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Saturday, 16 June 2018

Comics Explained: Spawn


Recently it has been announced that Jamie Foxx could possibly be playing Spawn in the new adaptation, Spawn got an movie adaptation in 1997 and a HBO cartoon around the same time. Spawn is from one of the largest non-Marvel/DC comics and he's really the character which launched the publication, Image Comics. In the early 1990s several comic book writers and artists were upset that DC or Marvel owned their characters so they banded together, largely under Todd McFarlane although there were many others, to form Image. Here the creators would own the characters, not the company. Spawn, by McFarlane, until relatively recently remained Image's biggest character, The Walking Dead in the last few years may have just eclipsed Spawn in popularity, and he is still very popular among comic book fans. Spawn constantly appears on the top comic book character lists. As Spawn has been Image's largest figure for around twenty-five years we'll largely just look at his origins and some other key aspects of his history.

Real World Origin
Todd McFarlane
Spawn made his debut in 1992's Spawn #1 as one of Image's first publications. Image had just been formed and several big name writers had formed it together, including Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld. Spawn stood out compared to the other titles was because one name was attached to it: Todd McFarlane. McFarlane had been one of Marvel's biggest creators with his run on The Amazing Spider-Man being not only one of the highest selling titles but also some of the best received. McFarlane's name was a badge of quality. Thanks to this Spawn soon became incredibly popular. Luckily for the new title, and publisher, the early 1990s comic books were seeing high sales in a speculator boom which you can read about here. This boom, the excitement over a new big publisher, and with McFarlane's name attached to it Spawn quickly became extremely popular with the first issue selling 1.7 million copies. In May 1997 it was even the highest selling title! The stories, which attracted writers including Watchmen's Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, (who wrote one of my favorite books, American Gods), were dark, violent, and all things 1990s but as they were imaginative and very well written Spawn managed to outlive the 1990s. The upcoming adaptation shows how popular he still is and calls for him to appear in Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2 (of which I took part in as well) shows he is still very popular.

Origins

Spawn's origins were very much in line with other characters from the 1990s. Unlike earlier decades during the 1990s a character would be introduced but their origin would be explained in future issues or even titles. This, to an extent, continues today although it depends title to title. Spawn is dropped in Spawn #1 with few memories and an urge to punish the wicked. He doesn't even know what his powers are, never mind their extent, until he stumbles upon them by accident. The first four issues deals with Spawn remembering about his past, what has happened five years since his death, and why he's returned to the mortal world after dying. One memory is that of a woman and Spawn uses this to remember his past; he was called Al Simmons and the woman is his wife Wanda. Simmons had made a deal with a Hell lord to see her again. Al decides to find Wanda again and finally manages to control his ability to change his shape; Al is surprised that he can make himself look very different to his original form as he turned into a Caucasian man when he is actually African-American. When he visits Wanda he finds out that she has remarried, to a friend of his, and has had a daughter. Al becomes distraught and has to be comforted by them as he realizes that he cannot ethically come back to Wanda as it would mean destroying a family and Wanda's dream; she had always wanted to be a mother. This is interesting as normally anti-heroes, like the Punisher, have a moral compass but it is largely outweighed by their negative actions. Wolverine is perhaps a good example of an anti-hero along Spawn's lines. Spawn decides to leave Wanda be and then remembers his past. He was a special-op CIA agent performing assassinations and covert war which hurt many innocents and he knew about it so when the CIA decided to remove him he was sent to Hell. There he met the Hell lord Malebolgia who allowed him to see Wanda one more time.

However, a contract with Malebolgia often has strings attached to it. If Al wanted to return to see Wanda he had to come back as a Hellspawn. In Spawn #4 we find out what exactly a Hellspawn is and does. Hell lords like Malebolgia, and after Spawn #158 Satan, want to go to war and destroy God but they are in the weaker position. They need an army made up of the souls of the damned and the wicked in order to do this, and in order to build said army Malebolgia requires Hellspawn to take the souls of the wicked. Although the wicked can be sent to Hell when they die naturally, as what happened to Al, a Hellspawn killing them ensures that they are brought into Hell's army. A Hellspawn's suit is made up of something called necroplasm and each starts with 9,999 units of necroplasm which gets depleted every time they use their powers. When all units are used the Hellspawn is sent to Hell where they'll eventually become lieutenants of Hell's army. Throughout Spawn's existence he wants to protect the innocent but he cannot use too much of his powers or kill as this will increase the army of Hell.

Violator and Cogliostro

In Spawn #2 we encounter an insidious clown called the Violator tearing the hearts out of mafia bosses. The Violator is an interesting character offering comic relief despite being incredibly sadistic - imagine the Joker as a demon. In later issues we find out that the Violator was one of several major demon brothers who became Malebolgia's key assistants. He, however, loathed mortals and thought that he, instead of the Hellspawn, should lead Hell's armies instead. Malebolgia sent Violator to Earth to mentor and groom the Hellspawn for their time leading his armies which infuriated the demon. Instead of staying low, occasionally collecting souls, until a new Hellspawn arrived he opted to take matters into his own hands by tearing the hearts out of the mafia. In Spawn #4 he encountered Spawn and hoped by killing Al off he could reap the rewards of claiming souls so he tore out the Hellspawn's heart only to find out it had no effect. As they began fighting they were interrupted by Malebolgia who was angered by the Violator for attacking the Hellspawn so he cursed the demon to be stuck in his clown form. Trapped in clown form he wanted revenge on Spawn and had to deal with the mafia sending a mercenary called the Admonisher to kill him in his own mini-series. After Spawn #37 he even worked with Spawn's killer, CIA Director Jason Wynn, in order to bring Spawn down.

In Spawn #9 Spawn met a homeless man in an alley calling himself Cog, a character partially created by Neil Gaiman. Despite being outwardly a homeless anonymous figure Cog knew a lot about Hellspawn and he is the one who informed him about how eventually he will run out of energy and be sent to Hell. Throughout the early issues Cog would act as the counterpoint to Violator; as the Violator wanted to take Spawn down and for him to use his powers Cogliostro wanted him to do the opposite. In Spawn #77 we find out why - Cogliostro was once a Hellspawn who went against Malebolgia who has one 'tick' of energy left, and if he uses it that would mean the end of his existence. After over a hundred issues of comics we find out Cogliostro's origin. He was Cain and following his murder of Abel in envy he became the first person sent to Hell and eventually became a Hellspawn. 

Against Heaven
For some reason Image had a habit of making all their female warriors, like Angela, wear little. Angela is fairly modestly dressed compared to Witchblade if you can believe that...
After eliminating mafia bosses and serial killers Heaven feared another Hellspawn on Earth. In their eternal war Heaven had sent angels to Earth in order to eliminate Hellspawn before they could help build up the army of Hell. However, very much in Gaiman's humor in order to do so they needed a Hunting Permit from the Terran Affairs Headquarters, led by Gabrielle. A prolific hunter who would become very popular, Angela, obtained a license in order to hunt Spawn. As Angela had often eliminated Hellspawn in the past she assumed this newest one would just be as easy but this turned out to be a mistake. Al was very resourceful, even without advise from Cogliostro, and managed to trick Angela during her fight. Angels are armed with Dimensional Lances which can pierce the suits of Hellspawn so during the fight Spawn managed to separate Angela from her Lance. As one of his powers is reality manipulation he engulfed Angela in his cape and teleported her away. In her own series in 1995 this would serve as a major plot point. Gabrielle saw Angela as a free lancer and when Spawn disarmed her all records of the Hunting Permit vanished so she wanted to use that to take down Angela. At her trial Spawn is summoned as a witness where he helps her escape. Since then Angela and Spawn would sometimes be enemies and sometimes be allies. Marvel fans may recognize Angela; Neil Gaiman in 2012 was given full ownership of her, and when he came to Marvel he brought her with him who later bought her rights. She was formally brought into the Marvel universe with Age of Ultron.

Spawn #16 featured Heaven's next major attempt to bring down Spawn. After Angela's failure Gabrielle decided to beat Hell at their own game by creating an Anti-Spawn, aka a Redeemer. Gabrielle chose Jason Wynn to become the first Redeemer where his soul and body were molded together with Elemental Fire in constant pain. The pain would only end when Spawn was defeated. Driven to insanity he attacked Spawn and beat him to an inch of his life. Spawn was only spared when the bums which Spawn protected distracted him. This allowed Al to fight back and defeat the Redeemer. However, when he was about to the infused with more Fire it failed as his soul was not pure thanks to him organizing the the covert CIA operations. After Wynn more Redeemers would be made. The Heaven vs. Hell aspect would remain a constant in the Spawn comics.

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

Sunday, 10 June 2018

25 Years of Jurassic Park


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is now out in cinemas (highly recommend it by the way) purposefully to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original release of Jurassic Park in 1993. Regular readers of this blog, and people who know me in real life, can attest how much I love the Jurassic Park franchise. With special effects remaining superb today, interesting characters, and, of course, dinosaurs Jurassic Park has stood the test of time. Today we'll look at 25 things which I find interesting about the franchise looking at the books, games, comics and even the marketing of the series. All of the things which we will look at shows how important Jurassic Park has been. Warning: this post will contain some spoilers for the new movie as well as other entries to the series. I'll be abbreviating certain titles during this post so I shall lay them out now: JP is Jurassic Park, TLW is The Lost World, JPIII is Jurassic Park III, JW is Jurassic World, JW:FK is Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, JPT is Jurassic Park: Trespasser, JPOG is Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, JPTG is Jurassic Park: The Game, and JWE is Jurassic World: Evolution.

25. From a dark novel to a family feature
Those who have read Michael Crichton's novel will know that it is far darker than Steven Spielberg's adaptation. Many characters swear, John Hammond is a far more sinister and self-centered character, Robert Muldoon is a drunk, and characters are brutally torn apart by dinosaurs. When Dennis Nedry is killed by a Dilophosaurus he comments that he can feel his intestines which have been torn apart and Henry Wu is also torn disemboweled while still alive. Unnamed characters also die quite horrifically. A young man at the very start of the novel is taken to mainland Costa Rica after being mauled by a Velociraptor, and we see in detail his wounds, and a baby is killed by Procomsognathus who had escaped to the mainland. If we had gotten a book accurate adaptation JP likely would have remained a smash hit but not in the same way. It would have been a hit in the same sense as Terminator 2; T2 made US $523.7 million while JP made US $1.029 billion. Spielberg was always into making family features despite wanting to make more adult hits like Schindler's List. As a result JP was made into a more darker family feature than a straight up adaptation featuring gore and violence. Even the two darkest entries in the series, TLW and JW:FK, are nowhere nearly as dark as Crichton's novel. Quite possibly JP would never be such a big franchise as it is now without this shift.

24. Landmark in film history
Jurassic Park's first CGI dinosaur
JP is one of the movies lauded for its special effects with it being one of the first movies to use CGI to such a great extent and realistically as well. Originally Phil Tippett, who had worked on Return of the Jedi, was hired to use go-motion, a more updated version of stop-motion, to create the dinosaurs. However, Spielberg felt it could be improved upon. A team from Industrial Lights and Magic (ILM) under Dennis Muren was approached to use a relatively new form of special effects to make the dinosaurs: CGI. ILM had used CGI to create the fantastic effects of the aliens in The Abyss and the shape-shifting living metal T-1000 in Terminator 2, both directed by James Cameron. After showing Spielberg an animation of skeletal Gallimimus running go-motion was scrapped in favor of CGI. Tippett was kept on board to create the models which Muren and his team would adapt for their CGI, and then their CGI dinosaurs would be combined with animatronics and puppets made by Stan Winston. As a result we managed to see the breath-taking effects where most still stand the test of time which actually were better than the effects which we saw in JW. Hence, JP, T2, and The Abyss are seen as some of the films which brought CGI into the mainstream which has since shaped the film industry.

23. Surprising lack of dinosaurs
Especially compared to later entries in the series the original JP had surprisingly few dinosaurs in the movie; this includes species and how many dinosaurs literally appear. JP is 127 minutes long and in that only 15 minutes have dinosaurs in it of which nine are animatronic and six are CGI. That means barely over 10% of the movie has dinosaurs in it! Eight dinosaurs physically appear in the movie, a few more are mentioned though, and even then one is a skeleton (the Alamosaurus in the Visitor's Center), and another, Parasaurolophus, appears briefly alongside Brachiosaurus in the movie's most iconic scene. Quite ironically only two dinosaurs which appear are from the Jurassic: Dilophosaurus and Brachiosaurus. The rest are from the Cretaceous. 

22. Progressing Views on Paleontology 
Although those who know about dinosaurs will know that JP is inaccurate, after all we now know that most or possibly all dinosaurs had feathers, but when it was released it was fairly accurate for the time. Paleontologist Jack Horner was hired as an adviser to the series and as a result audiences were introduced to more accurate dinosaurs. Previously dinosaurs had been portrayed as slow, sluggish brutes destined to go extinct little more than being large iguanas. Horner made sure the dinosaurs were active. We saw this in the book as well. Henry Wu acts Hammond whether he should release a new batch of dinosaurs slower than the ones they have in case guests didn't believe that they were real. Originally the Velociraptors were meant to have forked tongues which flicked out of their mouths like lizards but Horner convinced the makers to drop this, and when they breathe on the kitchen door window it fogs over showing it was warm blooded. I have seen this called a mistake with people saying dinosaurs were cold blooded when in reality it is accurate - dinosaurs like Velociraptor were more than likely warm blooded. The later entries occasionally continued this trend. TLW and JW:FK both portray Tyrannosaurus as an ambush predator while the raptors in JP3 have some head feathers, although in real life they were entirely covered in feathers.

21. Greater Interest in dinosaurs

JP coincided with a new wave of dinosaur discoveries from China which found that dinosaurs were indeed feathered. These combined with an upsurge in people becoming paleontologists at university. The 1990s also saw a boom in dinosaur related media ranging from the video game Turok to the Whoopi Goldberg movie Theodore Rex. Possibly the best documentary on dinosaurs, Walking with Dinosaurs, was made thanks to JP. Producers and writers Jasper James and Tim Haines wanted to make a documentary on the scale of JP and with effects from Mike Milne produced Walking with Dinosaurs in 1999. They had even initially approached ILM to make the dinosaurs but as they were charging over $10,000 per second of footage they were deemed to be too expensive for the BBC! Walking with Dinosaurs still remains one of the most successful documentaries by the BBC and has spawned sequels, a live experience, and a movie since then.

20. Alternate Scripts
JP went through many script revisions before we got the one used. Quite curiously all bar the final had Robert Muldoon survive. Some scripts were also darker than the one we eventually got even though most were not nearly as dark as the novel was. In one script Hammond was closer to his book counterpart with him being a greedy capitalist but he was still caring and selfless with him eventually sacrificing himself to let others escape from Velociraptors. One storyboard also had a different ending. In this ending Grant and the kids escape from the Visitor's Center but are chased by the Tyrannosaurus who then tries to attack their helicopter instead of the one we saw where the Tyrannosaurus saves them from the pack of raptors.  

19. Metaphors hidden in plain sight
The gift shop
Steven Spielberg's movies were constantly criticized for being heavily marketed. For every family movie we saw toys, comics, video games (E.T. The Game is often cited as almost crashing the video game industry), clothing and countless other products made. Directly quoting Ian Malcolm: before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it, you wanna sell it. Albeit JP was heavily marketed as well having a comic series by Topps, ten video games being released between 1993 and 1995, lunch boxes, Burger King tie-ins, clothes, many toy series, and novelizations just to name a few examples. Spielberg, though, decided to address this criticism in JP outside of just Malcolm's rant. We catch a brief glimpse of the gift shop showing the wide range of JP merchandise including books, lunch boxes, and toys in a purposeful attempt to show how much Spielberg's movies have been over-marketed. JW also featured huge amounts of marketing having tie-ins with Sony, Margahritaville, Pandora, and LEGO to name a few examples where most were very blatantly shown in the movie. Director Colin Trevorrow did this on purpose as a critique of marketization and commodifying nature and some of the examples of product placement are physically destroyed by the fighting dinosaurs. This brings us to our next point...

18. An environmentalist and anti-capitalist series?
The environmentalist aspect of the series is very clear; throughout the series humans try to exploit nature for their own gain but, as always, life finds a way. JP scientists create dinosaurs as attraction but as they don't understand them all hell breaks loose; TLW features wild dinosaurs being captured for a zoo in San Diego which backfires; JW sees the Indominus rex literally created for entertainment and war; and JW:FK features dinosaurs being made or captured for human desires. With the exception of JPIII all the movies and books feature humans trying to exploit nature but 'life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously'. Many people have highlighted the environmentalist aspect of the franchise but one often overlooked is a possible anti-capitalist theme to it; in TLW Ian Malcolm even says to Hammond 'you've gone from capitalist to environmentalist'. Especially book Hammond sees dinosaurs as something to be used for profit regardless of ethics and whether they really understand the life they've just created. This is especially prominent in JW and JW:FK. As mentioned Trevorrow used product placement to show capitalist exploitation of the dinosaurs and this revolves around the Indominus. They give it a name specifically for ease of marketing and one character makes jokes about calling it along the lines of 'Pepsi-saurus'. Irrfan Khan's Simon Masrani is just like an eccentric and ostensibly good-hearted billionaire like Elon Musk. Quite recently, as of writing, his self-driving car tests have resulted in crashes as Musk overlooks poor working conditions. Like Musk Masrani chases a dream, (a 'cool' hybrid dinosaur) but ignores the awful reality until it is too late. Then this theme is further reinforced in JW:FK as dinosaurs are captured to sell to billionaires in order to fund a new biological weapon. Anti-capitalism may not have been behind the thinking of Crichton, Spielberg, and Trevorrow but it is there.

17. Crichtonsaurus 
Crichtonsaurus in Jurassic World: Evolution
A dinosaur has been named after Michael Crichton due to him being the author of JP. In 2002 an ankylosaur from China was given the name Crichtonsaurus in honor of Crichton. Incidentally another species of dinosaur has been named after Crichton. A second species of Crichtonsaurus was discovered but paleontologists realized in 2015 that it was indeed a different genus of dinosaur so it was named Crichtonpelta. Ironically, things have come full circle. The new park building game JWE, to be released in two days time as of writing, features a Crichtonsaurus as a dinosaur which you feature in your own version of Jurassic World. A few people on Reddit have been wondering how this can be, some have argued that Crichton wrote a novel based on the real-world events, forgetting that Crichton was a big author even before JP. The popular HBO show Westworld is a remake of a movie written and directed by Crichton after all. In the JP universe Crichtonsaurus is likely named after the famous sci-fi author instead of the author of a novel where cloned dinosaurs break out and eat the guests.

16. Carnosaur and Jurassic Park

JP was not the first novel to feature dinosaurs brought back from extinction in a zoo which goes wrong. In 1984 the novel Carnosaur was released by John Brosnan, under the pseudonym of Harry Adam Knight, which features an eccentric lord in Cambridge, England who breeds dinosaurs for his own menagerie. I have not read the novel but it does bear resemblances to JP with Brosnan commenting that he liked the ending of the movie JP as it resembled his own book. In fact he was so worried about the similarities between the two when his book was reissued in case people thought he had plagiarized Crichton. However, it is unlikely that Crichton intentionally plagiarized Brosnan as the novels diverge quite a lot after the cursory 'eccentric person breeds dinosaurs for a zoo who escape an eat people' plot line. This did not stop people from wanting to use Carnosaur to capitalize on JP. Roger Corman, a director famous for his glorious over-the-top, low budget and campy movies, was hired to direct Carnosaur in 1993 to capitalize off of JP's marketing. Brosnan even wrote a script for it which was never used (the movie bears no resemblance to the novel) and they even hired Laura Dern's mother, Diane Ladd, to appear in it! Naturally the movie was awful and Brosnan has described it as 'interesting crap'. Ironically, JW:FK's plot of dinosaurs running loose in a mansion resembles Carnosaur's plot more than the actual adaptation does!

15. No real dinosaurs?
A line in the novel has sparked a fan theory about the first novel and movie. Henry Wu debates with Hammond the validity of the dinosaurs saying that they recreated them but they aren't sure how truly accurate they are. When Hammond dismisses his request to clone slower dinosaurs he says that the dinosaurs are 'real' with Wu remaining unconvinced. We now know that the dinosaurs of JP being very different from their real counterparts - Wu in JW even directly says this and viral marketing have confirmed several fan theories on this. This is where a fan theory comes in. The theory states that the reason why paleontologists are invited to Isla Nublar is to not only assess the security but also to see if they get convinced by Hammond's dinosaurs. If the experts think that the dinosaurs are 'real' and not approximates then Hammond's dream can happen unhindered.

14. Important games

There have been many games relating to the franchise, JPOG remains one of my favorite games, but two are important. The first was released in 1998 called Trespasser, JPT. A sequel to TLW which was partially directed by Speilberg and featuring Richard Attenborough it told the story of a woman who landed on Isla Sorna and her attempts to survive. They wanted a game as ambitious as the first movie with it having no HUD display to make it realistic, have dinosaurs act naturally with each having moods, and real physics. However, a rushed development meant that dinosaur AI was extremely poor (some would break when changing moods), the physics went out of control, and objects at times refused to render. In some instances mods had to actually make the game playable! Despite this the game remains to have a huge following and has highly influential in the gaming industry. Games such as Half-Life 2 have based their gameplay off of JPT but done right. In 2011 Jurassic Park: The Game, JP:TG, was released by Telltale Games. This was meant to be a sequel to JP featuring some characters left behind as the main cast left via helicopter. It was a point-and-click game featuring puzzle solving with a great emphasis on story. Unfortunately most characters were forgettable, the puzzle solving was basic, and the story was a tad bit dull with Telltale being forced to have its own employees post anonymous reviews praising the game. Telltale learnt from their mistakes and would go on to make games improving on JP:TG such as the fantastic The Walking Dead. Trevorrow has come out and said that both these games are 'soft canon' - this means that the events are canon but if anything counteracted the movies that aspect would be written out.

13. Rexy
The Tyrannosaurus featured in JP is very important to the series. Given the name Rexy by fans, due to Muldoon calling her that in the novel, she was called Roberta in the script. However, Rexy didn't end with JP - the Tyrannosaur shown in JW and JW:FK is the same Tyrannosaur from JP. If you look carefully in both movies you can see that she has scars on the side of her body; these are the scars given to her by the Velociraptor from the end of the first movie. With this in mind she is joint with Ian Malcolm and Henry Wu for physically appearing the most in the franchise where both appear in three movies. If we include JP:TG then she would appear the most in regards to just the movie canon. 
 
12. Confirmation of Fan Theories 
A promotional website for JW takes you to a website forMasrani Global  and you can access secret emails. One of these, called 'Ruffled Feathers', confirms two fan theories. I'll put the email here:
OWNER: WU, HENRY
DATE: 02/20/2003 1410 CST
SUBJECT: RUFFLED FEATHERS
NOTES: I'M CALLING THIS THE 'COMMON COLD OF GENETICS'. WE CAN'T CURE THIS ONE SOON I'M SURE. BECAUSE WE'RE ACTIVELY MANIPULATING AND MUTATING THE ANIMALS' GENES, ADDING FROG, BIRD AND REPTILE DNA, WE CREATE WHAT IS KNOWN AS 'NULL ALLELE'. THE DINOSAURS CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT SOMETHING ADDED TO THEIR CODE SO FOR NOW WE'RE STUCK WITH SCALES. MAYBE MY RESEARCH INTO GENE SPLICING WILL UNEARTH THIS PROBLEM, IT CERTAINLY PROVED ITS LIMITLESS CAPABILITIES WITH THAT ACCIDENT WE LEFT ON SORNA.
---END LOG---
The first theory confirmed is why the dinosaurs are featherless with the 'null allele' reference - the addition of frog DNA meant that the dinosaurs cannot produce feathers. The second theory is where it says 'with that accident we left on Sorna'. Fans have argued that the reason why the Spinosaurus was so aggressive and different to the real dinosaur was due to it being a hybrid setting up the Indominus. As a result, fans have speculated that this confirms a fan theory that the Spinosaurus was indeed a hybrid.

11. Box Office
JP is one of the most highly successful franchises being in the top 50 most successful franchises above Godzilla, Mortal Kombat, Ghostbusters and Family Guy. JP and JW are also two of the most successful films. JP sits at twenty-eighth with it earning over a billion but JW smashed it out of the park earning over US $1.6 billion! JW sits just below The Force Awakens, Avengers: Infinity War, Titanic and Avatar.

10. The first dinosaur
For JW:FK a new canon guide to the history of the JP universe has been released called Jurassic World: Survival Guide. In it we find out that in 1986 InGen cloned its first dinosaur: Triceratops. Before then the first dinosaur had always been debated. According to the Topps comic Rexy was the first dinosaur to be cloned whereas Trespasser implies that it was Velociraptor. Unfortunately we have no indication what was bred first in the books although the books do have a miniature elephant being bred to drum up support for Hammond's business ventures. However, the Survival Guide mentions that in 1984 InGen cloned its first animal, strongly implied to be extinct, but we still do not know what it is. YouTuber Klayton Fioriti has argued that it could be a Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger, as stuffed toys of them can be seen in the gift shop in JP.

9. The disaster of JPIII

I would argue that the only outright bad movie in the franchise is JPIII and looking at its production it is clear why. Spielberg was good friends with Joe Johnston, who had directed Jumanji and Honey! I Shrunk the Kids, so he made him a promise: if a third movie was made he could direct. It could have worked if not for the script. The script repeatedly changed and some of the older versions were far better than the one we received. One involved a group going to Isla Sorna to find Alan Grant who had ignored international law in order to study the island's dinosaurs. Another, featuring the characters of the film we got, revolved around mysterious deaths on the mainland which people suspect to be dinosaurs so Grant leads an expedition to Sorna to investigate where they get trapped. Last minute script changes meant it was incomplete when filming started and the cast joked that during their party at the end of shooting they would be presented a finished script. The antagonist was changed, the fates of characters were altered, and entire scenes crucial to the plot were scrapped. As a result we got a jumbled movie where the best thing about it was the effects.

8. The turbulent making of JPIV
Yeah, I'm glad this got scrapped
We received many different ideas for a fourth installment before we got JW in 2015, many of which I am glad they abandoned. One of the earlier ones was mentioned in an interview with Johnston which incidentally was a plan for JPIII where the Pteranodon came to the mainland. A potential script by John Sayles was actually leaked, which you can actually read here, where the only recurring character was John Hammond. The movie was meant to be released around 2005 and aspects of it would inspire aspects of JW: a ex-military operative would be hired by Hammond to go to Nublar to get the DNA canister from a company who wants to used trained and genetically modified dinosaurs for war. Another script featured grotesque human/dinosaur hybrids which I am glad they scrapped. After the death of Stan Winston in 2005 the project was scrapped until around 2011. A script similar to JW was revealed where an open Jurassic World would clone a newly discovered Chinese dinosaur called Diabolos rex is cloned. Its discoverer and her sons go to check it out where she meets a dinosaur trainer just as things go bad. When I first learned of JW, and when I wrote about it on here in 2014, articles and this blog called the Indominus the Diabolos rex.

7. The books joking about the films
The book JP portrays the eyesight of the Tyrannosaurus differently to the film. While the film states that Tyrannosaurs have eyes like frogs, being only able to see moving objects, in the book we find out that this is due to frog DNA being woven into the dinosaur DNA. In TLW novel a character makes a joke about Alan Grant's theory that Tyrannosaurs could only see moving objects, as one unfortunate character finds out, in a strange twist. It seems that TLW is a sequel to both the first book and the film.

6. Making an iconic scene

One of the most iconic scenes in all of cinematic history is when the cup of water ripples as Rexy approaches. Special effects artist Michael Lantieri found this to be the hardest scene to film but he found a way. In the end Lantieri found out how to produce it when he was playing his guitar in his spare time. He found that when he plucked the guitar the water would ripple in the desired effect. For the film he attached a guitar wire under the jeep dashboard and plucked it creating one of the most iconic scenes in not only the JP franchise but also film history.

5. Pop culture References
The franchise is littered with references to popular culture with some being very blatant, such as Malcolm saying 'What are they keeping in there? King Kong?' in JP, to more subtle ones. Crichton's second novel was purposefully entitled The Lost World in order to homage Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel of the same name due to both featuring a team of explorers going to a remote land inhabited by dinosaurs. The adaptation took it a step further when it brought a Tyrannosaurus to San Diego; at the end of The Lost World the explorers brought back a Pteranodon which flew back home while in the 1925 film an escapee Brontosaurus wrecks havoc in London, much like Spielberg's version. Some Japanese business people also flee the Tyrannosaur and when you translate what they're saying it turns out they are complaining that they 'Left Japan because of this' in a reference to Godzilla. Incidentally the US remake of Godzilla released a few years later took inspiration from JP with the baby Godzilla. In Trespasser an abandoned workers' village is called Burroughs after Edgar Rice Burroughs who wrote The Land that Time Forgot and another is called Verne after Jules Verne who wrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth. During JP if you look carefully Nedry is watching Jaws, another movie by Spielberg, and Trevorrow had the mosasaur eat great white sharks to see if Spielberg could pick up on the reference.

4. Honoring Stan Winston and Richard Attenborough

There are homages to both Winston and Attenborough in JW. There is a steak house, serving Chilean sea bass, in both the movie and the promotional material called Winston's in honor of him. There was also meant to be an animatronic Tyrannosaur destroyed by the Indominus but Spielberg had it cut in case it was seen as an insult to Winston's memory. Meanwhile, there is a statue of John Hammond in JW which was expanded upon in JW:FK as a portrait of Hammond is purposefully shown in Lockwood's manor.

3. Cancelled TV series
Surprisingly we have yet to receive a TV series but there were plans for two animated series. The first was entitled Escape from Jurassic Park and was actually had storyboards drawn for 23 episodes to be released around 1993/4. It would feature the cast trying to rebuild Jurassic Park as InGen's rival Biosyn trying to form their own in Brazil. We know that in one scene the team would be attacked by a plesiosaur while in a dingy. Spielberg himself cancelled the series as he didn't want the market to be saturated with Jurassic Park. Around 1997 a series called Jurassic Park: Chaos Effect was planned featuring genetic hybrids but it was never produced for unknown reasons. However, the hybrids got turned into a toy line under the same name instead. 

2. The Jurassic World viral marketing
The viral marketing for JW and JW:FK have expanded a lot on the lore. Mentioned earlier we have the Masrani Global website but we also got one for Jurassic World itself where you can visit the website as if it was a real zoo. You can see the dinosaurs, attractions, hotels and even a menu for Winston's! For JW:FK they came back to that website where it was, and still is, hacked by the Dinosaur Protection Group (DPG) revealing which dinosaurs have gone extinct again, bits and pieces of Jurassic World, and even a book reference. When you click on the original T.rex enclosure on the map it mentions it could hold an adult and juvenile; in the book there was an adult and juvenile at the park. The DPG also has their own website revealing all that has happened between JPIII and JW and later JW and JW:FK. Even this morning I found another bit of marketing; @Extinction_Now on Twitter shows an anti-dinosaur account wanting them to go extinct again due to how dangerous dinosaurs are, and it even has new footage from the Tyrannosaur rampage in San Diego!

1. An end of an era (Spoilers!)
From the trailers and websites we know that Isla Sorna and Isla Nublar have been, or will be, destroyed and Trevorrow has said that the third movie will not be set on the islands. Our first CGI dinosaur in JP is the Brachiosaurus in one of the most iconic scenes of the franchise where it stands on its legs calling. Our final shot of Isla Nublar as it is destroyed by the erupting volcano we see a Brachiosaurus being consumed by the pyroclastic flow. As it is being consumed it raises upon its hindlegs and calls. A new era for the series starts by homaging the old and as always:

Thank you for reading and I hoped you found it interesting. For future blog updates please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.


Saturday, 2 June 2018

World History: The Tokugawa Shogunate

An Edo-era screen depicting Sekigahara
On October 21 1600 the Sengoku period of warfare ended with the Battle of Sekigahara. The deceased ruler of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi had placed his son and heir under the care of five powerful daimyō. However, they all wanted power and at Sekigahara the most powerful won: Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu would found a new shogunate which would rule Japan for over two centuries with it coming to an end in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration. The Tokugawa bakufu (government) would greatly shape Japan with it putting into place many aspects of Japanese life which would continue to this day. We'll look at the world of the Tokugawa and how it changed over the course of its life.

Establishing Tokugawa Rule
Ieyasu
As mentioned Ieyasu established his shogunate after the Sengoku period which saw over a century of warfare in order to unify Japan by leading samurai. The unifiers, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, never declared themselves emperor or shogun ruling with the existing emperors and Ashikaga shoguns under their rule instead. Although the shogunate had been abolished in 1573 the shoguns lived on and luckily for Ieyasu the last one had died in 1598. However, he had to face the fact that Hideyoshi's son, Hideyori, was still around. Hideyori would remain a thorn in the side of the Tokugawa shoguns as he served as a potentially legitimate opponent to their rule and making it worse was that Hideyori lived in Osaka Castle which was one of the most fortified settlements. In 1602 one of the most powerful daimyo, Shimazu Yoshihiro of Satsuma, who had supported Hideyori at Sekigahara personally met with Ieyasu where he pledged his loyalty to Ieyasu. The next year Ieyasu was officially declared shogun and to ensure Tokugawa rule remained he transferred power to his son, Hidetada, in 1605 so he could rule behind the scenes. By 1611 most lords had declared their loyalty to the Tokugawa. In 1614 Hideyori and the shogunate finally came to blows as Ieyasu had Osaka attacked. Using treachery and diplomacy Hideyori agreed to a truce if some of his defenses were dismantled but Ieyasu's workers overzealously removed more of the defenses than initially agreed. In 1615 they attacked Osaka again and Hideyori, and his mother, commit suicide. 

There were also other ways the Tokugawa tried to establish their rule. Luckily for Ieyasu he had many children which he used to marry to into powerful families or established as major daimyō, and with Hidetada succeeding him as shogun. In 1610 as his adopted daughter was being married off to Tsugaru Nobuhira he sent as a dowry a pair of eight-fold screens depicting Sekigahara - your own wealth could be used to show your power. Later Hidetada married his daughter, Masako, into the royal family and her daughter became the Meishō Empress. From the Sengoku period regional leaders in the domains, han, had become powerful which the Tokugawa had to deal with. There were normally around 250 han but at one time there were just over 500 han meaning there were lots of potential opponents. As a result the Tokugawa has been described as 'centralized feudalism'. I should mention, however, that han and feudalism were applied to Tokugawa rule retroactively in the nineteenth century and most domains were actually fairly small. The Tokugawa used a system called kokudake where to hold the title of daimyō had to have land worth 10,000 koku, about US $6.4 million, and only sixteen domains had a koku rating of over 300,000. Even then only a few dozen, like Maeda, managed to retain their koku rating through the entirety of Tokugawa rule. After 1615 daimyō had to abide by the Code for the Military Houses which gave the domains power but also made them obey the bakufu. In 1622 it was amended to include a clause where daimyō had to leave a family member hostage in Edo but in 1636 this was expanded in a system called sankin-kōtai (alternate attendance). Daimyō were assigned plots of land in Edo for themselves to be kept hostage as their family remained at home and then the next year they would swap. As both their domain and their Edo plot (which could include three fully staffed mansions) had to be maintained this stripped the resources from potential rebels as well as dangling the threat of execution over their heads if they rebelled. 
A depiction of the Shimbara Rebellion - a rebellion by mostly Christian peasants
The Tokugawa also aimed to secure themselves with commoners, heimin, as well as their lords - a peasant uprising could potentially be as dangerous as that by samurai. Making matters more serious in the mind of the bakufu was Christian subversion, something which Nobunaga and Hideyoshi had ruthlessly challenged before. The bakufu and domains conducted registers of population and livestock which were combined with hunting for Christians. Originally this was just in bakufu domains but in 1665 registers, done at Buddhist temples, were ordered to be done in all domains. Bans were also placed on samurai-commoner intermarriage but as we'll see this became blurred during the later Tokugawa period. However, if they wished samurai were granted the ability to kill rude commoners without repercussion. 

Foreign Policy
There is a common misconception that the shogunate was totally isolationist and this was largely due to a Western bias, and even then a flawed bias. Ieyasu was eager to rebuild relations with Korea and China which had been destroyed by Hideyoshi's invasion. He officially declared peace with Korea in 1605 and when Hidetada became shogun Korea sent a mission of 504 men to honor him before visiting Ieyasu. The 1609 Treaty of Kisu resumed trade allowing the Strait of Tsushima to become a wealthy trading zone again where Japanese silver was traded for Chinese silk. Chinese neo-Confucianism came to Japan via Korea through the writings of Yi Hwang (1501-1570), Korean potters in Saga started reproducing blue slipware porcelain, and Korean medicine attracted wide interest. However, Korean-Japanese relations never recovered from Hideyoshi's invasion. The Dutch in Nagasaki were told that the Korean missions were from a tributary state and they celebrated Hideyoshi's 'victory' over Korea; meanwhile, diarist Sin Yu-han while visiting in 1719 complained about the extravagance of Japan and the lack of respect to Confucius. Korean books also referred to Japan as pirates. Also, due to China's wealth Ieyasu was eager to reopen relations and Chinese merchants regularly ignored Ming bans on trade with Japan. In Kwagoe, Odawara and Kyushu 'Chinatowns' even formed to accommodate merchants and over 130 artists were at Nagasaki at the same time once. One of the available contemporary accounts on Chinese families in the early-eighteenth century comes from a Japanese scholar. Like with Korea Chinese-Japanese relations were still hostile - a Chinese book portrayed Japanese as being ape-like so when it was translated into Japanese it had to be heavily edited. Furthermore, Japan continued relations with states in Indonesia, the Philippines and South East Asia as a whole. The Ryukyuan islands and Hokkaido were not under Edo rule at this period and trade occurred with them as well until the 1630s.
A painting of Dejima
Starting in 1633 Tokugawa Iemitsu passed a series of edicts which have been called sakoku or 'closed country'. For this reason we have the image that the Tokugawa were totally isolationist but this is in fact incorrect. Europeans, mainly the Dutch, were limited to the port of Dejima in Nagasaki, Korea to Tsushima domain, Ryukyu to Satsuma, and Ainu trade to Matsumae. Japanese citizens were also barred from leaving. There were several reasons why this policy was implemented. This first is Christianity. Following the end of the Reconquista in Iberia in 1492 Portugal and Spain were eager to spread Christianity which encouraged them to spread their faith in Japan, especially after the Protestant Reformation began. As mentioned earlier Nobunaga and Hideyoshi had ruthlessly suppressed Christian converts which continued under the Tokugawa. In 1637 40,000 Christian peasants, as well as masterless samurai called rōnin, rose up in the Shimabara Rebellion thanks to famine and local misrule. The shogunate blamed Christian missionaries so started ruthlessly started persecuting Christians and banned Europeans from being outside Dejima. As Catholicism was far larger than Protestantism the blame was placed largely on the Iberians who were banned. When Portugal protested again in 1640 from Macao a captain and sixty others were executed. The English faced their own issues forcing the East Indian Trading Company out of Japan leaving their Dutch counterparts, the VOC, in control. As a result the VOC controlled European trade in Nagasaki remaining on their island in Dejima. Intellectual trade happened as well; in 1691 Engelbert Kaempfer published his book History of Japan and Japanese schools had courses called 'Dutch Studies'. Cunning merchants occasionally pretended to be Dutch in order to get trade. The bans on other states were due to how in the Sengoku period domains had utilized foreign trade becoming wealthy themselves; the Tokugawa feared this could allow a rebellious domain to become wealthy. The sakoku bans were ignored by both Japanese and foreigners repeatedly throughout Tokugawa rule as well show the limitations of the policy.

Culture under the Shogunate
Hokasai's Great Wave from the 1830s
Without the stress from war city culture boomed. This was particularly noticeable in Edo (modern Tokyo) thanks to the shogunate's sankin-kōtai policy. Normally the imperial court in Kyoto had been associated with culture but as the samurai, and their families, were confined to Edo they engaged in tea-drinking, poetry, art, and general literature. Under Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (r.1680-1709) we see the Genroku period known as a Golden Age of Edo culture due to peace and prosperity. We see a period where Edo became the center of Buddhist and Chinese studies as well as protection of animals. As Tsunayoshi opened the first kennels for stray dogs he became known as inu kubō, 'dog shogun'. In Edo we also see street gangs called kabukimono and the 'six gangs of Edo' made up of 'street knights' going around showing their machismo in fine clothes and garbings. The wealth of Tokugawa rule allowed merchants as well to take part in activities once reserved for the traditional samurai elite. According to R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger the cities saw what they described as 'Japan's version of bourgeois individualism' through culture such as the novels by Ihara Saikaku (1642-93). Saikaku was the son of a wealthy Osaka merchant whose stories revolve around the theme of money and erotic love. One of Japan's greatest artists, Hokusai, made his mark during this period as well. Women could also engage in this culture by either making it themselves or consuming the arts. Rural culture was less vibrant compared to that of the cities, mostly as disposable wealth was less of a factor for a peasant compared to their urban counterparts. However, this does not mean that rural Japan was excluded from Tokugawa culture. The kabuki theater was extremely popular, so much so that they became popular in the cities, which is unusual. Travelers, among others, were seen as being at the bottom of society as they were not limited to their place of birth but the kabuki theater was popular. In a unique twist samurai and commoner sat together watching kabuki plays. Today kabuki remains a major part of traditional culture. Similarly rakugo gained popularity as much as their kabuki counterparts.

Society, Economy and Protest
A kabuki theater from the 1600s
In theory Japan based society on Confucian values with the samurai at the top then followed by peasants, then artisans, merchants and then a group similar to Indian Dalits called the eta, now known as burakumin. Women were in theory meant to be subservient to men. In practice this became much more blurred throughout Tokugawa rule. Wealthy women could produce arts and rural, poor women often escaped some of the more restrictive aspects of their wealthier counterparts. Compared to Meiji Japan which came later we see more acceptance to same-sex relations, although it was not accepted. The aforementioned Saikaku featured a bisexual main character in The Life of an Amorous Man (1692). Hokusai also portrayed same-sex relations in some of his paintings as well. As the Tokugawa required a widespread and lasting expansion of domestic trade merchants became wealthy and with them artisans did as well. In the cities guilds became fairly prosperous through a mixture of trade and stability following the Sengoku period. This prosperity benefited also from little taxation on urban merchants and artisans, and wealthier guilds could give 'thank-money' in return for licenses. Due to this boom in wealth many samurai chose to take up the abacus rather than the sword for a livelihood. For this reason the blurring of social boundaries happened. As we saw the kabuki theater became a place where social stratification was ignored but it became more evident elsewhere. As samurai became poorer and merchants/artisans became wealthier social distinctions blurred so a samurai could only be told apart by if they had a sword. Even then by 1853 some samurai had sold their swords to merchants, take loans from merchants or marry their children into merchant families. Some of the later major Japanese companies, like Mitsui, had their origins in the Tokugawa period. Sometimes shoguns would slap down too extravagant merchants - in 1705 Tsunayoshi had a lumber contractor's home confiscated for this reason.  

Protest from commoners did happen throughout the period, even before the shogunate's collapse, like many other contemporary societies. As mentioned earlier we had the Shimabara Rebellion thanks to famine, local misrule, and religious issues. Local misrule and problems in the countryside regularly caused protest among the peasantry, both violent and non-violent. Throughout the roughly two-hundred and fifty years of Tokugawa rule peasants 'rebelled' over 2809 times and 1000 riots took place. From 1621 to 1720 daihyō osso (direct petition) was the most common form of protest followed by gōso (violent collective action) and uchikowashi (smashing and breaking) after the 1730s. Often during the late Tokugawa peasants, tenants, artisans and day laborers would protest together ignoring social boundaries. Although Confucianism helped enforce conformity it could be used to validate protest. In 1726 a peasant rebel leader in Mimasaka said that their revolt was due to the local official misrule and in 1653 daimyō Hotta Masanobu crucified village elder Sabura Sōgorō for presenting a petition to the local lord. He was then seen as a martyr as he had presented his grievances in a respectful way but had been killed anyway. Even though peasants viewed themselves as righteous the bakufu did try and limit protest: 1622 collective protests were banned, 1633 justifiable grounds for a petition were narrowed, and 1721 the shogun revoked the rights of peasants to protest against misrule of lords. However, by the end of the shogunate merchants began funding peasant rebellions over disgruntlement that they were wealthy but seen as being below the samurai who had largely become bureaucrats or drunken brawlers in Edo.

Why did the shogunate decline?
A Japanese depiction of Perry's black ships
By the nineteenth century the economic boom of the shogunate had started to drop. Inflation rose and unrest began over general disgruntlement. Samurai were losing their wealth, merchants were angry that they were seen as being below others in society, certain samurai were disgruntled over their position, and generally the domestic trade was decreasing through inflation. The bakufu could likely have lasted longer than it did if not for the events of 1853. Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States with his 'black ships' demanding Japan open its ports for trade with the US, and later over European powers began signing the 'unequal treaties'. We'll discuss this with a later post so I'll summarize it hit. These treaties gave foreign powers preferable rights over Japan, including allowing foreigners to abide by their own laws rather than that of Japan. This caused what can be described by a nationalistic backlash called sonnō jōi (revere the emperor, expel the barbarian). Foreign powers used this to get more treaties from the bakufu fueling a bigger nationalist backlash. Meanwhile, samurai from Satsuma and Choshu, who had become wealthy but were not respected, decided to take control leading to the Meiji Restoration. However, that is a story for another day.

Conclusion
The Tokugawa shogunate greatly influenced Japanese history. Here the institutions and economic boom planted the seeds for the modern Japan. Samurai contributed to the emergence of a new Japanese culture as merchants benefited from a stable society allowing the old feudal order to begin to be challenged. Largely separated from the rest of the world it allowed a distinctive Japanese identity to emerge which would influence the future post-shogunate Japan. The later Meiji reformers would look at the Tokugawa and learn from them, and later Japanese governments would constantly look at them for inspiration. Similarly many aspects of Japanese popular culture have taken inspiration from the Tokugawa era ranging from kabuki plays to anime and manga.

The next World History post shall take us to China to look at the Qing dynasty. The sources I have used are as follows:
-R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger, A History of Japan, (Melbourne: 1997)
-Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, (Cambridge, MA: 2000)
-Nishiyama Matsunosuke, Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868, trans. Gerald Groemer, (Honolulu, HI: 1997)
-Irwin Scheiner, 'Benevolent Lords and Honorable Peasants: Rebellion and Peasant Consciousness in Tokugawa Japan', in Tetsuo Najita and Irwin Scheiner, (eds.), Japanese Thought in the Tokugawa Period, (Chicago, IL: 1978)
-James White, 'State Growth and Popular Protest in Tokugawa Japan', Journal of Japanese Studies, 14:1, (1988), pp.1-25
-Chie Nakane and Shinzaburō (eds.), Tokugawa Japan: The Social and Economic Antecedents of Modern Japan, trans. Conrad Totman, (Tokyo: 1990)

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

Sunday, 27 May 2018

World History: The Mughals


Today we are looking at the last of the so-called 'Gunpowder Empires': the Mughals. The Mughals are perhaps one of the most influential of India's empires with many aspects and images of India which the West has originating from the Mughal Empire. Since the 1990s India's Hindu right has been on the rise, currently the Hindu nationalist party (the BJP) is in power, and memory of the Mughals has been tense for them. The Mughals were Muslim ruling largely over Hindus and many of the Mughal's actions went on to be integral part of Indian culture, and even then many of the early conquests of the Mughals were against other Islamic rulers. Today we'll look at the Mughals to see how important they were in shaping India. We'll start with the first ruler, Babur, and go until the end of the reign of Aurangzeb so we can briefly look at how the empire started to collapse before British rule came about.

Babur and Foundations
Babur in a painting done years after his death
Late many of the other states which we've been looking at the Mughals owed their existence to the Mongols - in fact the word 'Mughal' or 'Moghul' comes from 'Mongol' and was invented in the nineteenth century to describe the empire. The Mughal Empire would be founded around 1526 by Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, or Babur, who was from the Safavid Empire. Babur made claim that on one side of his family he was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan and the other side Timur. For that reason they were often called the 'House of Timur'. It is believed that his autobiography, Baburnama, was written to clarify his legitimacy based on his apparent descent. Babur would often spend his early life waging war to subjugate new areas; he managed to besiege Samarkand and win at the age 14 but he would soon lose it. After 1504 he set out for good taking his mother with him - according to the Baburnama he would occasionally give the only tent to this mother to sleep in. The same year he took Kabul which would remain his favorite place in the world; it was also a key city along the Silk Road setting up later rule in India. Kabul was very diverse with many languages and cultures coexisting, much like India whom the Mughals would later rule over. However, city life never suited Babur and Kabul's revenue was too small for him. He wrote: My desire for Hindustan had been constant. It was in the month of Shaban, the Sun being in Aquarius, that we rode out of Kabul for Hindustan. In 1505 he set out attacking the Afghans and continued the Timurid tradition a swift attacks and brutality for opponents (and those who disobeyed). Anyone who missed the night watch had their nose split in two. In 1519 he even named his son Hindal meaning 'Take India'. To show his devotion to his forces he publicly gave up drinking and claimed he was leading a jihad against the Indian forces. That way he could appeal to the piety of his forces who could martyred if they died. He also made an alliance with the Safavid shah to help his forces.

In the northern India the Islamic Delhi Sultanate had been in power. Due to the alliance with the Safavids Babur claimed his was Shia whereas the Lodi dynasty of Delhi were Sunni. This was how Babur managed to call a jihad. The Delhi Sultanate had been steadily shrinking which benefited the Mughals. Babur mixed traditional cavalry with muskets, hence why the Mughals are considered a 'Gunpowder Empire', which allowed his 1,500 soldiers to defeat the Lodi's forces of 100,000 cavalry and 1,000 elephants at Panipat outside Delhi in 1526. He soon moved into Delhi visiting the mausoleums of two holy men, Nizamuddin Auliya (d.1325) and Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (d.1235), and Delhi soon was made his new capital. The Lodis crowned a new leader and allied themselves with the Rajputs, who wanted to expand into lands held by the Delhi Sultanate, and as they marched on Agra in 1527 they met in battle. At the Battle of Khanwa through a mixture of Babur's skill, use of cannons, and when a Hindu chief joined Babur's forces the Rajputs and Lodis were defeated. The new Mughal Empire now stretched across most of northern India.

Babur loathed and liked his new empire in India. In the Baburnama he wrote: 
Hindustan is a country that has few pleasures to recommend it. The people are not handsome. They have no idea of the charms of a friendly society, of frankly mixing together, or of familiar intercourse. They have no genius, no comprehension of mind, no politeness of manner, no kindness or fellow-feeding, no ingenuity or mechanical invention in planning or executing their handicraft works, no good flesh, no grapes or musk melons, no good fruits, no ice or cold water, no good food or bread in their bazaars, no baths or colleges, no candles, no torches, not a candlestick.
He did however praise it for being 'a large country with lots of gold and money. The weather turns very nice during the monsoon.' He praised the generations of tradespeople and how there were many, and he loved the wildlife. Babur would long for Kabul and when he died he would be buried there. Furthermore, the Baburnama would be written in Turkic, and a few poems in Persian, instead of Persian or Hindi which were more widely spoken. The Mughals are well renowned for their construction but it was more limited under Babur. Mostly they were mosques, to show his piety, including the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya which was demolished in 1992 by a Hindu mob as it was believed that a Temple of Ram was demolished to make room for it - something quite pertinent as Ayodhya is where Ram was apparently born.
The Babri Masjid

Mughal Administration and Rule
Before we look at the other Mughal rulers and how they shaped India we need to understand how the state functioned. Of course, throughout Mughal rule this did change. The empire was multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-caste. After the royal family those at the top of society were the ashraf, the nobility, who were made of Muslim families who had migrated from the Persian, Arabian or Turkish-central Asian regions. There were also the mansabdar, a rank introduced by Akbar, often revolving around the military and sometimes the civil service. A mansabdar earned his standing (of course society was patriarchal) based on his zat and suwar. Zat was his rank bestowed by the emperor which often determined the maximum limit of soldiers they had, and suwar was his horses and riders. A mansabdar of 3000-zat 1500-suwar during war had to provide 1500 cavalry but during peace it would be a lot less as that way they could get more money. This system does appear confusing as it was subject to change and historians still are debating what zat and suwar were at any time. There was also a zamindar, landowner, who were stronger in northern India compared to the south as Mughal rule was always stronger in the north. Traditionally zamindars acted a tax collectors for emperors collecting revenue from ryots (peasants) but under the Mughals their role expanded to include police, judicial and military positions as well. Thanks to the mansabdars and zamindars the Mughal system continued when time of trouble happened - something periodic at the start of the reign of each new ruler - although by the end of the Mughals this did cause issues for the state. For this reason some historians, like J.C. Heesterman, have argued that the Mughals were really of confederation of princes with the emperor being more of a powerful figurehead, however, this view has been contested. Of course, regardless the emperor was at the top of society. During military campaigns they often personally went out to war, or their sons would. Like with the early Ottomans and Safavids succession wars would break out unless powerful or favorite sons managed to remove them early on. Babur's son, Humayun, learnt this the hard way when he made his brothers governors and went on to regret it when they vied for power themselves. The harems could also hold sway. Women in court could hold informal power and female relatives of the emperor could exert influence through their husbands.
The expansion of the Mughals

Humayun and the Sur Interregnum
Humayun (1530-40 and 1555-6) has largely been shafted by historians due to the successes of his father and son. Unlike his father he was more interested in magic, mysticism, and astrology compared to fighting, but he was intensely religious - a court figure, Abdul Karim, would be called Abdul due to Karim being a name of God. As mentioned earlier women could play a great influence in court and Humayun's half-sister, Gulbadan, wrote one of his biographies showing how he was peaceable and humane as a ruler. However, Humanyun's rule was never as secure as Babur's. In 1532 a Pashtuni leader, who had started to become prominent under Babur, Sher Khan Suri took hold of Rohtas in Bihar who managed to smuggle in his soldiers who were disguised as women. Soon enough Gaur, Bihar, and Jaunpur (all in the lower Ganges region) fell to Suri. In 1538 Humayun set out to confront Suri in Bengal 'and unfurled the carpet of pleasures', i.e. his stay in Bengal would be in luxury. Everything went wrong at once. His brother, Hindal, executed Humayun's spiritual guide as his older brother Kamran marched from Punjab to stake his claim. In June 1539 Humayun's forces met Suri's at Chausa and the Mughals were roundly defeated. As they had dug in this made the artillery became useless and a bridge collapse caused a great part of the Mughal forces to drown where they were 'dragged by the crocodile of death down into the waters of annihilation'. Humayun himself was almost drowned until he was saved by Shamsuddin Atga of Ghazna whose wife, Jiji Anaga, was later made Akbar's nurse. With his brothers carving up their own domains and with Suri forming his own empire Humayun fled to Kandahar and then to the Safavid Empire. 

While in the Safavid Empire Humayun became close to Shah Tahmasp and Tahmasp finally managed to get the Mughal nobility to convert the Shia Islam, the attempts to convert Babur were largely unsuccessful. For a long time after Safavid-Mughal relations remained strong - when Kamran asked Tahmasp to hand over his brother in return for Kandahar the shah refused. Tahmasp later offered Humayun his aid in retaking India in return for Kandahar, something which he agreed to. Thanks to this period in exile the Mughal nobility would become greatly influenced by Persian culture and when Kabul went back into Humayun's hands it became a major center for Safavid artists. Meanwhile, back in India Suri's reforms proved to greatly shape India and later Mughal rule functioned due to his reforms. The precursor to the modern rupee began under the Sur dynasty; the Grand Trunk Road was constructed which still links Bengal to Peshawar; 1,800 caravanserias and numerous fountains were set up between Sonargon in Bengal and the Indus; an efficient policing system was established to keep the roads safe; and on the Jhelum river, near modern Islamabad, the fortress of Rohtas was built which is a UNESCO Heritage Site today. Suri's reign ended quickly in 1545. He would expand the Mughal lands and while sieging the Kalinjar fort of the Rajputs a rocket ricocheted off of the fort's walls and exploded near Suri. Just as he died the fortress fell. His sudden death left his new empire weakened so Humayun could retake his empire in 1555. After dealing with Kamran he reinstalled himself in Delhi. Humayun's reign would soon end. As the call to prayer was issued Humayun tripped down the steps of his library tower leading to his death three days later. One scholar quite unflatteringly wrote that he 'stumbled into death as he had stumbled through life'. His tomb would become a place of pilgrimage after completion.

Akbar
Akbar
Akbar, sometimes called Akbar the Great, is seen as the greatest Mughal, and sometimes Indian, ruler. However, a great part of this was due to looking at his reign retroactively from the reign of his great-grandson Aurangzeb. Akbar has been seen as the humane ruler compared to Aurangzeb's tyranny despite how early in his reign Akbar would have many of his enemies who surrendered executed. He also personally threw a foster brother from a balcony in order to execute him. Also, in order to test whether children could learn to speak without being taught he had infants raised in isolation by nurses who refused to speak to them and a few years later it turned out they were mute and mentally retarded. Although he was barely literate, John Keay believed that he may have been dyslexic, Akbar was a great patron of the arts and is one of the most well recorded Mughal emperors thanks to scholar and Grand Vizier Abu Fazl. Akbar saw himself as being Indian instead of Turkic - he had great respect for his nurse Jiji Anaga, and Shamsuddin Atga would become an important official under him. He had the Baburnama translated into Persian and he oversaw a library of over 24,000 books of Hindi, Persian and Turkic origin. His own book, Akbarnama, has been seen as a great text of Indian literature. Art, literature and architecture boomed under Akbar's patronage although only the nobility could truly engage with this. Using firearms effectively with elephants and cavalry until his death in 1605 the Mughal Empire expanded exponentially. Kabul, Kandahar, modern Pakistan, Gujarat and Bengal were all added into the empire. This brought millions more people into the empire, Abu Fazl believed that around 100 million people lived there, bringing in more ethnicities, religions and economies. As a result the mansabdars were made.
A scene from Akbar's Ramayana
Akbar has been noted for his religious tolerance - although it could be due to pragmatism being a Muslim ruler in a primarily Hindu state. Akbar ended the jizya, the tax on non-Muslims, had a Muslim scholar al-Badauni to translate the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and had a personal copy of the Ramayana in 1588 depicting 176 superb illustrations. He encouraged Muslim, Hindu, Jat, and Christian scholars to have debates and after a spiritual moment while hunting in 1578 he took up yogic and Sufi practices, became a vegetarian, and started promoting religious syncretism more. He ate with the third Sikh guru and even created his own religion, Din-i-Ilhai. This religion primarily took from Hinduism and Islam but also brought elements from Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, and Akbar never had it enforced. At most 18 people joined the new religion and that was likely due to them trying to get into good graces with Akbar. However, his tolerance did upset the ulema (the Islamic religious community) and when Muslim revolts broke out some did issue fatwas against him. The economy expanded and changed under Akbar's rule as well, so much so that caste distinctions started to become blurred. Vaishyas (merchants), especially in coastal cities, started becoming richer than kshatriyas (warriors) and brahmas (religious elite and teachers). Lower castes could even get involved by converting to Islam and joining the civil service. Textiles and cotton soon became profitable and the Mughals soon became one of the leading producers of cotton. Akbar ensured that the Khyber Pass and Grand Trunk Road were well defended to ensure trade could happen unaffected by crime and sea trade expanded when the empire expanded into Bengal and Gujarat. The empire came into proper contact with Portugal, who established themselves in Goa in 1510, and with the Ottoman Empire further out. 

Jahangir and Shah Jahan
Akbar's last years were faced with a revolt from his son Salim but they made amends thanks to Akbar's mother so that upon his death in 1605 Salim could become emperor Jahangir. He was truly India - his mother, Jodhai Bai, was a Rajput princess. Jahangir's reign has often been viewed through the lens of his later reign which was consumed by drink and opium. Despite being much shorter his reign was very similar to his father's: conquest, crushing of rebellions, and consumption of the arts. Curiously he could be tolerant to rebels unless he had a severe hatred for them: one, Malik Ambar, was an Abyssinian eunuch whom was depicted in a painting being decapitated and shot with an arrow by Jahangir surrounded by angels. Women in court became very powerful under Jahangir, especially during his times of indulgence in opium, and one in particular was his wife Nur Jahan. Competent, athletic and intelligent she managed to ensure that she could be the true power behind the throne. She even got Jahangir's most loved son Khurram was married to her niece, Arjumand Banu, who in turn would become very powerful herself. Chinese historian Craig Clunas has written extensively on how conspicuous consumption shows social power - we see this in the Mughal court. To show that Safavid-Mughal relations were strong the painter Bishndas shows Jahangir hugging, or more like crushing, the Safavid ruler. Many paintings were done by Ustad Mansur depicting animals in his menagerie, and later Khurram's court, including a Siberian crane (which was not formally described until the 1770s) and even a dodo! It is believed that two dodos were gifts from the Portuguese. Similarly, the English East India Company seeking trade with India sent Sir Thomas Roe to meet with Jahangir. Roe described the life at court and lamented Jahangir's desire for luxury goods: wine, unusual games, European paintings, and even a carriage for Nur Jahan. He even once lamented how his personal gift to Jahangir was turned down as it was only worth 400 rupees.
Ustad Mansur's depiction of a dodo

The Red Fort today
In 1628 Shah Jahan, Khurram, became emperor and he has become known as the 'Great Builder' for his building projects. He had fought Malik Ambar and resolved to conquer Deccan (in southern India) after. Shah Jahan was devoted to his wife Mumtaz Mahal whom was given the title 'Queen of the World'. When she died giving birth to her fourteenth child in sixteen years in 1631 Shah Jahan was inconsolable. He wrote: The pleasures of worldly rule and kingship, which were mine with her by my side, have now become burdens and increasing sources of grief! Starting in 1632 he commissioned a grand mausoleum for her which would become the Taj Mahal costing 32 million rupees, or US $827 million in today's money. On top of the Taj Mahal we have the magnificent Peacock Throne, which went missing in the eighteenth-century, was commissioned and Shah Jahan even built an entire city: Shahjahanabad. This walled city is today's Old Delhi containing spacious living areas for nobles, a large mosque, and the Red Fort - a key building in Indian iconography today. A Persian architect, 'Ali Mardan Khan, was hired to create the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore and 'Abdul Hamid Lahori was hired to write the Padshahnama receiving 3,000 rupees and his own weight in gold. One chronicler wrote accurately that 'The treasury cried out, "Don't touch me"'. However, Shah Jahan regularly faced issues. In 1630 a famine led to 2 million starving to death, revolutions broke out among the Rajputs and Sikhs, and there was even a war with Portugal. During the wars his son Aurangzeb rose to prominence and soon became a key ruler. When rumors of Shah Jahan's health was going Aurangzeb seized Agra and imprisoned his father and sister, Jahanara, until Shah Jahan's death in 1666.

Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb has been known as a tyrannical and intolerant emperor ruling with an iron fist and enforcing Islam onto South Asia. Especially compared to Akbar he has been seen as the stereotypical Oriental despot draining the peasants dry as he enforced his religion onto them. However, in recent years his idea has been challenged, such as by Ayesha Jalal. It is true that Aurangzeb did rule with an iron fist, as did many rulers, and was deeply pious his rule has started to be seen as being more pragmatic than anything else. He did strictly enforce prohibition, poetry, and wearing gold colored clothing in court his other policies are seen as combining piety with pragmatism. Bringing back the hated jizya and reducing spending on lavish tombs (his own mausoleum is quite small) and consumption has been seen as a way to save money after the battering the treasury received under Shah Jahan. His destruction of Hindu temples have now been noted as being in retaliation for rebellious Hindu nobles. At times he did build Hindu temples and brought many more Hindus into the buraeucracy. Of course, this pragmatism was still at the expense of the non-Muslim citizens of the empire who became very disgruntled. For one, when Sikhs refused to convert he had Guru Tegh Bahadur executed in 1675. Under Aurangzeb three things from earlier Mughal rulers continued: expansion, economic growth, and conspicuous consumption. The consumption was different to that of earlier emperors combining piety with Shah Jahan's construction projects. Many mosques were made under Aurangzeb and some could be very extravagant, like the Babshahi mosque in Lahore. Expansion of traditional industries (like textiles), trade and taxation allowed the Mughals to be the largest economy in 1690 with it having a quarter of the estimated GDP of the world and monthly income was ten times that of Louis XIV's France (who made Versailles). Conquest had brought most of southern India under Mughal rule, only the southern tip of the subcontinent escaped Mughal rule, by his death in 1707.

The later collapse of the Mughals began in proper under the reign of Aurangzeb, Annemarie Schimmel even says 1707 is the end of the Mughals despite the last emperor being deposed by the British in 1858. Many revolts broke out with several coming from the Jats, Pashtuns, and Sikhs. The most important, however, is the rise of the Marathas. The Marathas were founded under a warrior called Shivaji Bhonsle who began almost a guerrilla campaign against originally the Sultanate of Bijapur and later the Mughals after a brief stint of imprisonment in Agra in 1668. Shivaji was crowned in 1674 founding the Marathas and began plundering Mughal, and Bijapur, lands to enrich his kingdom. Maratha forces would demand money from villages and towns, or they would burn it down, and then the Mughals would take their share leading the settlement to become impoverished. As Shivaji was Hindu and pushed Marathi over Persian he attracted local support and had locals blame the Mughals for their woes. Aurangzeb could have easily crushed the Marathas but he chose a defensive course by securing forts in Deccan assuming if they couldn't take forts they would be cut off from income and weapons. This failed and Aurangzeb's son, Muhammad Akbar, even fled to the Maratha court declaring himself emperor in 1681. After Shivaji's death in 1680 his son and widow continued the power of the Marathas. Within a century the Marathas had replaced the Mughals as South Asia's most powerful empire. However, the mansabdari and zamindari system meant that the empire retained control despite these setbacks. Despite some arguments that the empire began to fall in 1707 with Aurangzeb's death things only really went downhill after 1712 with his son's death.

Mughals and the World
The Mughals were integrated into a global world - originally Turkic they spoke Persian at court and ruled over a variety of peoples. A constant love-hate relationship emerged with the Safavids - both were Islamic empires whose origins were closely linked but this close proximity brought issue. When the Safavids retook Kandahar from the Mughals a painting was issued of Shah Jahan hugging the Safavid shah, and also making the emperor taller than the shah. The Mughals large population, in both the cities and country, allowed the production of many goods which in turn allowed trade. Their position allowed them to engage with both the Silk Road and Indian Ocean trade. Indian ivory, spices and cotton to name a few goods found their way to the Swahili coast in West Africa, China, Indonesia, and Arabia. Relations with the Ottomans were constant and one of Humayun's rebellious brothers were exiled to Mecca. Relations also opened with Europe - Portugal even established themselves in Goa sixteen years before the Mughals established themselves in Delhi. Indian states viewed their sovereignty as ending at the coast where the sea was free game. What can be seen as piracy was even encouraged - out of season fishers would go on raids and return the profits back home which would be collected by the Mughals or even kingdoms through taxes. This differed to the European idea of Mare Nostrum (Our Sea). First Portugal and the later English, French and Dutch wanted a monopoly on sea trade so edged out Indian sailors. Portugal issued a cartaz, or license, to sailors to operate and those without one were declared pirates. This enabled Europeans to edge out local traders or declare Indian enemies pirates. This was also utilized by locals to their advantage. The Mughals managed to convince the English that the Marathan navy was in fact a pirate navy.
A depiction of the British battling the Maratha navy whom they called pirates
Compared to later initial Europeans were respectful to Indian rulers as they were not in the position of power; however, in private they would portray Indians in an Oriental view, just one less derogatory of eighteenth century depictions. Sir Thomas Roe caused outrage in the court when he asked for a chair, for example. Europeans were dependent on local rulers and as a result Europeans were eager to lend their services to Mughals, or others like the Marathas, if it meant that they could get an edge over competitors. The Dutch and English East Indian Companies by the end of the seventeenth century had largely ousted the Portuguese and even the Scottish tried to get involved; bankruptcy through the failed attempt to colonize Panama prevented them from having any form of presence. England established trading posts in Surat (1619), Madras (1639), Bombay (1668), and Calcutta (1690) forming over forty 'factories', heavily armed trading posts, to take part in Indian trade.

The decline of Empire
Due to the length of this post and as I want to expand on this more in two other posts we will only briefly look at the collapse of the Mughals. Crispin Bates has identified seven key factors behind the decline as well as various other smaller ones. English Whig historian T.B. Macauley (1800-59) described the emperors between 1707 and the 1740s as 'a succession of nominal sovereigns sunk in indolence and debauchery, sauntering away life in secluded palaces, chewing bhang, fondling concubines and listening to buffoons' and there is some claim to this despite being very Orientalist. This description is a symptom not a cause of decline although it did aid in it - unable to prevent decline emperors secluded themselves further preventing pushbacks against such decline. After Aurangzeb's death the empire became less centralized so when prosperity dropped mansabdars to ignore Delhi's power and this was made worse by 'tax-farming'. This is when the right to collect taxes was granted to individuals for a limited period in an area except that this was abused with tax-farmers keeping revenue themselves or taking more taxes from the land destroying certain prosperous areas. Meanwhile, the merchant class, which had been growing more and more independent, had started by Aurangzeb's death to cease paying taxes, or even fund opponents. The Marathas and Mysore were just two states to benefit from this and their wars chipped away at the empire. External opponents also affected the empire like the Afghans whose leader, Nadir Shah, sacked Delhi in 1739 and carried away the Peacock Throne. We also see the rise of peasant community rebellions, especially with the Jats, and according to Bates these rebellions differed to earlier ones. Taxation had often been decided following a rebellion but by the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries rebellions were from the bottom up. Rebellions with no noble leaders prevented negotiated settlements. These several factors were just some of the many factors which caused the decline of the Mughals.
A British depiction of the Battle of Plassey, 1757, which saw Britain formally take over parts of India

Conclusion
The achievement of the Mughals cannot be understated. Turkic in origin, speakers of Persian, and rulers of Hindus and various other religious groups they represent the diversity of South Asia. They were so successful that the attempted successor states and British India adopted the administration and bureaucracy of the Mughals. Today we've only explored a small section of Mughal India; we have hardly explored women, caste, and economics in the empire for one. The Mughals highlight India's diverse origins and this has placed successive Indian governments in an issue in constructing an Indian nation. Under the Mughals South Asia became a powerful state and the explosion of the arts, like the Taj Mahal and Red Fort, have become impossible to intertwine from Indian nationhood. However, as they were made by Muslims the current wave of Hindu nationalism has tried to reinterpret such grandeur and the legacy of the Mughals as being more Hindu than Islamic. The Mughals greatly shaped India and will continue to do so.

The next World History post will focus on the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan and how they shaped Japanese history. The sources I have used are as follows:
-Annemarie Schimmel, The Empire of the Great Mughals: History, Art and Culture, (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 2004)
-Irfan Habib, (ed.), Akbar and his India, (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997)
-John Keay, India: A History, (London: HarperCollins, 2000)
-Peter Robb, A History of India, Second Edition, (New York, NY: 2011, Palgrave Macmillan)
-Sugata Bose and Ayesha Jalal, Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy, (London: 1998, Routledge)
-Crispin Bates, Subalterns and the Raj, South Asia since 1600, (New York, NY: 2007, Routledge)
-Catherine Asher, 'India: The Mughals, 1526-1858', in Jim Masselos, (ed.), The Great Empires of Asia, (London: 2010, Thames & Hudson)

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