Category: History

A Quick Summary of the Bangladesh Genocide

Before the 1970s, Bangladesh and Pakistan were one nation. Bangladesh at the time was called East Pakistan and Pakistan was West Pakistan. Although East Pakistan had a different culture, different language, and has a larger population, most of the power was in the hands of West Pakistan.

Independence movements began to arise in East Pakistan as the divide grew deeper. Eventually, this culminated in the Bangladesh Liberation War between March 26 to December 16, 1971. Under the guidance of Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon stood by West Pakistan in the war, sending support their way.

In the beginning of the war, West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight, and effort to take control of Bengali cities and eliminate all human obstacles. But with this would come the massacre of millions of civilians.

Operation Searchlight marked the beginning of the Bangladesh Genocide, which would end up slaughtering as many as 3,000,000 Bengali citizens. 10,000,000 Bengalis refugees to India to escape the violence, and 30,000,000 more were internally displaced. Islamic militias with West-Pakistani support raped between 200,000–400,000 women in Bangladesh in a genocidal rape.

At the time, average US citizens were unaware of the genocide, but the Nixon administration was. Richard Nixon saw Pakistan as an ally against the Soviet Union, and condoned their actions even after the war. The US government continued to send economic and military aid to Pakistan as the war went on. Nixon was even advised by his aides, most notably Kissinger, to try to suppress reports of the genocide taking place.

Although the Bangladesh Genocide was not directly committed by the United States, I believe this qualifies since much of it could have been prevented. Because of the Nixon’s refusal to acknowledge Pakistan’s actions towards the Bengali people, thousands, if not millions of lives were lost.

A map of Africa Before the Scramble for Africa

Africa Before the Scramble For Africa

Little of Africa had been mapped before the 19th Century, excluding the Islamic kingdoms in the north. If you tried to explore the vast continent 200 years ago, you would find it would be difficult to travel across, due to both natural and human obstacles. Scorching deserts, dense jungles, rivers, and mountains and other natural barriers made it difficult to traverse, even without any human interference. You would encounter tribes and kingdoms, some peaceful, others not.

Before the Scramble for Africa, most of Africa was still not in the grasp of foreign powers, although some regions were.

  • The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire, originally from modern-day Turkey, spread out of Asia and into Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and parts of Sudan.

  • Morocco

The Kingdom of Morocco controlled much of northwest Africa, just south of mainland Spain.

  • Spain

Spain had control of the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, both of which were surrounded by Morocco and the Mediterranean Sea. Spain still owns Ceuta and Melilla today.

  • France

France conquered Algeria in 1830, half a century the Scramble for Africa. Throughout the mid-1800s, France began to travel up the Senegal River, constructing forts and subjugating kingdoms. They also began to establish control of the Ivory Coast.

  • Portugal

Portugal first discovered their future colonies of Angola and Mozambique in 1482 and 1498, respectively. Trading posts were first formed in Mozambique immediately after it was discovered. Angola wasn’t settled by the Portuguese for another 75 years, until 1575.

  • Great Britain

Great Britain had begun to colonize many regions across the African continent, including the Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana), Lagos (now the capital of Nigeria), and they had set up many trading outposts and forts in other parts of Africa. But their largest colonies before the Scramble were South Africa. The British conquered the Cape Colony of South Africa from the Dutch during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars to prevent it from falling into French hands. They held on to it after the wars ceased, and it grew larger as colonists moved to the Cape Colony from Europe.

 

A map of Africa Before the Scramble for Africa
A map of Africa Before the Scramble for Africa

By 1870, Africa was still relatively uncharted. But wait another decade and the Scramble for Africa would begin.

 

Sources:

http://africanhistory.about.com/od/eracolonialism/a/ScrambleWhy.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/scramble_for_africa_article_01.shtml

Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Revolution

Approximately 10,000 years ago, people  discovered an ability their predecessors had not known. They learned how to cultivate their food, instead of finding it in the wild.

In the Middle East, food (mostly grains) and hunt was plentiful. People could find years’ supply of food in only weeks, so there was no need to have a regular nomadic lifestyle in which people would constantly travel. Since their homes stayed in the same place for decades, people transformed their camps into villages. This new way of living allowed the hunter-gatherer groups to grow and prosper, making tribes that once might have had one family grow into a community of hundreds of different people. This had happened for thousands of years in the Middle East.

As the world’s climate changed, so did the landscape of the Middle East. It became more arid, resulting in less wild food, which in turn decreased the population of animals to hunt. With a significant drop in food, people had few choices to survive: they could either return to the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and travel to a place with more of an abundance of food, or discover a new way of getting enough sustenance. This choice caused the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, the area where agriculture was first used.
Neolithic Revolution

In the beginning, space was made for farming by chopping down trees and removing brush, afterward setting the remnants ablaze. The farmer would then plant seeds with a hoe. After many years of producing food on one patch of land, the farmer would move to another with more nutrition and repeat the same process. Over thousands of years, hunter-gatherer people had learned about the plants they ate. They discovered which seeds would grow more food, and by only growing the better seeds (known as selective breeding), it led to more bountiful plants overall as the traits of the better seeds were passed down. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle was virtually eliminated in areas with farming, as crops could not be left untended for long.

Although communities grew and their cultures development during this time, there would be no state authorities for many thousands of years. Societies were instead linked by ancestry. People would live with others of the same ancestry and share their food and possession with those who didn’t have enough. This was noted in many Native American Tribes who had similar lifestyles as early farming people in the Middle East. They would share food with others who were hungry, without asking for anything in return.

In hunter-gatherer lives, children were harder to raise. They constantly needed to be cared for by their mothers, being carried around wherever they went. As parents could only take care of one child at a time, the world’s population remained small. But with a different village life, mothers could have help from other family members, and they also did not need to carry their children wherever they went. This resulted in a population growth in agricultural communities. Although it grew at a small rate of 0.1% every year, the world’s population quadrupled over then next 2,000 years.

Source:

A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman

Sahelanthropus tchadensis

Prehistory

Members of the Hominini Tribal Classification evolved differently than others mammals and members of the Hominidae Family. They evolved to be adaptable and intelligent. One trait that most Hominidae had were hands that allowed for grasping objects. But unlike other Hominidae, the Hominini could walk upright. This was revolutionary, as the Hominini could travel long distances without getting as tired as other animals. But they also lost traits that other animals had to protect themselves, such as claws, and big teeth. Unlike most Hominidae, climbing trees became difficult as they grew in size and their foot shape changed.

Sahelanthropus tchadensis
Skull cast of the Sahelanthropus Tchadensis, possibly the earliest member of the Hominini.

Eventually part of the Hominini evolved into different genera, including the Homo Genus. The Homo Genus continued to split into different species. The traits they had gained allowed them to spread across the world. This was made easy with the ability to walk upright, as they were able to travel long distances and traverse differing landscapes. Approximately 200,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens evolved from the Homo Genus. From Africa, Homo Sapiens spread across the world, interacting with other members of the Homo Genus.

In early hunter-gatherer societies, people needed to work together to survive. Alone, humans weren’t nearly as tough as other animals in the wilderness. They were relatively slow, they had small teeth and no claws, and no natural armor. This forced people to band together and form nomadic tribes. They would hunt and forage on a patch of land until food ran dry. Then they would move on to another area, continuing this pattern for their whole lives.

In nomadic societies, men and women usually had different jobs. The men mostly hunted. When they found animals, the hunters used weapons such as bows and arrows to overpower their prey as easily as possible. Sometimes women and children would help by scouting or acting as distractions while hunters would sneak up upon their soon-to-be food. Using language, they told others where to be and what to do at the right time, when to attack or move back.

Women mostly acted as foragers and scavengers, searching for berries, fruit, and small animals. Foraging was essential in a hunter-gatherer community, as it provided a large majority of food. When hunters didn’t have luck finding any hunt, foraging provided them with a sustainable amount of food. During the day, people would go out and search for small animals and berries. Once food was found, they would use baskets formed from tree bark to carry it to their camp. Women would also take care of the children in their tribe.

Unlike today, there was no ruler or head of the tribes in hunter-gatherer societies. Anyone who worked to sustain their group had an equal say in important decisions, such as when to move camp or who would join or leave their tribe. This created a sense of egalitarianism in the nomadic societies. Everyone was treated equally, no matter their sex or race.

Source:

A People’s History of the World by Chris Harman

The Tennis Court Oath

The Beginning of the French Revolution

France’s poor were dealt with taxes and famine, while the rich lounged in luxury. King Louis VI called an emergency meeting to fix France’s problem. Instead it would lead to the king’s overthrow and the French Revolution.

In the 1780’s, France’s government had accumulated debt from two recent wars. France had lost the Seven Years War, from 1754-1763. Fought against Great Britain and its allies, the war ended in defeat, with France losing large expanses of land including almost all their colonies in the Americas, mainly Canada and the Louisiana Territory.

The second war, the American Revolution, was a gamble that seemed to have paid off. British colonies in North America had revolted over high taxes and regulations. Triggered by their defeat and territorial losses in the Seven Years War, France signed a treaty of alliance with the Americans. A month later, the British formally declared war and hostilities resumed after more than a decade. The French were able to change the tide of the war. In 1783, the war concluded with the Treaty of Paris with an American and French victory. They had inflicted a heavy defeat on their rival, but not without growing their debt.

Throughout the 1780’s, a mild famine spread throughout France. Less wheat was being produced compared to the years before, and people were hungry. On top of that, the burden of France’s enormous debt was being placed on the backs of commoners. While the peasants paid the taxes, the rich and nobility lounged and spent their money on luxuries, paying very little taxes.

Meanwhile, throughout Europe, an intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment was taking hold. The Enlightenment spread ideas that hadn’t been considered in generations. Philosophers were bringing new scientific concepts to light, philosophers of the Enlightenment were spreading political philosophies like democracy. Throughout much of the 18th Century, most people would scoff at the idea of democracy. But the American Revolution showed that people could have a successful government without a monarchy.

With debt and famine still lingering over France, the king, Louis XVI, summoned an emergency meeting at the Palace of Versailles known as the Convocation of the Estates General that would meet in May 1789, to discuss raising taxes to pay off the debt. This was a meeting of representatives of each estate, essentially social classes. The first estate was comprised of the clergy, making up approximately 0.5% of France’s population. The second estate was the nobility, making up 1.5% of the population. The third estate encompassed the rest of the population, the peasantry and commoners of France, 98% of the population.

The Convocation of Estates-General
The Convocation of Estates-General

In the Convocation of the Estates General, which met on May 5, representatives from each estate met to vote on how to raise taxes. There were approximately 300 delegates in both the first and second estates, and 600 from the third. During the convocation, there was a debate of how the votes should be cast. One way, supported by the Louis XVI and much of the first and second estates, was to vote as estates. This would give the first and second estates an advantage because the third each estate would have one vote no matter the number of representatives in it. The second way of voting was one vote per delegate, which was supported by the delegates of the third estate and some members of the other estates.

The first and second estates ultimately had their way, forcing each estate to have equal power. Representatives of the third estate, furious at what they perceived to be an unjust rule, gathered in an assembly hall in Versailles without approval from the king. On June 13, they declared themselves the National Assembly of France and invited members of the other states to join them. Days later, the entire first estate voted to join the National Assembly.

King Louis XVI, unpleased with what was happening, had the doors of the assembly hall locked once the National Assembly temporarily dispersed. The National Assembly instead moved to an indoor tennis court in Versailles. On June 20, they took a vow agreeing not to dissolve the assembly until a constitution had been established. This was known as the Tennis Court Oath. Every member of the assembly except one person took the oath.

The Tennis Court Oath
The Tennis Court Oath

On the June 23, the king held a Royal Session. While the meeting took place, Louis XVI proposed limited reforms that were opposed by the National Assembly. Louis tried to intimidate the members of the assembly, but the tense meeting concluded with King Louis giving in, allowing the National Assembly to remain. The Estates General was falling apart as many members joined the National Assembly, and Louis XVI saw this. He soon ordered the remaining members of the first and second estates to join the National Assembly, in an attempt to appease them. On July 9, The National Assembly renamed themselves the National Constituent Assembly and instituted themselves as a new governing body of the country.

Meanwhile, soldiers were moving on Paris.

 

Sources for the Beginning of the French Revolution:

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/1600s-1800s/french-revolution-tutorial/v/french-revolution-part-1

http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/thefrenchrevolution/a/hfr3.htm

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Estates-General