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Sunday, 22 April 2018

World History: The Safavids

A depiction of the court of Abbas I
The last time on World History we looked at the first of the 'Gunpowder Empires' with the Ottomans and today we'll be looking at the second of these empires and the enemy of the Ottomans: the Safavids of Iran. Safavid rule was established in 1501 and lasted until the early-eighteenth century, but despite existing for a far shorter amount of time compared to the Ottomans (which lasted from the early-fourteenth century until the early-twentieth) the impact of the Safavids on Iran was profound. The Safavids were the first Shia rulers of Iran and they happened to be the first 'native' dynasty to rule over a united Iran since the Sasanians in 651. Today we'll look at this empire and its legacy.

Safavid history is much older than the establishment of Safavid rule in 1501. There are two aspects of this which we will need to discuss: the Safaviyye and Twelver Shia Islam. The Safaviyye was a religious order founded under the Kurdish Shaikh Safi al-Din (1252-1334) in 1300 and it takes its name from him. The Safaviyye were part of a branch of Islam called Sufism - sometimes called 'Folk Islam' by figures including H.R. Roemer - which placed emphasis on mysticism as well as Islamic theology. Shaikh Safi in Roemer's words was a 'miracle worker and man of God combined with a sober, practical politician and cunning merchant.' From his base in Ardabil he became a popular figure becoming the focal point of a religious movement, he was friendly with secular rulers, he became a protector of the poor and the weak, and his convent became a refuge for the persecuted and oppressed. The Safaviyye was one of the reasons why the Mongols in Iran adopted Islam. After Shaikh Safi's death his son became the leader of the Safaviyye and leadership would pass from father to son for over a century. Thanks to them Ardabil became a holy pilgrimage site. This changed under Shaikh Junaid in the fifteenth century who transformed the Safaviyye from a religious Sufi order to a military one. Junaid started seizing land and creating political alliances - he married the sister of the Aq Quyunlu's ruler Uzun Hassan and his son would marry Hassan's daughter. This was important as the Aq Quyunlu were the most powerful Turkmen dynasty in the region. Junaid's son Haydar truly embraced the military side - Junaid had sent propaganda to Turkmen lands in the Ottoman Empire which attracted potential fighters to the Safaviyye order. Haydar organised them into an army called the Qizilbash, or Kizilbash, which meant 'Red heads' or 'Red turbans'. Originally this was an insult from the Ottomans but the Safaviyye embraced it. Under Haydar's son, Ismail, the Safavid Empire would emerge.
Ismail, the son of Haydar and founder of the Safavid Empire
Under Haydar, but possibly under Junaid, the Safaviyye went from a Sunni order to a Shia order. Over the centuries many differences have emerged between Sunni and Shia Islam but they originated about who should be the caliph (spiritual leader) of Islam. Sunni theology argues that anyone who is holy and pious enough can become caliph whereas Shia theology argues that only relatives of the Prophet Muhammad can be caliph. Thanks to this divide the later doctrinal differences emerged. The Safavids were part of a branch of Shia Islam called Twelver. According to Twelver theology the twelve direct descendants of Muhammad who were imams were the true successors of Muhammad. The twelfth imam, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, is believed to still be in Occulation until he returns as Mahdi (savior). It is also believed that when the Mahdi arrives the Second Coming of Christ will happen to aid the Mahdi in the defeat of the Anti-Christ. Many Sufi orders also subscribe to the idea of the Twelve Imams which explains why there was little pushback for the Safaviyye adopting Twelver Islam.

Ismail and the founding of an Empire
A depiction of the Qizilbash
We'll look at aspects of Ismail's rule in this point - we'll come to administration, religion etc. later on. Haydar, like Junaid, wanted to become the new regional power. The Ottomans were on the rise in the west, the Aq Quyunlu was being swallowed up slowly by the Ottomans, and the Timurid Empire in Iran was being torn apart by civil war. Haydar saw this as a chance to expand and when Uzun Hassan died in 1478 this gave Haydar the excuse to cut ties. His empire building was cut short when he died in 1488 fighting the Shirvans and Aq Quyunlu. The Qizilbash continued fighting the Aq Quyunlu and at the age of seven Haydar's young son Ismail went into hiding in Gilan on the Caspian where he was trained by Shia theologians. At the age of just 12 he came out of hiding, went to Ardabil to take leadership of the Qizilbash and began his way into forming the Safavids. Ismail was bold, charismatic and had legitimacy. The Qizilbash were loyal to any son of Haydar, although this did not stop them from using his brothers as pawns before their deaths, and Ismail himself had political and spiritual legitimacy. He was the grandson of the Aq Quyunlu leader Uzun Hassan whose wife was the daughter of the King of Trebizond. As a direct descendant of Safi al-Din he got spiritual legitimacy but according to one lineage Safi al-Din was a descendant of the first Twelve Imams and the fourth of the Rashidun (see here) Ali. Regardless if this was true Ismail claimed this legacy once stating: I am God's mystery. I am the leader of all these ghazi warriors. My mother is Fatima, my father is Ali; and I am the pir [leader] of the Twelve Imams. He also came out of hiding at the turn of a new century; something later Safavid historians claimed was being symbolically linked to the Mahdi and linked to the phrase 'God sends at the beginning of every century someone to renew the faith'. Ismail himself even claimed that he was a Mahdi.
The Safavids under Ismail
Within nine years Ismail had created a new empire. Ismail first turned his attention onto the Shirvans and their ruler, the Shirvanshah, who had killed his father. With their defeat the booty from the war strengthened his role among his Turkmen tribal followers. With the defeat of the Shirvans he took on the Aq Quyunlu conquering them in 1501. Quite curiously Ismail took the Aq Quyunlu capital of Tabriz as his capital - something possibly due to its geographic location and to stress his own ties with the Aq Quyunlu aristocracy. Ismail then looked east to the Timurids in the rest of Iran and Central Asia. In 1507 the Timurid capital of Herat in modern Afghanistan was captured and by 1510 he had expanded into Uzbekistan. In such a small amount of time basically a child had created an empire covering the entirety of Iran (something important later on), Iraq, eastern Anatolia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Soon hubris would lead to nemesis. In 1511 a pro-Safavid uprising took place in Ottoman Anatolia which led to war when Sultan Selim I overthrew his father Bayezid II who had done little to stop the uprising. In 1514 Ismail fought the Ottomans at the Battle of Chaldiran and suffered a devastating defeat. Offsetting the idea of the 'Gunpowder Empires' the Safavids had used traditional weaponry while the Ottomans used muskets. It was a slaughter. Selim went on to capture Tabriz and only left thanks to a revolt from his own janissaries. By the end of the war Ismail had lost eastern Anatolia and his Arabic lands. However, the psychological impact on Ismail was staggering. Venetian diplomat Caterino Zeno wrote that 'If the Turks had been beaten in the battle of Chaldiran, the power of Ismail would have become greater than that of Tamerlane, as by the fame alone of such a victory he would have made himself absolute lord of the East.' Ismail knew this and the humiliation of the war left him in disarray. Making matters worse was the the Ottomans were a Sunni power as well. For the rest of his reign he let his viziers rule but as Ismail had centered administration around himself things started to fall apart until he died at a young age (aged 36) in 1524. His son, Tahmasp, was left to pick up the pieces.

Administration and Governance
Throughout Safavid rule the Qizilbash remained important acting as the Safavid version of the Ottoman janissaries. When not fighting they often served as administrators and like with the janissaries they were not of the same cultural and ethnic group as the rest of the empire. Instead of being Iranian the Qizilbash were often Turkmens, Kurdish and later Caucasian; by the end of the dynasty Caucasians had replaced Turkmens as the main group which comprised the Qizilbash. The Qizilbash became both something which benefited the Safavids and something which hindered them. They often provided the backbone of the administration and also under Ismail the aristocracy but then they became too powerful. Qizilbash factionalism under Ismail's later reign and under Tahmasp threatened to tear apart the empire and often they warred against tribes for power and land. Tahmasp once wrote 'For years I was forced patiently to watch the bloodshed between the tribes and I tried to see what was the will of God in these events'. Occasionally when shahs tried to replace administrators with Persians the Qizilbash had them assassinated. To try and offset Qizilbash power starting under Ismail the royal family married Iranians and creating a slave army similar to the janissaries called the ghulam. The ghulam were taken from captured Georgians and Circassians. Although the Qizilbash did remain powerful and factionalism after a series of short reigns after the death of Tahmasp in 1570 (as well as foreign invasions) threatened to tear the empire apart. When Abbas I took the throne via a coup in 1588 through force he brought the Qizilbash into line - when one clan, the Nuqtavi, became too powerful and caused an issue where it was believed that they would seize the throne he did a mock coronation in 1594 before executing them by firing squad and personally beheading the order's leading poet.
Pari Khan Khanum
The shah in theory ruled absolute as monarchs did worldwide but as we've seen their power could be challenged. They often ruled with a grand vizier who could rule in their own right when the shah was indisposed through war or refuge - Ismail's vizier Mirza Shah Husayn became very powerful before his assassination due to his proximity to the defeated shah. It was possible for women to hold sway as well, especially after the Second Civil War in 1576. Tahmasp's daughter, Pari Khan Khanum, in particular gained prominence. A Circassian on her mother's side, showing the displacement of the old elite, she was extremely well read, sophisticated and was a great patron of Shia shrines. Due to her own skill and intelligence she got her brother to become shah in 1576 becoming Ismail II. However, she held the real power - her brother largely did as she wanted. When Ismail mysteriously died she too followed him to the grave in 1578 and another woman managed to gain power. Khayr al-Nesa was the wife of Ismail's blind brother Muhammad Khodabande. She was not of Turkmen origin and was supported by her kin from the Mazandaran region along the Caspian and the Persian-Tajik elements in the administration. Palace intrigue saw her strangled in the imperial harem in 1578 which caused outrage and another wave of fighting. There are two aspects of Safavid rule we have yet to discuss: religion and tribes/ethnicity. These shall have their own points.

Religion was a key component of Safavid rule - so much so that the mujtahid (those capable to exercise Islamic law) managed to became a class in of themselves holding land and governmental posts. However, the religious leaders could not touch secular law. The Safavid shahs were very keen to spread Shia Islam, especially compared to the Ottomans and Mughals. The Safavids largely ruled over Muslims whereas the Ottomans ruled over Muslims, Jews, and Christians as the Mughals ruled over mainly Hindus. Early on the Safavids wanted to enforce Shia in their empire, Ismail himself invited clerical families from Jabal 'Amil in Lebanon to come form a ulema (religious body of scholars). The most influential, 'Ali al-Karaki al-'Amili, arrived in Najaf, Iraq in 1504. Ismail destroyed Sunni mosques, had people denounce the first three caliphs, had mosques adopt Shia aspects of worship, and encouraged Shia Muslims to come to Iran. To get into administration you had to go to a madras (religious college) and to get into one you had to be Shia. Quite often Shia Islam was equated with Sufism to allow the general masses to more easily convert as it was less of a change in doctrine for them. Ismail's great-grandson, Abbas I, loathed Sunni Muslims and enforced conversion. By his death in 1629 most had converted. Today the reason why Iran and Iraq are mostly Shia is due to the Safavids. There were pushback though from non-Shia against these conversions; one of the reasons why the Uzbeks continuously revolted was due to this. Nevertheless Shia became a way to legitimize yourself - those in the royal family who wanted to become legitimate often patronized Shia shrines. 

Ethnicity, Tribe and Culture
One key aspects of Safavid rule was that they were the first Iranian group to rule a united Iran (sometimes called Persia) since the rise of Islam. They had either been ruled by Arabs, Turks, or Mongols until 1501. The empire - and today's Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan - was incredibly diverse having Iranians, Arabs, Kurds, Uzbeks, Turkmens, and many other ethnicities lived within the empire. One key aspect to the constant troubles Safavid shahs had were the tribes. Ismail had taken over from decentralized empires which gave the tribes vast amounts of power and after the shahs relied on tribes for military means. The Safavids would continuously face issues with different groups trying to exert their own autonomy or independence during times of trouble. During the Qizilbash Civil Wars the Uzbeks tried to break off and at times were successful. Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, the ruling elite were Iranian and had large amounts of Caucasians and Circassians mixed in. We'll look at this later when we look at Safavid arts but the Safavids were heavy patrons of Persian identity. While it was common for other Muslim rulers to write in the style of their enemies - Selim I of the Ottomans wrote many poems in Persian - the Safavids were more reluctant to do so. Ismail wrote primarily in Persian and Azerbaijani as an example. However, ruling over a multi-ethnic empire they would often write in other languages. Persian was the primary language the Safavids focused on with it being spoke in court, schools, colleges and the administration. 

Abbas I
An Italian painting of Abbas I
Abbas I (r.1588-1629), sometimes called Abbas the Great, saw what has been described by Stephen Dale as the 'Safavid Renaissance'. Upon seizing the throne he managed to quell the Qizilbash and centralized rule under himself - something he managed to do thanks to a particularly violent streak in him. In 1598 he invited English brothers Robert and Anthony Sherley to his court in order to use ideas from Europe. These included implementing gunpowder into the army creating formations of musketeers and artillery and reducing the power of the Qizilbash emirs. Ghulam slave elites were put in place paid from the treasury instead of the old revenue assignments under the control of the tribal leaders. To pay for this more provinces were put into royal hands and he started marrying (or have his children married into) Georgian, Armenian and Circassian families. All of these reforms centralized his rule and started breaking the feudal power of both the Qizilbash and tribal leaders. In 1598 Abbas moved the capital from Tabriz to Isfahan which remained the Safavid capital until 1722 and became a center of culture and learning for a century. The centerpiece was the Maydan-e Naqsh-e Jahan (The Image of the World Square) where a madras was built, a grand mosque named the Sheikh Lotf-Allah Mosque, and the Maydan, a great square measuring 83,000 square meters (second in size only to Tiananmen Square). Each side of the Mayden had something special: the royal bazaar to the north, the Ali Qapu Palace to the west, the Sheikh Lotf-Allah Mosque to the east, and the Royal Mosque to the south. The rest of the Maydan was filled with smaller bazaars, markets and spectacles. An English visitor, Thomas Herbert, in the 1620s said 'The Maydan is without doubt as spacious, pleasant and aromatic a market as any in the universe. It is a thousand paces from North to South, and from East to West above two hundred, resembling our Exchange, or the Palace-Royal in Paris, but six times larger'. Abbas also expanded the empire's land without the aid of the Qizilbash retaking eastern Iraq, Baghdad and the Caucasus from the Ottomans, and Bahrain and Hormuz from Portugal.
The Maydan-e Naqsh-e Jahan today

The Arts
An image from the Shahnama
Even before the reign of Abbas the Safavid Empire was known for the arts. Ismail himself wrote many poems and today we only have access to half of those he wrote in Persian. Carpets, textiles, metalworks, jeweled wine cups, lather and lacquer book-binding and illuminated manuscripts all became associated with Iran under the reigns of Ismail and Tahmasb. Ismail himself revived the Tabriz scriptorum and patronized those who were interested in Persian literature. For one, he had a new copy of the Shahnama (Book of Kings) commissioned for Tahmasb. A 70,000 couplet long poem by Firdausi (d.1010) it is the Persian version of The Canterbury Tales, Romance of the Three Kingdoms or the Bhagavad Gita. Most importantly it is a story about how the pre-Islamic Iranian leaders fought their Turkic enemies who had usurped the Persian crown. This commission took until the 1530s to finish and featured 258 large-scale paintings of the poem's events. Even under the fragile rule of Tahmasp the arts flourished where even the Ottoman elite eagerly wanted Safavid arts. Tahmasp even personally sent art to the Ottoman sultan Selim II in order to keep the peace. Abbas oversaw the 'Safavid Renaissance' seeing an explosion of cosmopolitanism and arts. European and Indian merchants eagerly sought lucrative employment in Iranian markets. Porcelain similar to that of Ming China was being produced which managed to make its way to Amsterdam and Nagasaki. Carpet weaving became popular as well - there is a reason why we specifically say 'Persian rugs'.

Foreign Contacts
Iran has always had contacts with the wider world - after all it is one of the key points of the Silk Road which continued under the Safavids. By the time the Safavids rose to power Europeans started exploring the world and the Mughals were on the verge of taking power in northern India. Unlike the Ottomans in the west the Safavid-Mughal rivalry was far less intense with it centering on the key trading city of Kandahar in modern Afghanistan. When the Mughals were briefly ousted they sought refuge in Safavid Iran under Tahmasb. Specifically under Abbas trade was vibrant with India. Meanwhile, Europeans were also coming onto the scene. As early as 1507 Portugal had established themselves on the island of Hormuz but the Safavids always resented their presence. Later when the English and Dutch arrived the Safavids were willing to make contact inviting them to court. At this stage Iran and the West were equal in power so the Europeans were more respectful compared to what they would be just a century later. Safavid merchants were eager to get access to European goods and actively engaged with the English and Dutch East Indian Companies. They liked the English so much that when England took Hormuz from Portugal Abbas allowed them to keep it. By the nineteenth century this Iranian-European relationship would become vastly different.

The big question is why did the Safavids collapse not even a century after the strength of Abbas' rule? Originally historians put the collapse down to a steady decline after the death of Abbas II in 1666 and although this is true it needs nuance. After the death of Abbas his heirs continued the centralization and art projects still continued to flourish. Even the loss of Baghdad and Iraq again to the Ottomans in 1638 did not fully cause a collapse - Gene Garthwaithe has even argued that this strengthened the Persian element of the empire by removing most of the Arab population. After Abbas II his son Suleiman ruled for almost thirty years overseeing a period of peace, stability, and even opening ties with Denmark. Under Suleiman (and to an extent Abbas) the seeds of collapse were sown. Both had invested heavily to stop factionalism at court and the harem and had given more power to the ulama. When Suleiman died in 1694 his son Husayn heavily promoted Twelver Shiism giving lots of influence to the cleric Muhammad Baqir Majlisi. Although this produced classical pieces of art, like the Madrasa of Chahar Bagh, he ended up alienating huge sections of society. Sufis were expelled from Isfahan, Sunnis were pressured to convert (something not pushed since Abbas I's early reign) and non-Muslims (largely Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians) were also forced to convert. The Christian Armenians had special economic roles which became threatened by these reforms. Soon enough uprisings took place where a Ghazali tribal leader, who had already once been captured, in 1709 took Kandahar. Soon enough other uprisings happened, including a Kurdish uprising, which became worse through attacks from Russia and Oman. In 1721 Afghan forces laid siege to Isfahan for seven months causing widespread famine and fuel shortages until the shah surrendered. Four years later they were massacred to ensure that they could no longer be restored. The Safavids were briefly restored by a general and former slave Nader Quli Beg who has been called one of the greatest Iranian generals. He initially ruled through the last shahs before deposing Abbas III and declaring himself Nader Shah. His dynasty did not last and in 1779 was deposed by a Qizilbash tribe under Agha Muhammad Khan who would form the Qajar dynasty which would last until 1924.
Nader Shah

Despite being for more short lived compared to the Ottomans the Safavids played a key role in particularly Iranian history. Their reforms, especially under Abbas I, transformed the region from a tribal and feudal economy to that one that can be described as an 'early modern' economy. The explosion of art helped create a clearly defined Persian identity which went on to shape how Iran perceived itself in the future. The adoption of Shia Islam has greatly influenced the region as well - to this day Iran and Iraq have majority Shia populations. Even the large Armenian and Cicassian minorities in both countries are thanks to he Safavid Empire. Safavid rule helped define Iran's borders, its people, and its language. It was the last time Iran played such a huge role in the world and being so strong until the present day. It is no surprise that when the Islamic Republic was formed that they left Safavid names in towns and cities while they changed the names of places which were named after the Qajars and Pahlavis. The Safavids left a long lasting legacy on Iran.

Thank you for reading. The next World History post will be about the final one of the Gunpowder Empires: the Mughals. The sources I have used are as follows:
-Stephen F. Dale, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
-Sussan Babaie, 'Persia: The Safavids, 1501-1722', in Jim Masselos, The Great Empires of Asia, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2010)
-Gene R. Garthwaite, The Persians, (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005)
-Charles Melville, (ed.), Safavid Persia: The History and Politics of an Islamic Society, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2009)
-Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart, (ed.), The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 6: The Timurid and Safavid Periods, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)
-Rudi Matthee, Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan, (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris, 2012)

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Friday, 13 April 2018

World History: The Ottoman Empire

The famous sultan Suleiman
For the next three World History posts we'll be looking at what Marshall Hodgson and William McNeill described as the 'Gunpowder Empires': the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal Empires. These three empires utilized gunpowder, dominated their respective regions and were Islamic. They were the some of the most powerful states during their time and today we'll look at the first of them: the Ottomans. Often referred to as the 'Turkish Empire' the Ottomans were a multi-ethnic empire with a sizable presence in Europe, Asia, and Africa. At their height they stretched from Vienna to the Red Sea and from Crimea to Tunis encompassing a myriad of different cultures. The Ottoman Empire as often been portrayed as being Turkish, despotic, Islamic and in decline after the death of their most famous sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. Today we'll see how much that is true. We'll mostly be focusing on the Ottomans since the mid-fifteenth century until the mid-eighteenth centuries.

Origins and a Brief History
The Ottomans originated in Anatolia, modern Turkey, and like their Russian neighbors to the north, please see here, they owed their existence to the Mongols. In 1243 the Mongols swept away the last vestiges of Seljuk power and divided the region into several regions. When the Byzantines, please see here, recaptured Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade in 1261 they focused on reestablishing their rule in the Balkans more than Anatolia. By the 1300s the last Seljuk sultan was assassinated, Mongol rule in the Middle East in the form of the Ilkhanate was weakening, and the Byzantines were still busy looking west. In this fragmented Anatolia in a beylik (principality) in Bithynia a Turkish leader called Osman rose to power. Competition from Mongols had driven many nomadic Turks near to the Byzantine border where Osman was located. Osman began conquering and unifying the local area until his death in 1324. Several historians believe that the empire's continuous warfare was from Osman's gazi (warrior) ethic - war was needed, especially against non-believers. Osman founded the Osmanli dynasty which became anglicized to become Ottoman. It was under Osman's son Orhan (r.1324-62) that the conquests really began. Later sultans, Murad I (r.1362-89) and Bayezid I (r.1389-1402) expanded the empire so it would cover over 950,000 square kilometers. In 1369 Murad had conquered Edirne, a major city in the region, and moved the capital there; this conquest helped solidify Ottoman claims to be a major Islamic power. Taking advantage of Byzantine weaknesses he invaded the Balkans conquering huge chunks of it and saw victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 despite being killed. Despite the massive victories Murad never called himself 'sultan', he much preferred to be called 'emir'. His son Bayezid would be called 'sultan'. Bayezid continued many of his father's conquests. More land in both the Balkans and Anatolia was added into the empire but Bayezid was smart about this. He had fatwas issued against Anatolian tribes to justify attacking fellow Muslims and had Christian soldiers from the Balkans to fight them. Meanwhile, Sigismund of Hungary feared Ottoman encroaches into Europe so managed to organize a crusade which ended in disaster for the crusaders with their defeat at Nikopol in 1396 on the Danube. It would be Tamerlane who would break Bayezid's rule capturing the sultan at Ankara in 1402.
A depiction of Tamerlane with Bayezid
A decade long civil war broke out among Bayezid's sons as Bayezid remained in Tamerlane's captivity until he died - apparently writers in Tamerlane's court wrote that he wept when Bayezid died. It would take until 1687 for Ottoman succession was made that the eldest inherited so most of early Ottoman history is littered with destructive succession wars - some almost wiping out the Osmanli dynasty itself! However, the Ottomans remained a potent force in both eastern Europe and the Middle East, so much so that in 1443 Hungary and Poland (under John Hunyadi and Wladyslaw III respectively) led the Crusade of Varna to halt Ottoman expansion under Murad II as the Karamanids attacked from Anatolia. At the Battle of Varna in 1444 the Ottomans destroyed the Crusaders with Wladyslaw of Poland even being killed. 1453 would bring the greatest conquest. Despite being deposed Murad returned to the throne in 1451 and had his eyes set on Constantinople. It was the seat of intellectualism in the world; controlled the trade routes between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean (as well as Europe and Asia); was the home of the last Romans, the Byzantines; and constantly blocked Ottoman access to their European provinces. On 29 May 1453 Mehmed conquered Constantinople allowing him to be known as 'the Conqueror'. He moved the capital from Edirne to Constantinople which soon became known as Istanbul - the locals referred to it as 'In the City' or Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque and a stunning new palace named the Topkapi (New Palace) was made. Mehmed also put a popular cleric, George Scholarios as Patriarch of the Orthodox Church leading to Russia to claim to be the head of Orthodoxy. The symbolism of capturing Constantinople was profound. Capturing the Roman capital allowed Mehmed to declare himself to be Rome's successor and the religious importance of the city gave him spiritual prestige. This would begin an unrelenting series of conquests which would last centuries. Serbia was conquered in 1459 with Albania following a few years later, Crimea was made a vassal in 1478 (securing Ottoman rule over the Black Sea), and 1473 the Aqqoyunlu - a Turkish confederation in eastern Anatolia, Azerbaijan, Iraq and western Iran - was defeated.

Selim and Suleiman
These are perhaps the two most famous sultans. In this section we'll briefly cover their rules but what they did will be referred to throughout the rest of the post. Selim I, or 'Selim the Grim', came to power in 1512 and despite reigning for eight years he would make huge changes. His father, Bayezid II, came to power during a weak time despite Mehmed's victories. It was due to Mehmed's victories that Bayezid was weak - he had to deal with a depleted treasury caused by wars. He was never properly able to bounce back and his fiscal measures, which started under Mahmud, devauled Ottoman silver greatly upsetting the urban elite. He also was weakened as his brother, Jem, was a captive of the Knights of St John and later the pope. Instead Bayezid's rule was marked out for a boom in the arts and increased religious tolerance (something to be discussed later). However, his inaction allowed a threat to emerge on his border in Iran. In 1501 the kizilbash (Red Heads) brought to power Ismail in Iran who became the Shah of the new Safavid dynasty. Quite dangerous for the Ottomans was that the Safavids adopted Shia Islam and the initial inaction allowed them to grow very powerful. Ismail even declared himself the Mahdi, 'savior of Islam'. In 1511 they even managed to get a revolt in Ottoman lands called the Shah Kulu rebellion which further discredited Bayezin. 
Selim I
His son Selim decided to reverse this trend (going as far as to depose Bayezid) and even used religion to his advantage. He had fatwas issued against Ismail to discredit the Safavids and eased the minds of his soldiers who likely would be opposed to fighting fellow Muslims. Using 500 cannons and 12,000 infantry he showed the advantage of using firearms at the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514 in Azerbaijan where he slaughtered the Safavid army. Selim would also finally conquer the Aqqoyunlu securing Anatolia for the next few centuries but doing so brought him into contact with the Mamluks, another major Islamic power stationed in Cairo. The war with the Mamluks definitely required fatwas: the Mamluks were fellow Sunnis, had the last Abbasid caliph (spiritual leader of Islam) in Cairo, and were the protectors of the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. Selim accused them of an alliance with the Safavids stating 'he who aids a heretic is a heretic himself'. Armed with firearms Selim met the Mamluk forces at Marj Dabik outside Aleppo on 24 August 1516. The Mamluk sultan Qansuh al-Ghawri apparently died of a heart attack caused the Mamluk forces to flee and for Aleppo and Damascus to surrender. On 23 January 1517 another great clash happened at Raydaniyya outside Cairo leading to the death of the new sultan Tumanbay. Cairo soon surrendered and Selim received the fealty of Mecca and Medina. Now the Ottomans ruled Mecca, Medina, Cairo, Jerusalem and Damascus - all cities with sacred sites. Generations later due to this the Ottoman sultans would declare themselves caliphs as well although they would also claim that Selim had declared himself caliph. Selim's conquests would also bring Arabs under Ottoman rule further enduring the Ottomans as a multi-ethnic empire.

Finally, we have Suleiman. Europeans referred to him as 'the Magnificent' for the splendors of his court (many Renaissance elite would have their portraits done to replicate his portrait) while his subjects referred to him as 'Lawgiver'. Suleiman really had a far more diverse reign depending on your viewpoint compared to other notable sultans. Selim had lost legitimacy in the eyes of Muslims as most of his wars were against fellow Muslims despite uniting the major sacred sites under one state. As a result Suleiman spent most his time fighting Christians - Suleiman had thirteen campaigns spanning a quarter of his reign. When he did fight Muslims it was largely Shia Muslims - three campaigns against the Safavids (1534-5, 1548-9 and 1553) brought Iraq and Kuwait into the empire. The 1555 Treaty of Amasya with Iran made the Ottoman's eastern border virtually unchanged until World War I. His wars in Europe brought Hungary into the empire (1541) and threatened Vienna twice (1529 and 1532). If Vienna had fallen European history would have been very different. The Ottoman navy was greatly expanded under Suleiman and became a ferocious force under noted admiral and former pirate Hayreddin Barbarossa who helped conquer key cities in North Africa like Tunis from the Spanish. France and the Ottomans had a long history of alliances which began under Suleiman who were united under the common cause of being anti-Habsburg (the family ruling Austria). In fact, France was the first state to receive special privileges in the empire due to this. Suleiman could not touch sharia (religious) law but he did reform kanun (secular) law. Many of this involved religious minorities which we'll cover later but he did many other reforms. More schools were built and madrases (higher education) was made easier to access. He collated all the laws put forward by the previous nine sultans, removed repetitions and laws he disliked, and keeping in line with sharia he streamlined and created one singular law code. Taxes were placed on certain products and officials known to be corrupt would have lands confiscated. Through Suleiman's reforms the Ottoman Empire soon became more of a meritocracy. A 'Golden Age' of the arts supposedly happened under Suleiman - he himself wrote many poems in Turkish and Persian. After Suleiman's death a traditional historiography stated that the Ottomans went into decline but that shall be debated later.
The Empire under Suleiman

The Topkapi today
It is difficult to talk about Ottoman administration as it often was flexible in this period and changed regularly - hence how the empire survived during the various succession wars. As a result we'll go over a brief overview. At the top of society was the sultan which Europeans in the nineteenth century denounced as being despotic and this view has persisted to this day. The sultan would rule as any other monarch from the Topkapi but they were not alone in ruling. There existed a position named the Grand vizier (working from the Sublime Porte) which lasted until the collapse of the empire in 1922, the first was Alaeddin Pasha, who acted as the sultan's chief adviser and at times military general. Some of the conquests was done under the grand vizier, such as Mahmud Pasha being sent to conquer Serbia in 1458. I should mention that it took until the reforms of Ataturk in the 1920s for Ottomans to get surnames, until then your surname was your occupation. A vizier's position was not always secure; Selim I was known for often executing viziers which displeased him. One jokingly asked to be told before he was executed so he could get his affairs in order, Selim replied that it would be a long time in the future as there was no one competent enough to replace him. The highest governmental organ was the Divan-i Humayun, or Imperial Council, which originally was a court of justice and appeals but then evolved into an almost cabinet of officials. Until Mehmed II's reign the sultan would personally oversee the Divan's meetings but afterwards this fell into decline. However, one French diplomat in the 1500s wrote that 'Lying was mortal' because the sultan was 'often listening at a window overlooking the said Chamber without being seen or noticed'. It was also important for the Divan and sultan to notice the ulema (religious community) who often had a say in government through those who were free-born Muslims (slavery existed in the empire) who had graduated from a madras.

The Ottomans never referred to themselves as 'Turks' as this was seen as a patronizing term for a peasant in Anatolia. Instead they referred to themselves as 'Ottomans' and if you spoke Turkish, was a man, and was a Muslim you could become an administrator. Selim even got a Kurdish scholar, Idris of Bitlis, to get a Kurdish alliance before his war with the Safavids. Few Turkish lived in the Arabic lands so often Arabs ruled themselves. In theory all ethnicities were equal but there was the exisitng of zanj slavery. It was common for Ottomans to buy slaves from what is now Sudan. At times they could become equal but this was rare. Ottoman lands were divided into eyalets (provinces) ruled by a beylerbey which then was divided into sanjaks (districts) under sanjak-beyi. However, often the Ottomans used the multi-ethnic nature of their empire to their advantage by having beylerbeys and sanjak-beyi from other areas of the empire to rule over different ethnic groups - the rulers of Egypt were often taken from Albania or the Caucasus. Taxes were in theory egalitarian. The jizya was applied to non-Muslims while the zakat was applied to Muslims. However, tax farming (illtizam) was used to collect taxes which led to abuses of power by the tax farmers (multazim) who would squeeze peasants of money or horde it for themselves. 
A European depiction of janissaries
Finally there were the janissaries. They were originally the elite bodyguard of the sultan but evolved to become the elite soldiers and when retired they went into the bureaucracy. Janissaries were a form of slavery. When the Ottomans expanded into Europe they imposed a tax called the devshirme or 'boy tax'. Christian communities were expected to give over their young boys who were converted to Islam and trained to be both administrators and soldiers. Due to this many communities adopted Islam themselves to avoid this tax (alongside other reasons) which partially explains why certain areas of the Balkans, like Bosnia and Albania, have majority Muslim populations. Unlike most other slaves janissaries earned a wage and, if they did not die in battle, would eventually become free to normally become administrators. Through this some Christian communities could become more influential than Muslim ones. The janissaries themselves could even control the sultan at times: janissaries regularly deposed sultans they didn't like and during Selim's campaign against the Safavids as the janissaries refused to spend the winter in Tabriz he was forced to retreat. By the end of the empire's life when a weak sultan was in power the janissaries could even use him as a puppet.

A 19th Century Italian depiction of a harem
It is unsurprising that the Ottomans were a patriarchal society. Women were barred from office, owning property and equality before the law. Men were allowed to have multiple wives but women were barred from polygamy and often confined to the harems. Although exempt from the devshirme female slaves often could be subjected to sexual abuse (at times boys could be as well) or even kept as sex slaves. However, this narrative strips agency away from women and often fits into the rhetoric of Western Orientalism. The harems are a good example. Largely only the wealthy could afford to keep a harem - most Muslims in the Ottoman Empire were rural peasants so needed as many hands as possible to work the land. Harems were more common in the cities but even then it was more useful for poorer families to have the wives and daughters working. A typical depiction of the harems is a place of sexuality and debauchery but this is more a case of Orientalist, bourgeois flights of fantasy (or sexual repression) from the nineteenth century. Poorer families who had a harem had the women raising children or helping out with work in the harems. Meanwhile, richer families had the harems as a place of education and consumption of the arts. The harem in the Topkapi could even be used for political means. Since 1617 part of the Imperial Harem, the Kafes, was devoted to keeping the heir safe. Suleiman's wife Hurrem Sultan, sometimes called Roxelana, is an example of how the harem could influence the sultan. Originally a Christian slave she became Suleiman's concubine and later wife. She would exert great amounts of influence over Suleiman, such as getting her son Selim to inherit the throne, and she repeatedly wrote letters advising her husband. We don't have the response that Suleiman sent back but from Hurrem's letters we understand that he was convinced by her words. She was also a proficient poet writing many love poems to Suleiman in fluent Ottoman Turkish.
A depiction of Hurrem Sultan
Suraiya Faraoqhi has also highlighted the different ways women managed to have agency in the Ottoman Empire - although she has stated that this was largely rich women. Court records, especially in Cairo, reveal that many women went to court over dowries, property rights and a variety of other matters. The fact these exist show that women had agency in the Ottoman world. The wife of the British ambassador Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) reported how polygamy was frowned upon in wealthy Istanbul families. She reported that a man who married a second woman earned the wrath of his first wife who refused to let him into her room and had him ostracized from their friends by appealing to her female friends. According to Faraoqhi widows and unmarried women could even invest. Despite being often barred from physically owning a business or enterprise often they acted as 'silent partners' using their dowries to invest. Women also engaged in the arts through creation and consumption. Largely wealthy women could buy or patronize the arts ranging from books to architecture. Mihri Hatin (c.1470-after 1515) became a well renowned poet in her own right. Meanwhile, poorer urban women could have their own agency. Young girls were sent to rich households as servants since sixteenth century Ankara where her employers would pay for her upkeep and dowry. While European guilds often barred women from working the Ottomans made no distinction in regards to weaving but they had to do it in their homes. Despite being subjugated some women still had agency.

Religions and Cultures
The Ottoman Empire was Islamic and favored Muslims. Only Muslims could hold office, the zakat was smaller than the jizya, were exempt from the devshirme, and were exempt from slavery. Religious minorities could have rights though, especially the 'People of the Book' (Christians and Jews). The Ottoman Empire spanned a huge area ruling many non-Muslim peoples - Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Druzes in Syria, and many Jews in the cities. In 1492 the city with the largest Jewish population was Thessaloniki in Ottoman Greece. Similar to the fate of Jews in the rest of Europe Jews (and Christians) were forced to handle money due to the Qu'ran forbidding Muslims from doing so. At times Jews were welcomed. Despite his weaknesses Bayezid II has gone down in history as the tolerant sultan for welcoming Muslims and Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 - apparently he wrote a letter to the Spanish monarchs thanking them for giving him his most 'prized subjects'. It can be argued though it was more pragmatics than genuine altruism as the Jews expelled were mostly bankers and artisans, something which the Ottomans were eager to take advantage of. Nevertheless many Jews fled to the Empire: in 1488 Istanbul had 70 Jewish families which rose to 1500 at the start of the sixteenth century. The exile Jewish community in Cairo quickly exceeded that of the native Jewish community. One exile, Yitzhak Sarfati, became Chief Rabbi of Edirne and said 'Turkey is a land wherein nothing is lacking' and 'Is it not better for you to live under Muslims than under Christians?' Suleiman continued his grandfather's actions banning accusations of blood libel (an antisemitic accusation that Jews drank the blood of virgin Christians during Passover) and he grew close to a Jewish doctor, Moses Hamon.

The Ottomans also had a system called rayah or 'flock'. These were the population that were not either the ruling class, askeri, or slaves, kul, and under Suleiman a new code granted them greater equality - something which attracted Christian serfs from Europe to go to the Empire. Among the rayah were the dhimmi or 'protected peoples'. Christians, Jews, and certain other groups were granted this status which allowed them increased autonomy and self-rule; as long as they paid the jizya and respected kanun law they were exempt from sharia and could in part rule themselves. For example, Druzes in Syria could potentially be tried by their own people instead of a sharia court. To hold office you had to be a Muslim but it did not matter for how long which allowed Christians and Jews to enter office. Baki Tezcan has argued that this created a strange paradox where an Arab Muslim could be less likely to get into office compared to a Christian or Jewish Arab. However, like with women, religious and ethnic tolerance could be limited. There are occasions when religious clashes broke out and religious minorities on the borders, like Armenians, could at times be met with intense violence. Not all cultures were seen as equals - quite often Arabs and Turkish askeri referred to each other as 'foreigners'. Also, their was prejudice against African slaves. Some did become powerful, such as Mullah Ali who went on to oversee the European provinces, but it was far rarer than white slaves (who would also face prejudice). In the period we're looking at today prejudice was a lot less compared to other areas and even the Empire in the nineteenth century.

A depiction of the Battle of Lepanto (notice how angels are helping the Europeans)
Until the 1970s it was common to argue that after the death of Suleiman the Empire went into a decline and this view persists in the depictions of the Ottomans. There is some truth to believe this: after Suleiman there were many weak sultans (his son was even called Selim the Sot); in 1571 at the Battle of Lepanto the Ottoman navy was destroyed; from around 1550 to 1700 irregular troops led by bandit chiefs in Anatolia led revolts called the Celali rebellions; the currency became depreciated; climate change shattered Ottoman agriculture (the backbone of Ottoman life); European trade had started to drift away from Istanbul; and Europeans were winning more wars taking more land. The 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz stripped the Ottomans of almost all their lands in Hungary which became accentuated by the Treaty of Passarowitz almost twenty years later which saw the loss of Serbia. Although times were bad for the Ottomans it was not a decline. For one, Colin Imber has argued that 'Lepanto...was a battle without strategic consequences' and by 1572 the Ottoman navy had been rebuilt so during the peace treaty they could take Cyprus. Crete would later also be conquered. Lepanto has been seen as the start of the decline as Europeans vaulted it at the time. Historians have now started to argue that the losses of land to Austria and Russia did signify the end of the Ottomans the most important power in Europe but not their collapse. Instead it was a solidifying of their rule. The Ottomans had overextended themselves so by losing lands too far away they could focus more on things closer to home.

In the 1700s the Ottomans had started adopting more European style tactics and technology with them opening the Istanbul Technical University to do this. Trade, although dipping, still remained big for the Ottomans with them straddling three continents taking produce like coffee from Africa and spices from the Indian Ocean as they received European goods. 'Ottoman' furniture entered Europe during this period as an example. Under bibliophile Ahmet III (r.1703-30) the 'Tulip Age' began where a long period of peace was noted for the court obsession with tulips. Tulips were used to represent wealth, prestige and consumption, something which has remained with Turkey today with tulips appearing on the planes of Turkish Airlines. Ottoman rule in North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East would remain in tact until the 1800s (some areas until World War I). Only until Europe truly overtook the Ottomans through the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s did the Empire really start to decline.

The Ottoman Empire is a unique aspect of world history. Lasting from the early-fourteenth century until 1922 it straddled the Medieval, early Modern and Modern worlds and encompassed parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. It remained a key player in the world as both a military, economic and diplomatic power that had a variety of religions and ethnicities living within its borders. Despite being called 'Turkish' it did viewed itself as being the followers of the founder Osman. It is interesting to note that out of the three 'Gunpowder Empires' it lasted the longest and lasted until the twentieth century whilst the others collapsed in the eighteenth and nineteenth. The Ottomans may be gone but their legacy lives on, and we will eventually come back to them to see how this Empire went from strength to collapse, from limited tolerance to at times genocide. Nevertheless, the Ottomans remained a huge part of our history.

Thank you for reading. Next time we'll look at the second 'Gunpowder Empire': the Safavids. The sources I have used are as follows:
-Christine Woodhead, (ed.), The Ottoman World, (Oxon: Routledge, 2012)
-Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The Structure of Empire, Second Edition, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
-Suraiya Faroqhi, Subjects of the Sultan: Culture and Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire, (London: I.B. Tauris, 1995)
-Rifa'at 'Ali Abou-El-Haj, Formation of the Modern State: The Ottoman Empire, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries, Second Edition, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005)
-Gabor Agoston, 'Asia Minor and Beyond: The Ottomans, 1281-1922', in Jim Masselos, (ed.), The Great Empires of Asia, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2010)

For other World History posts please see our list here. For future blog updates feel free to find us on Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Who was Winnie Madikizela-Mandela?

On 2 April 2018 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the age of 81. Known across the world as Winnie Mandela she was an ardent anti-Apartheid activist who had far more agency than just being the wife of Nelson Mandela. Today we look at her life to understand her role in the history of South Africa.

South Africa and early Life
Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela was born in Bizana in the Eastern Cape in 1936. Her name, Nomzamo, means 'one who strives or undergoes trials' which was a prophetic name for her later career. Even before independence in 1910 South Africa was a settler society on the same lines as the future Zimbabwe and Kikuyuland in present day Kenya. White farmers had historically taken arable land from the local population and in the cities Africans and Indians were met with discrimination. Before official Apartheid began in 1948 legislation had been put in place stripping Africans, Indians, and 'Coloureds' (mixed race) people of the same rights awarded to the white population. In 1912 the African National Congress (ANC) was founded to combat racism in South Africa.

Winnie was the sixth child of eleven to two teachers, but tragedy struck at the age of nine when her mother died causing her family to be separated. Despite this she managed to become head girl at her school before going on to study social work at Jan Hofmeyr School, and later international relations at the University of Witwatersrand. It should be noted that since the National Party's official creation of the Apartheid policy in 1948 it had been extremely difficult for black Africans to go into higher education - it was even difficult before this with Nelson Mandela (Winnie's senior by 16 years) commenting on how narrowly he was accepted. It is really a testament to her character and ability that she managed to get in at all. After graduating she went through several small jobs before becoming the first black female social worker at Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg at the age of 21. As a young, well-educated black woman it is likely that she became politicized relatively quickly, after all she entered her teen years just as Apartheid officially became law. During her student years she had been affiliated with the Non-European Unity Movement. It was in 1957 when she first met Nelson.

Winnie and Nelson

In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom Mandela described the first time he saw Winnie: 'I drove a friend from Orlando to the medical school at the University of Witwatersrand and went past Baragwanath Hospital, the leading black hospital in Johannesburg. As I passed a nearby bus stop, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a lovely young woman waiting for the bus. I was struck by her beauty.' At the time Mandela's first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase was coming to an end and he was preparing for the 'Treason Trial' where he and 155 other anti-Apartheid activists had been arrested for treason. Winnie and her brother had been visiting Mandela and his partner Oliver Tambo to seek legal help. Mandela wrote 'I cannot say for certain if there is such a thing as love at first sight, but I do know that the moment I first glimpsed Winnie Nomzamo, I knew that I wanted to have her as my wife.' The two got on extremely well, so much so that on 14 June 1958 they were married. When on trial Nelson couldn't work so often they had to live off of the wages from Winnie's social work but for what it was they lived happily at 8115 Orlando West in Johannesburg. 

Winnie's role in the anti-Apartheid movement has strangely been forgotten by the general public since the collapse of Apartheid, but even before Nelson's imprisonment she was active in the movement. A lot of domestic activism was organised at the grassroots level which Winnie took part in, including many student and women's protests. While pregnant she was even arrested and there was a genuine fear that she would give birth while in prison. She was released and in 1958 gave birth to her first daughter, Zenani; Zenani is a Xhosa word for 'What have you brought into the world?' suggesting that one had to contribute something to society. Winnie's headstrong attitude was shown here: Nelson mother had come to the birth to let Zanani have a Xhosa baptism with an inyanga, tribal healer, but Winnie saw it as outdated and unhealthy so rejected it. In 1960 her second daughter, Zindzi, was born in the township of Soweto in Johannesburg. However, family life was short lived. Both Winnie and Nelson were constantly harassed by the government with Nelson going into exile for organizing the ANC's armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). In 1964 he was imprisoned and would not be released until 1990.

The Anti-Apartheid Struggle
Alone with two young children Winnie never lost hope and continued in the anti-Apartheid struggle. The 1960s and 1970s were some of the worse years of Apartheid with the state actively murdering activists, increasing legal discrimination, and even disenfranchising black Africans. Despite these setbacks Winnie would became a prominent figure in the anti-Apartheid movement while also focusing on particularly black women's emancipation. The state started targeting her and her family as well; one time a Special Branch officer broke into their Orlando home and when she reacted, quite understandably, angry the lieutenant laid a charge of assault against her. To allow their daughters to get an education Winnie had sent them to a school with them designated as Indians (although persecuted South Africa's Indian population faced less discrimination compared to the black populace) so with Nelson's advice she ended up sending them to a boarding school in Swaziland. While visiting him prison they set up a code to give each other information. Nelson would ask 'How is Ngutyana doing?' which was one of Winnie's clan names so she could tell him how she actually was doing as the guards did not know this. In 1969 Winnie was arrested and imprisoned for the first time for 18-months for anti-Apartheid activities. It would be the first of many arrests. 

In June 1976 20,000 students protested the imposition of Afrikaans in schools originating in Soweto which police brutally crushed down on generating international furor. Many activists were arrested by the government for this and Winnie was one thanks to her role in the Black Parents' Association. Instead of prison she was instead sent into internal exile in the Free State away from her home in Soweto. Winnie, Zindzi, and all their possessions were dumped in front of a tin-roofed shack in Brandfort, a rural area where Sesotho, not Xhosa, was spoken. They had no toilet, running water and heat; were placed under constant police surveillance; and the only shops were hostile to African customers. However, Winnie managed to pull through. She had organised Operation Hunger which helped redistribute food to poor families, started a creche for the township, and raised funds for a medical clinic - something which few had access to. Soon local from both the Sesotho and Afrikaner populations grew to love her. Zindzi was soon allowed guests and could move about, especially as Zanani had married into the ANC supporting Swazi royal family, but Winnie could only leave Brandfort to visit Nelson or got to hospital. Winnie soon got international attention - Oliver Tambo had managed to turn Mandela into a key symbol of Apartheid's cruelty abroad and when word got out that his wife was also being persecuted this made her a symbol as well. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s despite opposition from the state she would continue her activism.

By the 1980s Winnie was given more room to breathe, although on one trip to Johannesburg in 1985 for medical treatment her house in Brandfort and the clinic were firebombed. The 1980s were Apartheid's last desperate years so security forces became harsher and opponents became more willing to use violence. Winnie was one who started advocating for more violent measures including 'necklacing' - putting a wheel on someone's neck, dousing it in petrol and then setting it on fire. A group called the Mandela United Football Club (MUFC) was set up to act as her bodyguard but quite often resorted to acts of kidnapping, assassination, extortion and at times even torture. One example which became a blot of her record was the kidnapping and murder of 14-year old United Democratic Front activist James Seipei, better known as Stompie Moeketsi, in 1989. She was charged with kidnapping in 1991 for this reason. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1998 concluded that 'Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela [was] politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC' but that her role in the actual murder of Seipei was 'negligent'. 

After Apartheid

In 1990 after years of imprisonment Nelson was freed from prison and Winnie's jubilant cry of happiness as he walked out of prison has become well known world wide. It took a further four years for Apartheid to formally end in South Africa's first multi-racial election. During this four-year period both Nelson and Winnie constantly continued to campaign for equality. Winnie was critical of Nelson's seemingly willingness to compromise to the South African president F.W. de Klerk. However, soon their marriage would fall apart. In Long Walk to Freedom Nelson would attribute this to them falling apart after literally decades apart while several historians, such as Martin Meredith, have attributed this to Winnie's involvement with the MUFC and several of her infidelities. Despite this for the most part both remained close. Winnie kept her married name but then also used her family name becoming Madikizela-Mandela. Due to the divorce though Zindzi acted as First Lady during the first part of her father's presidency. Winnie would remain a major player in the ANC actively criticizing the shortcomings of Mandela's presidency. Late Apartheid had destroyed the economy and Mandela was fearful that his proposed reforms could cause an exodus of the white population as what happened in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This left many millions of black Africans still languishing in poverty and wealth largely in the hands of a few figures so Winnie took up their cry.

In 2003 Winnie was convicted on over 40 charges of fraud so she resigned from all her roles in the ANC. Despite this controversy she still continued her campaigns for various social justice including immigrant rights and women's rights. For this reason she remained very popular both inside and outside the ANC, and especially in other countries. During the 2007 National Executive Committee elections for the ANC she returned to formal politics where she came first. In 2009 she even was one of the top placed figure on the ANC's electoral success. Winnie remained close to Nelson and she spent his last few moments with him in 2013, and she was photographed in tears with his widow Graca Machel. Finally in January 2018 she received an honorary degree from Makerere University, Uganda. Then on 2 April 2018 she tragically passed away.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela remains today one of the most famous and influential anti-Apartheid activists and is still widely known as 'Mother of the Nation'. Thousands across the world currently mourn her for good reason. Like her husband she fought for equality and a fairer society, and she will be missed by both South Africa and the world. 

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Obituary: Winnie Madikizela-Mandela of South Africa
-Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, 491 Days: Prisoner Number 1323/69, (Cape Town: Pan Macmillan, 2013)
-Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, (London: Abacus, 1994)
-Martin Meredith, The State of Africa: A History of the Continent since Independence, (London: Simon & Schuster, 2005)
- Anne Mare du Preez Bezdrob, Winnie Mandela: A Life, (Cape Town: Zebra Press, 2003)
Also this interesting article about how legacies are viewed:

Thank you for reading. For future blog updates please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Comics Explained: DC Multiverse

A map of the Multiverse
One of the key aspects of the DC Universe (DCU) is the Multiverse. An idea of a Multiverse is not unique to DC and some scientists have even hypothesized that we may even be living in a Multiverse. A Multiverse is basically a parallel universe where things are different; for example, there could be a reality where an alternate version of you got your dream job. Some scientists, like Ethan Siegal, have argued against the idea of alternate universes. DC comics has had a long and complicated history with alternate realities so the purpose of this post is to make it simpler. Due to how complicated DC's Multiverse has been this will be more of an overview so if you've noticed that I've missed something it's likely intentional - although feel free to mention it in the comments. DC's Multiverse originated as a way to justify a retcon...

Real World Origins of the Multiverse
DC originated in the 1930s and 1940s and its cast of characters, with a few exceptions, were largely magic based. Of course there were exceptions, such as Superman, but heroes were largely magic based. These included Wonder Woman, Doctor Fate, the original Green Lantern (Alan Scott), and Hawkman. They proved to be so popular that in 1940's All Star Comics #3 a precursor of the Justice League, called the Justice Society of America, was made out of some of the more popular characters - however Batman and Superman weren't apart of it and 1940s sexism made Wonder Woman the JSA's secretary. After the Second World War interest in superheroes decreased. This did not just affect DC, Marvel's precursor Timely also faced this issue. Throughout the late-1940s and early-1950s comic book companies instead sold stories about horror (which crashed thanks to the Comics Code of Authority), romance, teen drama, Westerns, and war. Until the mid-1960s Archie Comics actually sold more than Marvel! With the exception of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and a few others superheroes were out. By the mid-1950s the Space Race had begun making a new generation interested in sci-fi so DC thought to bring back superheroes. Largely magic was dropped in favor of science, or science merged with magic. In 1956 Showcase #4 remade the Flash with Barry Allen as the titular hero; as a bit of meta ingenuity Barry Allen loved reading the Flash comics from the 1940s so chose that as his moniker. In 1959 Green Lantern received a sci-fi makeover in Showcase Presents Green Lantern #23. Soon enough the JSA was remade into the Justice League in The Brave and the Bold #28.

Fans weren't entirely on board with these changes. Of course it was very popular - after all it restarted the love for superheroes which only dipped thanks to the 1990s Comic Book Crash which you can read about here - but some long time fans weren't happy. Many older readers were wondering what happened to the older stories? Why are Alan Scott and Jay Garrick comic book characters but Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman 'real' in this continuity? What happened to the JSA? Something that can be compared to modern comics some Flash fans hated Barry Allen initially. After a while they did grow to like him but many were upset that the Flash they grew up with had just become a fictitious character in a comic. So in 1961 they decided to answer this question and create the Multiverse. Flash fans buying Flash #123 saw Barry Allen and Jay Garrick on the cover.
The Flash #123
In this story Barry Allen vibrates at a different frequency and accidentally travels into a different dimension where Jay Garrick lives. Garrick has aged in real time and inspired by Barry comes out of retirement. Thus the Multiverse was born. Throughout DC history we find out that each universe vibrates at a different frequency and when we dream we sometimes see different universes; the Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert of the DCU therefore saw Garrick's universe as they slept. The Flash #123 received a ton of positive fan mail. Longtime fans who liked both Garrick and Allen were thrilled to see them together; Garrick fans who disliked Allen loved that they paid respect to the character; and new fans who knew nothing of Garrick were eager to find out more about the interesting 1940s characters (comic guides wouldn't come around until the late-1960s). Barry Allen would occasionally go to Garrick's reality but in 1963 with Justice League of America #21 and #22 the Justice League met the Justice Society. The most recent universe, from the 1950s, was named Earth-1 while the older universe was named Earth-2. Until 1985 there would be at least one JLA/JSA crossover a year.

Expansion of the Multiverse and Crisis on Infinite Earths
With the Multiverse now created DC had fun with it. Earth-3 was introduced in Justice League of America #29 which is an 'opposite' world: Columbus discovered Europe, England rebelled against the USA etc. Instead of a Justice League we have the Crime Syndicate of America featuring Ultraman (Superman), Super Woman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman), Johnny Quick (Flash), and Power Ring (Green Lantern). DC had also purchased Captain Marvel (now Shazam) - who at one time was even more popular than Superman - and Plastic Man from other companies so DC designated their old universes Earth-S and Earth-X respectively. When Marvel powerhouse Jack Kirby moved over to DC he expanded the Multiverse with New Gods beginning in 1971. The New Gods of New Genesis and Apokolips exist outside the Multiverse and figures like Darkseid interact with the Multiverse, mainly Earth-1, via portals called Boom Tubes. We also see the Source Wall which is a structure separating the Multiverse from the 'Source' - the literal origin of all knowledge and everything that exists. Since the 1970s the Multiverse continued and continued to expand. Power Girl is one just example. Power Girl is the Earth-2 version of Supergirl - older than her Earth-1 counterpart she got trapped on Earth-1 so created her own identity as there was already a Supergirl there. 
Destruction of the Multiverse
By 1985 DC decided that a change was needed. After decades of stories they were worried that new fans would be turned off by the mountains of stories, and the Multiverse did not help. Even normal fans were confused about which stories were in which universe never mind new ones. Plot holes started to appear and with general confusion DC decided a clean slate was needed leading to 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths. Writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez were tasked with this story and to this day this story marked the key dating point when discussing DC's history. An ancient being called the Anti-Monitor attacks the Multiverse causing all the heroes to unite and fight it. One key thing to note: Barry Allen died in this story. The character who introduced the Multiverse died with it. Despite the heroes defeating the Anti-Monitor the Multiverse is destroyed forming one new reality: New Earth.

Gotham by Gaslight, the first Elseworlds comic
DC treated Crisis as a new start. A few characters, like Wonder Woman, received entirely new origins and some aspects of characters were rewritten to make more sense. For example, Bruce Wayne hired Alfred after becoming Batman and he discovers that Wayne is Batman when Alfred finds him injured. Post-Crisis rewrote this so that Alfred had always been with the Waynes and had always knew that Bruce was Batman. The Justice Society was active during World War Two but disbanded due to McCarthyism. DC planned that there were to be no Multiverse at all - alternate realities were allowed but it had to be clear that there would be no interaction with New Earth. Many of these were published under their darker imprint called Vertigo which featured Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swamp Thing and Hellblazer. In 1989 DC launched Elseworlds to cover alternate reality stories so fans would not get confused where the first to be published was Gotham by Gaslight featuring Batman living in the Victorian era tracking Jack the Ripper who had come to Gotham. Meanwhile, characters intimately tied with the Multiverse had to have rewrites. Some were simple: instead of existing outside the Multiverse the New Gods exist in a galaxy which cannot be reached via normal means. Attempts to reboot Power Girl were not well received. She was changed to be descended from an Atlantean sorcerer and fans hated it. Some parts of the pre-Crisis continuity remained. Barry Allen's death was one and he remained dead for decades with Wally West acting as the Flash since then. John Constantine could also remember the pre-Crisis timeline.

Since 1985 DC had published several alternate reality stories and some are the best from comics. The Dark Knight Returns featured an elderly Bruce Wayne becoming the Batman once again; Superman: Red Son featured Superman landing in a collective farm in Ukraine in the 1930s and years later he becomes a key figure in the USSR; and Kingdom Come tells the story of a retired Superman returning to show the new violent heroes how to be a hero. The stories from Vertigo were considered semi-canon: if something contrasted with the main reality then that story didn't officially happen. There was no Multiverse, discounting the sequel crossovers to Kingdom Come called Hypertime, until 2005 with Infinite Crisis by Geoff Johns. We find out that following Crisis certain heroes, such as Earth-2 Superman and Lois Lane, following the destruction of the Multiverse were trapped in a pocket universe. However, many of them were unhappy. Compared to pre-Crisis heroes the post-Crisis heroes failed, they were flawed, and they argued so the surviving pre-Crisis heroes viewed them as false heroes. One was Superboy-Prime, a version of Superman where all DC heroes are comic characters, manages to punch his way out of the universe! This caused ripple effects causing heroes to come back alive or change their backstories. We even find out that Power Girl was actually from Earth-2 but she became trapped in New Earth instead of Earth-2. Barry Allen also came back in Infinite Crisis. Following Infinite Crisis the Multiverse came back. Now Hypertime, Vertigo and another imprint called WildStorm could actively crossover.

Flashpoint and After
In 2011's Flashpoint Barry Allen wakes up in a world completely different to his own and we find out that he accidentally caused this: he had ran so fast that he traveled through time to stop his mother's death but the Butterfly Effect reshaped the world. One good example of this is Bruce Wayne being shot instead of his parents and his mother becomes the Joker while his dad becomes an ultraviolent Batman. When the Flash reversed this it destroyed the Multiverse once again and New Earth, the Vertigo universe, and the WildStorm universe merge together forming Earth Prime. The Multiverse was recreated to form 52 new realities - one even got its own comic series, Earth-2. The New 52 had a mix reception mainly as DC said this was an entirely a new start, they wanted readers to act as if DC had never published a story before. Except DC kept referring back to older stories and now no one knew what was canon or not. After that tangent we get to Multiversity by Grant Morrison and I would highly recommend people read it. Morrison mapped out the Multiverse (at the top) and explored some of them. My personal favorite is shown in The Just. Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are dead but before they died they made sure injustice, crime and alien invasions died with them. Now their children, and some retired heroes, act as celebrities doing battle reenactments. The later Convergence event, which Multiversity helped set up. The heroes of Earth-2, and a few others, go on a journey to stop Brainiac who has been collecting people from destroyed realities with the intention of putting them together to study what happens.

Finally I'm going to mention DC Rebirth, Dark Knights: Metal, and Doomsday Clock. As they are still currently happening and I haven't fully caught up with each one this shall be a broad overview. In DC Rebirth, a half-reboot to rectify somethings disliked in the New 52, we find the Comedian's button from Watchmen in the Batcave and we find out that Dr Manhattan has been intervening in the DCU leading up to Doomsday Clock. Here Ozymandias, the new Rorschach and a criminal duo travel to the DCU hoping to find Manhattan. Meanwhile, with Dark Knights: Metal we find out that there is a 'Dark 52'. These were universes destined to be destroyed and are invading the 52. This invasion is being led by the Dark Knights - basically evil versions of Batman. 
The Dark Knights

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