles’s later cultural and artistic Imposing 12th-century Romanesque
1178 Holy Roman Emperor Frederick heritage at Musée Réattu, housed in an church with exquisitely carved west door
Barbarossa was crowned King of Bur- old priory of the Knights of Malta with
8 Musée Réattu
gundy at the Church of St Trophime; its a wonderful late-medieval facade, and Art by Arles-born Jacques Réattu,
12th century west door and cloister are Museon Arlaten (due to reopen in 2019), Picasso and others in a historic priory
masterpieces of Romanesque art. founded by the poet Frédéric Mistral
9 Museon Arlaten
Arles’s political significance declined (1830–1914) to preserve Provençal life-
Treasury of Provençal cultures
in the Middle Ages. The mouth of the style, folk art and costumes.

8

5

3
4 7

9

2

1

6

ILLUSTRATION BY TONWEN JONES 93
JOURNEYS Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World
Bagan Myanmar

94
Forest of temples
More than 2,200 pahto (temples or
shrines) and zedi (stupas or pagodas)
stud a vast plain on the left bank of the
Irrawaddy River, 100 miles south-west
of Mandalay. Although once a thriving
city home to perhaps 200,000 people, the
buildings in which its inhabitants lived
and worked were made with wood – and
only brick and stone-built religious
structures survive today. It’s believed
that more than 10,000 Buddhist temples,
pagodas and monasteries were con-
structed during the Bagan kingdom’s
heyday from the 11th to 13th centuries.
Known as Arimaddanapura (City of the
Enemy Crusher), Bagan was the foremost
ancient empire in what’s now Myanmar.

Plain of 1,000
pagodas
On a bend in the Irrawaddy River
GETTY IMAGES/MAP: BATTLEFIELD DESIGNS

in central Myanmar lies a vast plain
studded with thousands of temples
and stupas – relics of a mighty city
that burgeoned a millennium ago.
Paul Bloomfield explores the
myriad monuments of Bagan Æ
95
JOURNEYS Wonders of the World

First foundations
The Tharaba Gate is the oldest
part of the city walls, believed to
date from the 10th or 11th century
when Bagan was first fortified.
The city was founded around 849
by Bamar people (from whose
name ‘Burma’, the country’s
alternative title, is derived)
who arrived here in the eighth
or ninth century, possibly
from the eastern Himalaya,
and successfully battled the
Mon for control of the region.

Golden age
The gilded Shwezigon pagoda was begun during
the reign of Anawrahta, whose accession to the
throne in 1044 marked the start of Bagan’s golden
age. Anawrahta consolidated and expanded the
empire, centralised government and converted
to Theravada Buddhism. He established Bagan as
a major religious and cultural centre, building
many of its most impressive monuments.

Art imitates life
This colourful mural in Ananda Ok Kyaung,
ALAMY/BRIDGEMAN

a brick-built monastic sanctuary dating
from the 11th century, is one of several
depicting everyday life in Bagan. Scenes
of markets, bathing, cooking, musicians
and even Arab traders paint a vivid picture
of a bustling, cosmopolitan city.

96
Pinnacle achievement
Ananda Pahto, a soaring temple
built around 1105 by King
Kyanzittha, marks a transition
in architectural styles. One of
the largest and most beautifully
proportioned of Bagan’s
temples, soaring to 51 metres
high, it was – like most of the
monuments at the site – dam-
aged by a powerful earthquake
that struck in 1975. Since
rebuilt, its spires were gilded to
mark its 900th anniversary.

Height of sophistication
Sulamani Pahto (known as the
‘Crowning Jewel’), built c1181–83
and decorated with elaborately
carved stucco, is the epitome of
the sophisticated temple styles
that evolved later in Bagan’s golden
era. This temple was once the focal
point of a busy complex of Buddhist
learning and devotion, its enclosing
wall lined with 100 monastic cells.

L Final flourish
This decorative tile adorns Mingalazedi
(‘Blessing Stupa’), Bagan’s last great
monument. Built by Narathihapati around
1277, its ornate decoration reflected
royal extravagance that may have over-
stretched the city’s finances. Bagan was
probably already in decline when Kublai
Khan’s Mongol army invaded the region
in 1287, and over the following centuries
this once-thriving city became a largely
deserted badland, its magnificent monu-
GETTY IMAGES/ALAMY

ments falling into ruins.

Paul Bloomfield is a travel and heritage writer
and photographer, co-author of Lonely Planet’s
Where to Go When (Lonely Planet, 2016)

97
MUSEUM OF THE WORLD Global history’s finest objects, curated by experts

“It exudes an aura
of age, power and
that quality of great
drums – of aching
to be played”

4 Ngoma kuu (big drum)
Created by: Unknown Swahili
artist, Wasini Island, Kenya,
c17th century
Now at: Smithsonian Museum of
African Art, Washington DC
Chosen by: Gus Casely-Hayford

One of my most abiding African
memories is of standing on the dockside
in Stone Town, Zanzibar, watching an
endless procession of vast tankers and cosmopolitanism invention proudly: you area of what’s now south-eastern Kenya
cargo ships sail along one of world’s can hear it in the language, and it is writ that encompassed Wasini Island), and
great trade routes. large in the culture and politics. Perhaps would have been used and displayed
If I had stood on that spot just over a the perfect encapsulation of that history is during musical and dance performances
century ago, in September 1914, I could this Swahili drum. sponsored by the ruling oligarchy for cel-
have witnessed the German battle cruiser ebrations that marked enthronements,
Königsberg opening fire and sinking HMS This ngoma kuu (big drum) is one of the births, funerals and religious holidays.
Pegasus as she was anchored in the most important objects in the National Kings and queens also used such drums
entrance to Zanzibar harbour. The First Museums of Kenya collection. It is cur- as symbols of their independence.
World War was barely a month old and rently on loan to the Smithsonian Nation- Because these drums embody Swahili
scarcely a shot had been fired, but one al Museum of African Art in Washington concepts of statehood and sovereignty,
of the first naval battles in the first truly DC, where it is the one of the star objects the sultans of Oman’s Busaidi dynasty,
global conflict had begun. in World on the Horizon, an exhibition which claimed control over the Swahili
There is a reason the war flared into that celebrates the arts of east Africa’s Coast in the 19th century, confiscated and
CHRIS BROWN-© 2017 UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

action here. The Swahili Coast of what’s Swahili Coast. destroyed such regalia, fearful that their
now Kenya, Tanzania and northern continued presence in local communities
Mozambique has always been a place of This ngoma kuu was made by a Swahili would inspire rebellion against Busaidi
exchange, of diffusion and hybridity, an artist on Wasini Island off the coast of rule. Today it is an object that exudes an
interface between strategically impor- Kenya at some point in the 17th century. aura of age, power and that quality of
tant worlds that has been contested and Carved from a single piece of wood and great drums – of aching to be played.
competed over for millennia. In this place finished with what appear to be cow-
that straddles faultlines, where cultures hide membranes, it is one of the most
Gus Casely-Hayford is director of the
meet and exchange, a particular trans- important cultural-heritage objects of
Kenya, and is very rare – fewer than a Smithsonian National Museum of African
cultural way of being was created.
The Swahili Coast was important not dozen such monumental drums exist Art in Washington DC, where the exhibition
just for trade but also for music, for craft today. It is connected to an ancient city- World on the Horizon: Swahili Arts Across the
and for ideas. And it wears that heritage of state, the Diwanate of Vumba Kuu (an Indian Ocean is open until 3 September 2018

98
Living colour
The hillside settlement of Rocinha in the
Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. Although
officially a municipal subdistrict, many
still regard it as a favela, or urban slum.
We explore how Brazil has been shaped
by poverty and slavery from page 26