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Saturday, 24 February 2018

Godzilla: The Kaiju in the Shadow of History

Gojira
Since his debut in 1954's Gojira Godzilla has remained a hallmark of popular culture. From fighting King Kong to space aliens to stomping through model cities Godzilla has a certain perception in the media. However, Godzilla has his origins in a dark part of Japan's history. When we watch the later Godzilla movies we often forget how dark and foreboding the first movie was - after all when Godzilla is destroying Tokyo a mother clutches her sons saying 'We'll be with daddy soon'. Since 1954 Godzilla has represented fears of both the past and future. 

Japan Before Godzilla
The ruins of Hiroshima
In 1945 Japan's attempt at empire came crashing down. On 16 July 1945 years of work as part of the Manhattan Project succeeded in creating the most destructive weapon in human history: the nuclear bomb. On August 6 the destructive potential of the bomb was shown to the world when 'Little Boy' was dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later another, 'Fat Man', was dropped on Nagasaki. A brief flash of bright light precipitated a loud boom and firestorm which tore through the two cities. Twelve square kilometers of Hiroshima and 30% of its population were wiped out by the fires of Little Boy. Meanwhile, Nagasaki burnt as winds pushed the bomb's fires through the city, but due to the lack of fuel density which Hiroshima had no firestorm occurred in Nagasaki. Thanks to the two bombs somewhere between 129,000 and 226,000 people were killed - most of whom were civilians. Despite the destruction of two cities in such a manner it would take until the obliteration of the Kwantung army by the Soviet Union for Japan to surrender.

After Japan's surrender until 1952 Japan was occupied in theory by the Allied powers, but in reality it was just the United States - it can also be argued that as the US has military bases on Okinawa the Occupation is still happening. The Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), George Marshall, oversaw a radical shift in Japanese society, aided by Japanese officials themselves, to ensure that Japan would never be a threat to primarily the US again. As mentioned Japanese officials often aided SCAP with the Occupation; for example, many politicians were in favor of Article 9 of the Constitution which prevents Japan from declaring war or holding an official army (although the Self-Defense Force is an army in all but name). We could easily devote an entire post to the Occupation but for discussing Godzilla we need to look at one thing in particular: censorship.
SCAP had this image of MacArthur with Emperor Hirohito distributed The Japanese press tried to censor it but SCAP overrode them
Censorship was a current during the Occupation. At first SCAP authorities, and Japanese officials, applied censorship only to Japan's imperial past where texts which venerated the empire, and to an extent the emperor, were heavily censored. Although it must be noted that freedom of expression did increase under the Occupation. One key example of SCAP's censoring is the censoring of textbooks. Since 1868 Japan had focused heavily on schools and had used them to basically indoctrinate children. Until new textbooks could be printed entire sections of existing textbooks were blotted out! SCAP was fearful of criticisms of the Allies and the Occupation as criticisms could allow the increase in support for the old Japan, or possibly garner support for communism which had become a major issue for the US in East Asia - especially after the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. As a result negative discussion of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were censored, and when it was discussed it wasn't treated particularly seriously. For example, the 1952 movie Never Forget the Song of Nagasaki features the bombing as a side-note to romance story where a beautiful hibakusha (survivor of a nuclear bomb) overcomes her hatred of Americans when she falls in love with a kind GI. Only after the end of Occupation did criticism of the bombings happen.

Godzilla's Origin
On 1 March 1954 the US tested a new thermonuclear weapon in the Bikini Atoll in the present-day Marshall Islands. The fallout through unexpected weather spread outside the danger zone and into the path of a tuna trawler named Lucky Dragon 5. The crew of the trawler were exposed to radiation and the radio operator, Kuboyama Aikichi, died of the poisoning which caused Japan to go into panic. Soon memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came to the forefront and fears over nuclear bombs permeated every section of society. Things were amplified a year later when 12-year old Sadako Sasaki from Hiroshima died of leukemia caused by the nuclear bomb. With memories of the bombs circulating in Japan director Tanaka Tomoyuki became inspired. Tanaka had seen the movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms - a movie about a monster freed from the Arctic ice by nuclear weapons and then went on to attack New York - and had wanted to make his own kaiju (giant monster) movie. He had been in Jakarta trying to get the Indonesian government to release an Indonesian-Japanese movie about the Japanese occupation (which he failed to get approved), and when flying back home he imagined making a movie where a sea monster rose from the depths to attack Japan like the Rhedosaurus in 20,000 Fathoms. This idea blended with the news of the Lucky Dragon 5 to create Gojira. Director Honda Ishiro was brought on board and soon cinematic history would be made.
Godzilla as a mushroom cloud
Godzilla was initially envisioned to be a gorilla-whale hybrid and his Japanese name was meant to be a mixture of the Japanese of 'gorilla' and 'whale' (gorira and kujira) but it was changed to be a dinosaur mutated by American bomb tests. Gojira's design was heavily inspired by recent memories of nuclear warfare. His head was constructed was so that at certain angles it would resemble a mushroom cloud and his scales were meant to resemble the burns caused by the bomb on hibakusha. When Godzilla marched around he emitted radiation and the opening of the movie a boat with 'No.5' on the side is destroyed in a white blast. The movie also focuses on dead tuna, poisoned by Godzilla's radiation, as a metaphor for what was happening in Japan. Following the Lucky Dragon 5 Incident Japan faced a tuna shortage as the government banned fishing in case irradiated fish went onto the markets. Finally, Gojira's destruction of Tokyo resembled the destruction caused by American bombing of Japan's cities during the Second World War. Gojira is only killed by an even more destructive weapon than the nuclear bomb, the oxygen destroyer, and its creator went down with the weapon to avoid its secret getting out. When Gojira was released in the US, under the name Godzilla: King of Monsters!, it was heavily edited for an American audience (something common at the time). However, distributors feared a backlash thanks to the movie's allegories so cut out most of the references to nuclear bombs and the Second World War - over thirty minutes were cut out of a ninety-six minute long movie. Despite this Godzilla's fame erupted in both the US and Japan, but this would not be the last Godzilla movie to feature allegories and metaphors.

Allegories since '54
During the 1960s and 1970s the Godzilla franchise was geared firmly at a family audience with Godzilla becoming a friendly defender of humanity represented by a man (Nakajima Haruo) in a rubber suit. 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah largely continued this trend but decided to adopt a darker tone as it brought in the issues of the 1970s. Other than the LSD-inspired party, with a random cat, vs. Hedorah features a major issue of the 1970s: environmentalism. One of the movements to come from the 1960s was environmentalism and many were inspired to act by Rachel Carson's warning about DDT in Silent Spring. The 1970s green politics started to become a factor and if a green party didn't exist there would be significant support for it among the public. Japan's industrial economy proved to be a fertile breeding ground for green politics and environmentalism. Yokkaichi in Mie Prefecture was known for high rates of asthma caused by air pollution. Hedorah was a kaiju from space which grew to gigantic proportions by feasting on Japan's pollution. Later, in 1984's The Return of Godzilla Godzilla once again came to represent nuclear fears. In the 1980s Ronald Reagan was president and with him came a conservative campaign built on intense anti-communism. Reagan took a hard stance against the Soviet Union and at times of his early presidency there were genuine fears that nuclear war would break out; it is no surprise that this was shown in the media with 99 Luftballons by Nena and the movie WarGames being released around this time. In Return Godzilla destroys a Soviet submarine which almost escalates to nuclear war when the US is blamed for it. Meanwhile, in the 1990s reaction against nuclear power started growing, especially in Japan, and this was again shown in Godzilla vs. Desotroyah. In this movie it is revealed that Godzilla's heart is a biological nuclear reactor and is going into meltdown which potentially could destroy life on Earth. Several nuclear incidents during the 1980s and 1990s had turned many against nuclear energy with 1986's Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine hitting many with the fear that nuclear energy could potentially wipe out humanity. In Japan this blended with memories of 1945 and 1954, and then again in Godzilla.
Godzilla going into meltdown
Since the 1980s memory in Japan has shifted. By the 1980s the generation which grew up under the militaristic/fascistic governments of the 1930s and 1940s started coming to prominence in society, and this mixed with virtual uninterrupted rule of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party since 1947. Since the 1980s casting Japan as a victim of the Second World War, something which began in the 1950s according to historian James Orr, began more and more mainstream. Among this was the ongoing textbooks controversy where Japan's war crimes, including the Rape of Nanjing and 'comfort women' (women forced to be sex slaves for the military), became downplayed or overlooked. Hiroshima and Nagasaki became symbols of Japanese victimhood, although nothing was done to actually help surviving hibakusha. A virtual culture war over history is still going on in Japan comparable to the memory of the Confederacy in the US, Churchill in the UK, or the History Wars in Australia. Vitriolic debates between sections of society who wished to downplay/whitewash Japan's role in World War Two, and those who argues that it should be acknowledged. This is still happening: the current prime minister, Abe Shinzo, is firmly on the denial side. Godzilla eventually waded into this debate, and then very firmly on one side. In 2001's Godzilla, Mothra, and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack the new Godzilla is actually the souls of all those who died thanks to Japan during World War Two which are seeking revenge for Japan's denial of its past. 
Godzilla in GMK
Finally, we have the two most recent movies: the Gareth Edwards' Godzilla (2014) and Shin-Gojira (2016). Quite interestingly Godzilla mixes Godzilla's fictional origin with his real-world origin: the 1954 thermonuclear tests were really an attempt to kill Godzilla. Edwards treats Godzilla as a force of nature and watching the aftermath of the San Francisco battle stark images of Hurricane Katrina can be seen. People queue for medical aid, water damaged buildings are seen everywhere, and thousands wait in stadiums for aid. Like Katrina Godzilla is a force of nature which humanity cannot hope to match. Shin-Gojira treats Gojira as both a force of nature and humanity's mistake. Memories of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 caused by the earthquake is evoked in Shin-Gojira. Gojira evolves rapidly causing a wave of destruction like an earthquake that emits radiation. The endless meetings and quibbling of bureaucrats in the movie is reminiscent to the government's lethargic reaction to Fukushima. One can read Shin-Gojira as an either left-wing movie or a right-wing one. Military attacks on Gojira make matters worse, (especially US intervention), the government (heavily based on the Liberal Democrats) are portrayed as being more concerned about their own position than the loss of human life, and that Japan's greatest threat is itself. Meanwhile, continued international (i.e. US) intervention is needed to ensure Gojira doesn't return, the Self-Defense force are the ones to defeat Gojira, and the movie definitely lacks the anti-war message of 1954's Gojira. Abe Shinzo has even praised the supposed nationalism in Shin-Gojira

Over sixty years after Godzilla's debut he has consistently represented the fears of the day and memory of the past. From the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Fukushima disaster Godzilla has always been the kaiju in the shadow of history.

Thank you for reading. For future blog updates please check out our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby. The sources I have used are as follows:
-Jason Barr, The Kaiju Film: A Critical Study of Cinema's Biggest Monsters, (Jefferson: McFarland & Co, 2016)
-William Tsutsui, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)
-James Orr, The Victors as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001)
-Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa times to the Present, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)
-John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II, (London: Penguin, 2000)

Friday, 9 February 2018

Comics Explained: Venom (Eddie Brock)

Venom
Yesterday, as of writing, Sony released a teaser trailer for their new upcoming movie Venom set to be released in October 2018. This movie is not associated with the MCU despite Venom being one of Spider-Man's greatest foes. Venom is personally one of my favorite Marvel villains, just after Ultron and Dr Doom, so I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the version of Venom which we'll be seeing on the big screen: the Eddie Brock version. Eddie Brock was the first to bear the title of Venom and he is one of two people to be considered the best Venom, the other being Flash Thompson. Despite only appearing as Venom in 1988 Eddie Brock has had a huge publication history, so today we'll only go over certain aspects of his history.

First Appearance of the Suit
The first appearance of the black suit
Venom first appeared in Marvel comics as an alternate version of Spider-Man's suit. In Amazing Spider-Man #252 Spider-Man suddenly appeared in a black suit just before the Secret Wars event. It was in Secret Wars #8 that we got the origin of Spider-Man's black suit. During this event, (which involved many heroes and villains being transported to Battleworld), Spider-Man's suit became damaged so he went to a machine which, according to the Hulk, could create clothing via thought. When he sees the machine a black glob attaches to his suit and spreads across his body forming the now iconic black suit. As Spider-Man had been thinking about the design of Spider-Woman's suit it changed to replicate that, and he also found out that it could mimic street clothing as well as produce webbing. What meant to be an interesting design choice ended up infuriating fans who loathed the new suit design. So much so that in Amazing Spider-Man #258 they got rid of it. Speaking to the Fantastic Four it was revealed that the glob was a sentient being which wanted to permanently bond with Peter Parker but it was also weak to loud sounds and heat. It turned out that the Fantastic Four failed to rid his suit of the symbiote so in Web of Spider-Man #1 Parker went to a church where he used the bells to create enough sound to rid the symbiote. However, by this point the fans had grown to like the suit design so the writers had Black Cat make him a cloth variant which he used interchangeably. 

Marvel has also given an in-universe origin of the symbiote itself. In several stories we found out aspects of the symbiote's life before Battleworld. The symbiotes were an asexual parasitic lifeform from the planet Klyntar which would bond with a host. These parasites would give the host powers but the symbiotes would slowly drain them of their adrenaline until they died. In Venom Super Special #1 it was revealed that after several hosts the Venom symbiote refused to drain the life of its host so, as a result, was seen as an aberration contaminating the gene pool. The symbiote was imprisoned until its prison was incorporated into Battleworld where its first host was actually Deadpool as apart of one of his zany adventures.

Eddie Brock
Brock was made by David Michelinie and Todd MacFarlane, someone who would later go on to create Spawn. Eddie Brock's origin was explained in a short series called Venom: Dark Origin and Venom:Lethal Protector. Eddie's mother died giving birth to him so as a result his devout Catholic father never bonded with his son and kept his distance. He was so devoid of his father's affection that he would steal items from classmates and then return them pretending he had 'found' the missing item in hope this could make him their friend. Brock decided to go into journalism and became a reporter. He thought he got a hot scoop when someone claiming to be the serial killer Sin-Eater offered to do an interview. Quickly the story hit headlines but his fame soon came crashing down. Spider-Man captured the actual Sin-Eater and the man whom Brock had interviewed turned out to be an impostor. Brock was fired and was forced to become a tabloid journalist. Shortly after his wife left him, he became diagnosed with cancer, and went into a spiral of depression. Brock started bodybuilding to exorcise his depression and anger, but nothing could shake his hatred of Spider-Man who had allowed his life to get into this state. Eventually, he went to pray at the same church where Parker had rid the symbiote and it was attracted to Brock. With a shared burning hatred of Spider-Man and Brock's physique through bodybuilding made him the perfect host for the symbiote.
Spider-Man trying to get rid of the suit
Venom's actual first appearance had a big build-up. However, Michelinie never originally intended to have Brock be Venom. Instead Venom was meant to be a woman. Michelinie has since stated his very dark origin for her; a pregnant woman has her husband flag a cab but as the car driver is distracted seeing Spider-Man fighting a villain hits the husband killing him. The woman goes into labor but the baby tragically dies. After briefly losing her mind she blames Spider-Man and then encounters the symbiote. When Michelinie had Venom sneak up on Parker several times in Web of Spider-Man. One time she pushed Parker onto a subway line just as the train was coming. Marvel editors thought fans wouldn't believe that a woman would be a physical threat to Spider-Man so Michelinie invented Brock and made him a body-builder. Venom would finally make his appearance over three issues in The Amazing Spider-Man #298 to #300. #298 has a figure in shadow observing him and the reader can see something black covering his hands. #299 in the last panel Venom appears and frightens Mary Jane setting up #300 where we go over Venom's origins, and they fight. Since then Venom has gone from villain to anti-hero flicking between the two regularly. Thanks to the symbiote Brock also knows that Parker is Spider-Man. Due to how many appearances Venom has made we'll go over a few major ones today.
First Appearance

The Rise of Carnage
Venom v Carnage
Carnage is Marvel's Joker and is one of my other favorite Marvel villains, (you can tell I really like Marvel's symbiotes). In The Amazing Spider-Man #333 the symbiote seemingly died but in reality it went into a comatose state. When it woke it returned to Brock, who was in prison, which he then used to break out. However, the symbiote asexually reproduced during the break out and its offspring attached itself to Brock's cellmate: Celtus Kasady. Kasady was made by Michelinie and artist Mark Bagley with him being a more darker version of the already dark Venom. Kasady was a sadistic serial killer who had an insatiable blood lust and bonded with Venom's brood they became Carnage. Unlike Venom which regularly uses plural pronouns to refer to themselves, Carnage considers itself one entity. Regretting allowing a psychopath like Kasady to get hold of a symbiote Venom teams up with Spider-Man to bring him down before turning on one another. Carnage has since been another one of Spider-Man's main villains.

Lethal Protector and Maximum Carnage
When Brock saw Spider-Man save his ex-wife Ann from a collapsing ferris wheel it made the villain try and do good. He moved back to San Francisco - where he had grew up - and decided to become the lethal protector of an underground homeless society. This became the plot of 1993's Venom: Lethal Protector by Michelinie and artist Mark Bagley. Venom would fight and lethally deal with those who threaten them. However, a corporate survivalist group named the Life Foundation captured Venom hoping to use the symbiotes for their own advantage. They successfully extracted five symbiotes, attached them to hosts, and released them into San Francisco to commit violence to test their abilities. Spider-Man headed to San Francisco where he teamed up with an escaped Venom where the two seemingly destroyed the symbiotes and the facility. Later in a fourteen issue series with Spider-Man Unlimited #1 the 'Maximum Carnage' story happened. When being moved to a new prison the symbiote inside Kasady reawakened allowing him to slaughter his guards and move onto New York. There he recruits a group of followers and they begin wrecking havoc. Feeling guilty in indirectly creating Carnage Venom returns to Manhattan, but Spider-Man refused his help for his violent actions. However, in the end Spider-Man had no choice but to fight with Brock where they finally defeated Carnage.

Other Hosts
Agent Venom
Eddie Brock isn't the only Venom host. His ex-wife Ann briefly was a host. Ann was shot by the new Sin-Eater so he gave her the symbiote to heal, but it started controlling her and she killed two muggers with it. Eventually Brock regained the symbiote. After 2004 Brock tried to get rid of the symbiote, although he still has hallucinations of it, and the symbiote bonded with Mac Gargan. Gargan was originally the villain Scorpion but adopted the symbiote in 2005's Marvel Knights: Spider-Man #9 after being enticed by the prospect of more power. However, Gargan was weaker than Brock and Spider-Man found it easier to beat him - Spider-Man believed this to be the fact that Gargan hated Spider-Man a lot less than Brock did. Unlike with Brock the symbiote had more control causing Gargan to become more violent and even cannibalistic, the symbiote made Gargan eat the Iron Spider's hand. The last host which we'll look at is a fan favorite: Flash Thompson. Flash was Peter Parker's bully but they eventually reconciled, and Flash went on to serve in the army which cost him his legs. In a government attempt to control Venom it was given to Flash who turned into Agent Venom. As Flash refused to kill the symbiote started to stop wanting to kill and began to have a genuine strong bond with Flash. In the recent Marvel Legends publications when the symbiote got a new host it refused to let him kill and tried to escape him to be with Flash. 

Anti-Venom and Return
Anti-Venom
Despite rejecting the symbiote Brock still had aspects of the symbiote in his blood. With his cancer killing him Brock decided to die quietly doing something good and continued helping the homeless by working in a homeless shelter. However, the owner turned out to be Mister Negative and when Negative touched Brock on the shoulder his powers awakened the symbiote in Brock's blood and cured his cancer. In The Amazing Spider-Man #569 in 2008 Mac Gargan was hunting Spider-Man and sensed a former host. Believing this to be Spider-Man he burst into the homeless shelter and attacked Brock. Coming into contact with the current Venom caused the symbiote in his blood to violently react turning Brock into the Anti-Venom. He would continue his Lethal Protector style of being an anti-hero violently killing drug dealers and he even formed an alliance with the Punisher. In 2012 he became the new Toxin, a symbiote born from Carnage, where he tried to destroy the Venom symbiote.

In Venom Vol. 3 #1 the symbiote gained a new host in the form of gangster Lee Price. In #6 Brock agreed to help the FBI and Spider-Man in separating Price from the symbiote. He succeeded and became Venom once more after a period of over ten years. Meanwhile, in Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Inc. Alpha #1 Flash hoped to regain the symbiote and it did try to return to Flash. However, Flash in the process became the new Anti-Venom.

That is a broad outline of the Venom version of Eddie Brock's history. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. For future blog posts please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Comics Explained: Wakanda

Wakanda
Black Panther is my favorite Marvel hero so I am currently very excited for Black Panther which will be released in the UK very soon. Judging by the trailers a huge section of the movie seems to be set in Wakanda which, of course, is a fictional place. Hence, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the country of Wakanda.

Real World Origins
Wakanda's First Appearance
Wakanda first appeared in Fantastic Four #52 alongside the Black Panther itself in a story by Stan Lee in 1966. In this story T'Challa invites the Fantastic Four to Wakanda, and then defeats them in a test to see how good they are. For years comic books had been trying to be more progressive but had been shackled by the intense discrimination of the United States. After de jure racial discrimination had mostly ended in 1965 thanks to the Civil Rights movement comic books could move from allegories, such as the X-Men, to actually including minorities. Africa was going through a period of time which historian Martin Meredith described as an 'African Renaissance'. The European colonies by 1966 had been winning their independence and were being led by energetic and charismatic leaders like Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta. These new states experienced a boom in literature, had access to a mountain of resources, and with the discovery of Lucy the Australopithecus had the added pride of being the place where humanity originated. Lee and Marvel blended the end to legal racial hatred with Africa's bright future to create the Black Panther and Wakanda. 

Wakanda- Basics
An early map of Wakanda
One thing Marvel has been consistent about Wakanda is its location. Wakanda is in East Africa normally bordering Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan, however, for its fictional countries Marvel is often vague about locations. The above map is from Marvel Atlas #2 which features several other fictional countries but that's the only time this version of Wakanda has really been shown. All other depictions have been consistent in showing Wakanda as being around Kenya and Ethiopia. Birnin Zana is the capital and also the largest city. Wakanda also happens to be the richest country in the world with Rob at ComicsExplained estimating the GDP, here, to be higher than the GDP of the rest of the world. The reason for this is due to vibranium, the metal which makes up Captain America's shield, and is worth about $10,000 per gram. Black Panther's father, T'Chaka, made Wakanda so wealthy by selling vibranium abroad, and when T'Challa became king he altered the trading policy to ensure that vibranium would only be sold to people with 'good intentions'. The profits from vibranium sales were funneled back into Wakanda where the profits were invested into health, education, and science. As a result, Wakanda is not only one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, (Dr. Doom's country Latveria may be the only other country to rival Wakanda in advancement), but also one of the most educated. Wakanda even has a cure for cancer but refuses to share it as it would be sold for profit, and one counselor in Black Panther Vol.4 #3 said 'If they care about their people's health they wouldn't sell them cigarettes'. They even split the atom around fifty years before the rest of the world did!

Politics
Wakanda is a monarchy under a king who takes the mantle of the Black Panther. T'Challa is the current Black Panther and his father was the previous one. The Black Panther is in charge of protecting Wakanda from outside forces which wishes to destroy or exploit it. Black Panther originally only joined the Avengers in order to spy on them in case they were a threat to Wakanda. However, the role of the Black Panther isn't hereditary and anyone in theory can become the Black Panther. To become the Panther one must first eat the heart-shaped root, a plant native to only Wakanda which Wakandans viewed as a gift from their god. If the consumer doesn't die they can go onto the next stage. In the past it was believed that if they died it was due to god being displeased but now they know that it is due to the vibranium in the root itself which can kill people. Survivors then go on to fight several of Wakanda's best fighters and if they win they become king. A current ruling Black Panther can be challenged for the position as well.
T'Challa with the Dora Milaje
Wakanda is still very tribal with the eighteen main tribes being represented in the Taifa Ngao in a sort of parliament. There's also the Black Panther's royal guard called the Dora Milaje. Centuries ago this guard was founded as a way for not showing favoritism to one tribe. Each tribe would hand over one girl to be trained to become the best bodyguard that she could be, and one would eventually be chosen as the king's wife. T'Chaka saw this as outdated and abolished it, but T'Challa brought them back with a twist. The Dora Milaje would still be loyal to the Black Panther but not in a potentially romantic way. After all he married Storm of the X-Men who is Kenyan. T'Challa turned the Dora Milaje into the world's fiercest, and best, fighting force with them knowing just about all fighting styles from across the world. 

For centuries Wakanda had been isolationist and to an extent under T'Challa, who ended the isolation, it still is. As mentioned earlier it refuses to share the cure for cancer, but at the same time it refuses to share its technology. Wakanda sent satellites into space in the 1950s to make sure the USA and USSR wouldn't challenge them, for example. T'Challa was even the first Wakandan to have an education outside of Wakanda - although Wakanda has one of the best education systems in the world, which is also free, so now there isn't really any need. Largely, Black Panther only takes part in the superhero community to see if they threaten Wakanda. Not all Wakandans accept the end of isolation with the Desturi being an example. The Desturi is a xenophobic, ultra-conservative group who strongly oppose the end of isolation.

Religion
The Panther Cult
Religion is very interesting in Wakanda. Wakandan religion evolved from Egyptian religion but the strange thing in Marvel comics all religions are real, and for the most part the gods are extremely powerful magical beings, like Odin and Thor. Each god has their own cult with the Panther Cult, worshiping Bast, being the main and largest one. Due to the Panther Cult we have the Black Panther. In the past the Lion Cult worshiping Sekhmet was the largest as Sekhmet would appear to all its followers, not just the priests, but over the years the Panther Cult became more popular. Sobek of the Crocodile Cult had a large following but has declined. Finally, the last major cult is that of Ghekre, the White Gorilla. In Wakanda there are white gorillas whose evolution was influenced by vibranium so when people ate white gorilla flesh they would get powers. However, doing so made them violent so the Wakandans outlawed the cult until years later when Man-Ape revived it. 

History
Wakanda had its roots 10,000 years ago. A meteorite full of vibranium crashed in what would become Wakanda. A local tribe led by Bashenga went to investigate and the vibranium caused several warriors to mutate into 'Demon Spirits'. Bashenga prayed to Bast to help defeat the Spirits who ended up granting him powers, and Bashenga became the first Black Panther. Over the centuries different dynasties holding the Black Panther mantle would rise and fall with the occasional invasion by outside forces including Romans, Crusaders, and European colonizers. A Belgian colonel who invaded to add Wakanda to Belgium's Congo empire was so thoroughly defeated that his soldiers brought what remained of him back to Belgium - an easy task seen as it was just his foot in a boot left. 
Captain America getting beaten by T'Challa's grandfather in 1941
In 1941 the Nazis attempted to invade Wakanda to seize hold of the Vibranium deposits but Captain America, with his original shield, went to aid the Black Panther and his son T'Chaka. T'Chaka was impressed by Cap' and gave him some vibranium which would then become his new shield. Under T'Chaka Wakanda would slowly start opening to the outside world with him selling small quantities of vibranium, however, a company called the Bilderburg Group wanted it all. They sent mercenaries under a man named Klaw, played by Andy Serkis in the MCU, to overthrow T'Chaka and seize the vibranium. Klaw would go on to kill T'Chaka but he would be defeated by T'Challa who cut off his hand (instead of Ultron in the MCU). T'Chaka's brother, S'Yun, would serve as Black Panther until T'Challa became of age when he went through the ritual of eating the heart-shaped herb and challenging S'Yun's best fighters. This brings us up to the modern day comics.

Thank you for reading and please leave any comments. For future blog posts please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby

Sunday, 28 January 2018

History in Focus: The Emu War

Australian reporting of the War
The 1930s saw a series of bloody wars which ravaged the globe. Spain splintered between republican and nationalist forces, Mussolini led a destructive invasion of Ethiopia, Japan invaded China twice bringing misery and destruction in its wake, and of course the Second World War broke out in September 1939. However, these conflicts pale in comparison to one war...and judging by the fact that you've read the title of this blog post you know I'm making a joke about the Emu War. This famous war broke out in 1932 where the Australian army went to war against emus...and lost. 

Background to the War
Following the Second World War the Australian government had encouraged war veterans and recent British migrants to take up farming in the expanses of Western Australia, and following the Great Depression they were encouraged to take up farming wheat. The Depression had virtually destroyed the international wheat market greatly affecting Canada, the United States, and Australia so this was an attempt to rebuild the Australian farming economy. However, they faced a problem. The farms set up were fairly small so they were not overly financially viable, especially if something could negatively affect crop growth. Then an army arrive. The caws of 20,000 migrating emus wanting to reclaim their land long taken from them by the human hordes descended onto Western Australia. In particular, the cleared land and abundant water supply made Western Australia perfect for the emus; no emu in living memory had experienced such fine land. A blitzkrieg campaign started: the emus would descend on the crops which allowed their rabbit underlings to follow afterwards. Farmers were outraged and bounties on emu heads were set up. Eventually, the Minister of Defence, Sir George Pearce, took up the call of help issued from the beleaguered farmers. He chose to send the army in to fight the emus...

The War
An emu private. Believed to be Private Gruff McCaw
In October 1932 the army under Major G.P.W Meredith of the 7th Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery arrived at Campion with four soldiers, two Lewis guns, and a cinematographer from Fox Movietown for propaganda purposes. Like many major military skirmishes - the Spanish Armada's invasion of England, Waterloo - the weather affected the battle. Bad weather had caused the emus to scatter into guerrilla cells meaning the army had to wait until 2 November to begin battle. After the 'Phony War' of October the army descended on a platoon of 50 emus; however, with nothing to cage in the emus the machine gun fire scattered the platoon leading to no fatalities. The next day they hoped to ambush the emus at a dam and they came into contact with a battalion of 1,000 emus. The machine guns jammed and only twelve emus died that day. In a deplorable act of aggression Meredith went to attack a pacifistic community of emus which were referred to contemptuously as 'tame'. 

Their contempt for more more peaceful emus brought their downfall. The emus became organized and most avoided the attacks from the Australian army. One recruit said (imagine the black-and-white imagery with accompanying music of PBS' The Civil War):
The emus have proved that they are not so stupid as they are usually considered to be. Each mob has its leader, always an enormous black-plumed bird standing fully six-feet high, who keeps watch while his fellows busy themselves with the wheat. At the first suspicious sign, he gives the signal, and dozens of heads stretch up out of the crop. A few birds will take fright, starting a headlong stampede for the scrub, the leader always remaining until his followers have reached safety.
Emu POWs, c.8 November 1932

Desperate, Meredith attached a gun to the back of a truck to do drive-by-shootings in a similar way to how George S. Patton fought Pancho Villa's supporters. However, the truck was slow and not used to the rough terrain of the Australian Outback so they couldn't shoot straight. At the same time Australia's propaganda machine was backfiring. The Perth Mirror reported that people were complaining about the cruelty towards the emus in newsreels before movies, the Australian RSPCA sent threatening to Sydney, and the British even condemned the 'extermination of the rare emu'. Like what happened in the Vietnam War the public started sympathizing with the emu guerrillas. Soon Meredith pulled out of Western Australia commenting: If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world... They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop. We do not know the exact figure of the emus killed but Meredith believed that it was around 50 birds.

Aftermath and Legacy
After the First Emu War several other punitive expeditions were done against the emus until the Australian government chose to arm the farmers, of whom virtually all were veterans. The veterans committed harsh reprisal against the emus bringing back the bounty system and personally leading expeditions against the birds. It is believed that 57,034 birds were slaughtered by 1934. However, the emus got the last caw. Emu attrition and the Depression caused Campion to became a ghost town. Today the Emu War is a distant but bitter memory of the Australian military with only people making jokes about it on the internet directly affecting them. However, it is likely that the emus have not forgotten. They learnt that the weapons of the humans are flawed. It is only a matter of time before they ally themselves with the magpies and drop bears to drive the humans from Australia...
The future for Australia?
The sources I have used are as follows:
-Murray Johnson, '"Feathered foes": Soldier settlers and Western Australia's "Emu War" of 1932,' Journal of Australian Studies, 88, (2006), 147-157
-TROVE National Library of Australia Digitised Newspapers - Western Australia

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Friday, 19 January 2018

World History: The Rise of Russia

A map of Russian expansion
The last time we looked at Russia, here, the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan IV, was crowned Tsar of all Russia in 1547. Just over a hundred years prior Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Empire and over the next century Moscow became the dominant power in eastern Europe. The Byzantines, who had ruled Constantinople, had been an Orthodox state which the future Tsardom of Russia was. Russia viewed itself as the 'Third Rome' and the rulers named themselves 'Caesars' which explains the etymological origins of the word 'tsar.' With this post we'll see how Russia's land, institutions, and society evolved since the reign of Ivan IV. We go from a largely Slavic population west of the Urals to a society stretching from Warsaw to Alaska comprising of Poles, Russians, Tatars, Kazakhs, and Chechens to name just some of the various ethnic groups to exist in the Empire. Writing in 1838 tutor to the royal family and conservative historian Mikhail Pogodin wrote:
Ten thousand versts in length, extending almost from the middle of Europe...to the faraway lands of America! And five thousand versts in width, running from Persia to the Polar Circle. What other state can compare to her in size? To half of her? How many states can even compare to a twentieth or fiftieth of her size?
Before we look at what would become the Russian empire at its height we need to look at Ivan IV who began the rapid expansion east, (and west), Ivan IV - or as he is better known Ivan the Terrible.

Ivan the Terrible
An 1897 painting of Ivan the Great
Ivan IV was born in 1530 and has gone by several titles. The most accurate titles are the Great, Awe-Inspiring, Formidable, or Awesome but in the West he is best known as 'the Terrible' for his tyranny of his later rule. Ivan's father, Vasili III, was the Grand Prince of Moscow but died through a abscess and inflammation in his leg when Ivan was aged three. His mother, Elena Glinskaya, was made regent but tragedy hit again at the age of eight when Elena died, possibly through an assassination via poisoning. Before her death the boyars (very important aristocrats) had been vying for power over the young Ivan, and after Elena's death this increased. It is quite possible that this court infighting might have contributed to Ivan's autocratic rule later in his life, especially as he started hunting and torturing animals before the age of 16. When he turned 16 the decision was made to crown Ivan 'Tsar of All Russians', on top of his title of Grand Prince of Moscow in 1547. There was a clear religious aspect to his enthronement. As mentioned earlier the Orthodox faith of Russia created the idea that Russia was the legitimate successor of Rome. When he went out in 1552 to conquer the primarily Muslim Khanate of Kazan, which was also the first time Muscovy annexed a non-Russian state, the chroniclers wrote about the conquest in very religious terms:
With the aid of our Almighty Lord Jesus Christ and the prayers of the Mother of God...our pious Tsar and Grand Prince Ivan Vasilievich, crowned by God, Autocrat of all Rus, fought against the infidels, defeated them firmly and captured the Tsar of Kazan Edigei-Mahmet. And the pious Tsar and Grand Prince ordered his regiment to sing an anthem under his banner, to give thanks to God for the victory; and at the same time ordered a life-giving cross to be placed and a church to be built, with the uncreated image of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the Tsar's colours had stood during the battle.
In reality religion was less of a factor in the conquest of the Asian khanates. Following the disintegration of the Golden Horde various khanates emerged creating an uneasy sea of shifting territories, alliances and enemies. As mentioned in the previous post the Kievan Rus had been conquered by the Mongols so the fear of the East had never truly left Russia. By almost nervously expanding eastwards this removed the existential and potential threat which the khanates offered. However, by framing expansion in a religious sense this was an attempt to legitimize Russia as the Third Rome; Russia was expanding against the Muslim 'infidel' and spreading Christendom. Although it should also be noted that Ivan did try westward expansion with the Livonian War which was an unsuccessful war to muscle into the Baltic. 

Ivan also tried to legitimize his rule domestically. In a similar way to how the Qing tried to legitimize themselves in China he had Metropolitan Makarii combine church, dynasty and land in order to tie it to an imperial heritage. These were compiled in the Great Almanach (Velikie Chet'i-Minei) and the Book of Degrees of the Imperial Genealogy (Stepennaia kniga tsarskogo rodosloviia). The Almanac was a collection detailing the lives of saints, church resolutions, sermons, epistles, and histories which was creatively laid out so each document could be read each day of the year. However, the most important aspect of the Almanac was that the documents were directly saying that from Creation to the present day God intended to create a Christian state in the lands of the Rus. The Book of Degrees was the 'secular' equivalent of the Almanac emphasizing the Orthodox Byzantine heritage of Russia while also ignoring or downplaying the claims of rival states as successors to Kiev; this included Novgorod, Lithuania, and the Golden Horde. Even in a seemingly secular text religion was present with the Book of Degrees saying itself that it was an account of the 'enlightened God-ordained sceptre-holders who ruled in piety the Russian land.' Russia's legacy of print culture began under Ivan with the Moscow Print Yard being formed in 1553 with the intention to print religious texts, much like the earlier Gutenberg printing press. Most famously Ivan IV had St. Basil's Cathedral constructed to commemorate his victory over the Kazan, and it remains one of Russia's major landmarks. 

Oprichnina 
Oprichniki by Nikolai Nevrev
This was the most famous part of Ivan's reign and the most infamous. From 1564 to 1572 around half the tsardom (including all the lucrative trading areas to the north and northwest of Moscow) was made Ivan's personal realm. We know half the reason why the oprichnina was implemented. In 1558 Ivan's request for the Livonian Confederation to allow him access to the Baltic Sea was rejected so he went to war which expanded when Denmark, Sweden and Poland-Lithuania also went to war against Russia. In 1564 Prince Andrei Kurbsky defected to the Lithuanians which made Ivan extremely paranoid of further aristocratic treason. However, some historians have retroactively diagnosed Ivan and have claimed that the oprichnina was part of a mental illness. Nancy Shields Kollman, for one, emphasizes the psychological aspect of the formation of the oprichnina; V.O. Kliuchevskii and S.B. Veselovskii have argued that Ivan was insane or paranoid; and Edward L. Keenan has argued that a debilitating spinal illness made Ivan create the oprichnina in order to abdicate power. Geoffrey Hosking has suggested that the oprichnina might have been an attempt to break the boyars' independence and have them beg him to return; especially as the zemshchina (the rest of Russia not in the oprichnina) were poorer and boyar land was seized in order to create the oprichnina. 

To rule the oprichnina Ivan created the oprichniki which he referred to as 'brothers.' They acted as a mixture of an army and secret police dressed in unadorned black clothes resembling a monk's habit in order to represent the ideal Christian life. The oprichniki were given free reign to ransack, torture, and kill anyone deemed to be treasonous. The exact figures of the oprichniki's victims remains unknown but the gentry and boyars were killed by the thousands, Suzdal for example lost 80% of its gentry. Ivan even managed to eliminate his most important dynastic rival, Vladimir Staritskii, in 1569 by making him drink poison after publicly accusing him of plotting to kill him. He also expected the city of Novgorod of supporting Staritskii so in January 1570 so he unleashed the oprichniki onto the city. Over the course of a few weeks up to 3,000 were executed, of which the nobility faced the brunt of the violence. Ivan even took his son to watch the sacking of the city. When the Crimean Khanate routed the oprichniki when Khan Devlet-Girei managed to sack Moscow Ivan had the oprichniki dissolved and the oprichnina merged with the zemshchina

As it was largely the nobility who faced the oprichniki's violence the common people have remembered Ivan's reign rather fondly as a result through fairly evident reasons. If it wasn't thanks to the oprichnina and later paranoia Ivan would likely be seen more positively. The rest of Ivan's reign was dominated by the Livonian War and increased bouts of paranoia. In 1574 he abdicated for a year before returning and married several times. When his son and heir apparent (tsarevich), Ivan, failed to quickly produce a son he had his daughter-in-law sent to a convent, and he did the same to Ivan's second wife. By 1581 the tsarevich he remarried, to Yelena Sheremeteva, and had started clashing with his father over the Livonian War. In October Yelena was pregnant but once she was wearing light clothing Ivan beat her making her miscarry. When the younger Ivan confronted him Ivan struck his son over the head with a staff which accidentally killed him. Ivan spent the rest of his life grieving until he died during a game of chess in 1584. His son Feodor succeeded him but was interested in politics. He died heirless.

The Time of Troubles
Ivan IV had shook up Russian society and the sickly Feodor I was taken advantage of. For example, the eastern Patriarchs in 1589 were convinced to make the Metropolitans of Moscow Patriachs. Ivan's youngest son, Dmitrii, (who was born after Ivan died), mysteriously vanished in 1591. With no heir the throne was offered to Feodor's regent and brother-in-law Boris Godunov. Initially, as he was not from the main branch of the Rurik dynasty the zemsky sobor (the Russian estates) offered him the throne but with reduced powers. However, Boris kept on refusing until the sobor chose stability over limiting Boris and granted him the throne with full powers. Boris gained supporters among nobles who feared the peasantry moving to richer lands so he started passing laws preventing peasants from moving; something which caused a schism among the landowners who had benefited from this. Soon he started arresting and executing enemies while a series of bad harvests hit from 1601 to 1603. Not long after someone claiming to be Dmitrii came out attracting support from nobles, peasants wanting an end to serfdom, and Cossacks wanting their independence back. The Boris died in 1605 followed by an invasion by Poland-Lithuania and Sweden. After a series of wars, pretenders and famines (which caused 2 million to starve) in 1613 the zemsky sobor elected a new tsar, Mikhail Romanov, whose dynasty would last until 1917. The Romanovs were closely related to the Ruriks so it was a clear attempt to continue a hereditary dynasty. Meanwhile, the Time of Troubles weakened the boyars in a way which the oprichnina never could do. The rift among the boyars and rise of nobles owning serfs displaced the power the boyars once had.

The Peasantry
Serfs in Russia
Until Stalin's industrialization the peasantry played a huge role in Russian society. Although it is important to remember that not all the peasantry were farmers and serfs. Trappers, artisans, fishers, loggers, and manual laborers often originated in the peasant class, or were serfs themselves. One of the famous images of the serfs was a painting of burlaki, barge-haulers. The army also drew heavily from the peasantry; in 1727 Prince Menshikov  in a report said 'The army is so necessary that without it the state cannot stand, and for its sake we must take care of the peasants; for the soldier is bound to the peasant, like the soul to the body, and if there is no peasant, then there will be no soldier.' One of the stereotypes about the Russian peasantry is that they were all serfs. This is partially due to how serfdom lasted in Russia until the 1800s. In 1784 visiting Englishman William Richardson wrote that 'the peasants in Russia...are in a state of abject slavery, and are reckoned the property of the nobles to whom they belong, as much as their horses or dogs.' This is rather ironic seen as at this time a huge portion of British wealth was made by the slave trade in the Caribbean. Serfdom developed in Russia centuries after western Europe so it generated much criticism from the rest of Europe. By 1811 58% of Russia's population were serfs. The move towards serfdom began under Ivan IV where in 1580 he suspended a practice which allowed a household to move elsewhere on St. George's Day, and in 1603 it was abolished. In 1581 and 1592 land cadasters established a peasant's legal residence, and it was legal for landowners to reclaim them if they moved illegally. Finally, the Law Code of 1649 bound a peasant, or their family, to the land they lived on. 

Although conditions for serfs were horrific, especially for women, they had some agency. For one, they had some independence as richer serfs could be taxed, and others could be enlisted into the army to get money. Often peasants retained their own courts independent from the state courts. In particular peasants used religion to define themselves. Especially with those moving east peasants regularly came into contact with non-Russians and they used their Orthodox faith to identify themselves. The Russian empire was made up of a multitude of peoples of various faiths so Russians used Orthodoxy to distinguish themselves from the empire's Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish and other populations. However, peasant Orthodoxy was different to the Orthodoxy of the cities. Until the rise of the Soviet Union the Russian peasantry was largely illiterate and no Russian Bible emerged until the nineteenth century. Instead they often mixed Orthodoxy with pre-Christian ideas; so much so that city-dwellers often commented that the peasants might as well be worshiping a different religion. The Baba Yaga, the witch of Russian folklore, is believed by some folklorists to have originated as a pre-Christian 'mother spirit' who turned into an evil force with the arrival of Christianity. 

Siberia
Russia expanded quickly after 1500. In the seventeenth century around 51,000 square miles were added to Russia a year, mostly in Siberia. When the Russians destroyed the khanates this opened up Siberia for Russian conquest and colonization. To an extent it can be compared to the colonization of the Americas. Initially trade was established between Russian merchants and the Siberian tribes with fur in particular being popular. In Russia stereotypical, and at times demeaning, depictions of the Siberians started appearing in Russian prints. Slowly Russian rule started expanding to include Siberia over various ways. One was offering protection to tribes from nomads in return for a tribute in the form of fur. A second way was direct conquest and then expulsion for settlers. The third way was direct settlement, often followed by Cossacks or the military attacking the Siberians. Fleeing serfs, convicts and Old Believers (those who opposed the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow), often made up the settles by the 1700s. Soon enough Russian settlement came into conflict with China who under the Qing were eager to look outwards. To avoid conflict the Treaty of Nerchinsk was signed in 1689 where the Kangxi emperor looked favorably on Russian culture; he even practiced Russian eating and drinking habits when he met Russians. In an odd turn Russia even colonized Alaska possibly in the 1600s in order to obtain Alaskan furs. It was sold in 1867 to the United States when the beaver and mink populations dropped.

Looking West
Peter the Great in an 1838 painting
Russia has always had an existential relationship with the West. Being one of Europe's most easternmost state with most of its land being east of the Urals Europe has long condemned it for not being European enough. Meanwhile, Russia has always seen itself as European. At various intervals Russia has attempted to 'westernize', or more accurately, reinterpret European ideas for Russia itself. Catherine the Great adapted ideas of the Enlightenment, Alexander II issued reforms to liberalize the empire, Joseph Stalin started rapidly industrializing to replicate the industrial prowess of Britain and Germany, and most recently Boris Yeltsin adapted the neo-liberalism of the EU and USA. Peter the Great is perhaps the most famous example of Russia looking west for inspiration. After a failed war against the Ottoman empire for the Black Sea Peter began the 'Grand Embassy' in 1697. Traveling incognito with a Russian delegation across Europe for a year he visited many European courts and peoples to understand what he saw there. In 1698 he returned to very brutally put down a rebellion, where 1,200 were tortured, executed and publicly displayed. Peter then began his reforms. Russia's calendar started from the estimated time of the Creation making the year 7207, so Peter changed it to starting with the birth of Christ making the year 1700. He ordered that Western clothing should be worn over Russian clothing, put a tax on boyars who refused to shave their beards, and banned arranged marriages as he argued that it encouraged domestic violence. Following victory in the Great Northern War in 1722 Peter wanted to break the boyar influence in the army so issued the Table of Ranks where merit over birth determined rank. He also replaced a land tax for a poll tax to fund his new capital in the lands taken from Sweden during the Great Northern War. This city would remain Russia's capital until 1917 and is today's St. Petersburg. 

Conclusion
The period covering Russian history from the start of the sixteenth century until the start of the eighteenth century served to greatly influence the rest of Russian history. The dawn of the multi-ethnic Russian state, the gradual destruction of the boyars' power, the rise of serfdom, and its identity of a European v. Asian state all found its roots in this time period. This turbulent time greatly shaped Russia and its view of being a 'Third Rome.' For centuries to come Russia being the beacon of Roman civilization would greatly influence thought in the Russian empire. The next World History post shall discuss another part of European history which greatly influenced thought for centuries to come: the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Willard Sunderland, 'Russian Empire, 1552-1917', in John Marriott and Philippa Levine (eds.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories, (Oxon, 2012)
-Geoffrey Hosking, Russia: People and Empire, 1552-1917, (London, 1997)
-Nancy Shields Kollman, 'Muscovite Russia 1450-1598', in Gregory L. Freeze, Russia: A History, Third Edition, (Oxford, 2009)
-Hans-Joachim Torke, 'From Muscovy to St Petersburg,' Ibid
-John T. Alexander, 'The Petrine Era and After 1689-1740', Ibid
-James H. Billington, The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, (New York, 1970)
-George Vernadsky, A History of Russia, Volume V: The Tsardom of Moscow, 1547-1682, Parts 1 and 2, (Binghamton, 1969)

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

World History: The Wars of Religion

A depiction of the Thirty Years' War
The last time we looked at World History we focused on the Reformation, here, but we only very briefly touched upon the Wars of Religion caused by the Reformation. These wars ravaged Europe and set Protestant against Catholic. However, the Wars of Religion are far more complex than just being about religion and they helped shape the European world today. Following the Wars of Religion Europe's wars started to be much less about religion and more about other factors, such as politics. Before we start we first have to define what exactly a War of Religion is.

Defining the Wars of Religion
There has been debate among historians about how the wars between Christians differ from other wars about religion, such as the Crusades. German historian Konrad Repgen has distinguished a War of Religion from a Crusade as he argues that Crusades are called for by popes, whereas Wars of Religion are not. However, he does argue that there is much overlap with them both being religious wars. This raises a new question: how is a War of Religion different to other religious wars? Repgen argued that a War of Religion was justified as being necessary to prevent the 'true religion' from being threatened or exterminated; to extend specific rights of religious practice; or to eliminate a 'dangerous heresy.' When the war was called by the pope for these reasons it becomes a Crusade. Of course Repgen's model only fits the Euro-Christian world, but for our purpose it fits well. Now let's look at the wars themselves.

The German Peasants' War
The Peasants' War broke out in 1524 following the Knights' Revolt of 1522. During the revolt free imperial knights had revolted against larger territorial princes using Lutheran ideas to justify their movement. All the Knights' Revolt succeeded in doing was make some princes wary of Lutheran and Protestant ideas. The Peasants' War started over grievances rising taxation levels, serfdom, laws limiting hunting and fishing rights, and imposition of labor obligations. In 1524 in Stuhlingen, just south of the Black Forest, it is believed that the uprising started over the limitations on fishing in a forbidden stream. Quickly a gathering of 1,200 peasants gathered listing their grievances which spread rapidly across southern Germany in what would become the largest peasant uprising in European history until the French Revolution. Regional revolutionary committees and military alliances were formed, and in March 1525 a union of them released the Twelve Articles of Memmingen. These twelve articles were heavily inspired by Lutheran theology calling for the abolishment of serfdom; hunting and fishing rights; and a reduction in taxes and labor services arguing that there was no precedent for these in the Bible. Furthermore, the articles called for the community to elect and dismiss pastors to ensure the 'pure gospel' would be preached. The War got many supporters, including Thomas Muntzer, and despite being clearly inspired by Lutheran ideas Martin Luther condemned the rebellion. Luther wrote Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants in 1525 writing that rulers 'as God's sword on earth to knock down, strangle, and stab the insurgents as one would a mad dog.' Huldrych Zwingli reaffirmed this idea in his 1526 publication Whoever Causes Insurrection arguing that spiritual reasons did not give individuals the right to oppose political authority. In 1525 the rebellion was put down causing the Reformation to lose much of its appeal in Germany. The merging of social and religious aspects of the Peasants' War shows the diverse background of the Wars of Religion. Friedrich Engels in The Peasant War in Germany wrote that the Peasants' War highlighted the issues concerning early German capitalism and served as a precursor to the 1848 Revolutions.

Wars of Kappel
Two brief conflicts erupted in the Swiss Cantons in 1529 and 1531 where economics, politics, and religion came together. In the sixteenth century Switzerland was made up of a loose confederation of thirteen autonomous cantons in the larger Holy Roman Empire. The cantons were deeply hostile to one another which the Holy Roman emperors, French kings, and popes exploited where they hired Swiss soldiers as mercenaries. Zwingli was very much against this saying that it was 'trading blood for gold' and he blamed Catholics for this. As the leader of the Zurich city council he started making treaties with other Protestant cantons which made the Catholic cantons formed an alliance under Ferdinand, the Habsburg ruler of Austria, to counter them. Open war was avoided until 1531 with the Second War of Kappel which resulted in Zwingli's death. With the exception of a few key areas after the Protestant defeat forced conversion to Catholicism did not happen. Reformed parishes and communities in Catholic cantons could remain Reformed, and cantons were free to be either Reformed or Catholic. Thus, Switzerland became one of the only places in Europe to offer recognition of Catholicism and a Protestant denomination. This highlights one key aspect of the Wars of Religion: limited religious tolerance. A key aspect of present European states, and many states across the world, is secularism. One view of the Wars is that it put Europe on the path to secular politics. For Switzerland itself to avoid fracturing between the Reformed and Catholic cantons it opted to largely remain neutral which has become a staple of Swiss international politics.

The Schmalkaldic War
Like the Wars of Kappel the Schmalkaldic War was a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. In 1530 Holy Roman Emperor Charles V called an Imperial Diet in Augsburg hoping to end religious divisions in the empire. An associate of Luther, Philip Melanchthon, made the Confessio Augustana (Augsburg Confession) criticizing Catholic principles which Protestant princes presented to Charles. Charles ignored the Confession, told Protestant princes to convert back to Catholicism, and ordered the return of confiscated Catholic lands. This backfired with the Protestant rulers forming the Schmalkaldic League with the Confession as its statement of belief. Several Lutheran colleges in the USA, such as Augustana, are in fact named after this Confession. Luther changed his beliefs about resistance saying that those with political authority were allowed to oppose those above them; one could argue that he only favored resistance when his own neck was on the line. Meanwhile, Charles could not respond to the Schmalkaldic League due to wars against France in Italy and southern France, and the besieging of Hungary and Vienna by the Ottoman Empire. With religion dividing the Empire and threats from outside Charles was spread thin. He did fight the League in 1546 and successfully captured several Protestant princes and cities which strangely worried the pope. Here politics comes into play. The pope feared that Charles' victories would strengthen the emperor and edge Papal authority out. An Imperial Diet was called bringing a temporary peace which the League used to regroup and even allied with France. Political power trumped religious identity.
Charles V sitting on the throne of the defeated Schmalkaldic League
In 1552 war broke out again with Henry II of France intervening on the side of the Schmalkaldic League. This war lasted until another diet at Augsburg in 1555. The papacy and emperor were not present at this diet so the Peace of Augsburg reflected the concerns of the princes. To bring 'eternal, unconditional peace' a principle was put forward: cuius regio, eius religio (Whose realm, his religion). For areas of the Holy Roman Empire this brought limited secularization. The Peace of Augsburg only gave religious tolerance to Lutherans and Catholics - other Christian branches and non-Christians were denied recognition. This issue would become very apparent in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Meanwhile, Charles abdicated in 1556 granting his imperial possessions to his brother Ferdinand, whereas the Spanish empire and the Netherlands were given to his son, Philip.

French Wars of Religion
Shortly after the Peace of Augsburg religious wars broke out in France. Francis I of France made a treaty with the papacy in the Concordat of Bologna where he would recognize papal supremacy over church councils in return for the right to appoint all French bishops and abbots. This gave the monarchy huge control over the French Church, and therefore, huge amounts of power. John Calvin was French and nobles turned to Calvinism to protest the monarchy's power. These French Calvinists were called Huguenots and deeply inspired by Calvinistic iconoclasm they started smashing windows in churches; burning paintings; and using religious images as cooking fuel, latrines or toys. Through fiery sermons and print literature Calvinism spread through the masses who eagerly partook in sermons and violent actions which caused Catholic retaliation. Things became worse in 1559 when Henry II died and his son, (who was aged fifteen), Francis only was on throne a year before dying of possibly meningitis, and his brother, Charles, came to power. If only for his mother, Catherine d'Medici, acting as regent, whose iron will beat back opponents, did the royal family survive. Catherine had to face court nobles using the religious conflicts and regency to try exercise their own power. Throughout the 1560s bloody conflict ravaged France where the monarchy tried to adopt conciliatory policies. In 1572 it appeared that Catherine wanted a truce so the Huguenot and Catholic leaders were invited to Paris to see the marriage of the Protestant Henry of Navarre to the king's sister. On St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24, the Protestant guests were assassinated which spread across the Parisian crowds and further encompassing France. It is believed that 2,000 Huguenots were killed in what has been called the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. This Massacre would make Protestant rulers fearful of Catholic plots for generations after. For another fifteen years wars would drag on until Henry III (Charles died young) was assassinated in 1589 by a Catholic fanatic named Jacques Clement. Clement hated Henry for trying to implement a policy of tolerance but by assassinating Henry this allowed Henry of Navarre to become king. 
A painting of the massacre by Louis Dubois
Henry knew that the current wars would ravage France and that applying Protestantism to an overwhelmingly Catholic state would be disastrous. He was pragmatic and subscribed to a position called 'politique.' Catholicism was declared the official religion of France and eventually converted to Catholicism horrifying radicals on both sides. Catholic propaganda doubted his sincerity accusing him of saying 'Paris is worth a mass.' Eventually fighting subsided so much that in 1598 Henry IV passed the Edict of Nantes which confirmed Catholicism as the state's religion, gave Huguenots freedom of worship, and gave them the right to maintain 150 fortified towns.

Dutch Revolt
Also known as the Dutch War of Independence and the Eighty Years' War economics and religion spilled over in the Spanish ruled Dutch provinces. Calvinism had spread rapidly across the Dutch provinces and Philip of Spain's regent, Margaret of Parma (who was his half-sister), began to repress Calvinism. As the cities of Bruges, Ghent, Amsterdam and Antwerp were also extremely wealthy taxes were also raised. These two factors enraged the Dutch who began a wave of iconoclastic riots in 1566. The Duke of Alva was sent to put down the revolts and he executed hundreds in a special court nicknamed the 'Council of Blood.' What was a series of small revolts became a full scale war. The Spanish reclaimed the southern ten provinces and prohibited Calvinism - which would become present day Belgium - while the seven northern provinces in 1579 formed a union later known as the United Provinces of the Netherlands. When the leader of the Dutch, William of Nassau a.k.a William the Silent, was assassinated by a French assassin loyal to Philip in 1584 the United Provinces looked abroad for support. In particular they looked for support from Elizabeth I of England who reluctantly sent money. Dutch independence would not be solidified until 1648 when it became entangled in another religious war.

Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was a destructive war which included most of Europe. Below is a timeline of when states got involved in the war:
It was a very confusing war 
I could write an entire post on the Thirty Years' War so I'll only give an overview here. It was the most destructive war to hit Europe until the First World War costing 8 million lives through war, famine, disease, and persecution. As a matter of perspective around five and a half million people died during the First World War. There are four stages of the war and it is curious as the first two stages are religious in nature whereas the last two are political. These phases are the: Bohemian/German, the Danish, the Swedish, and the French.
Bohemian/German phase. The Peace of Augsburg had left Calvinism unrecognized and it was largely limited to German lands. This left out Bohemia - parts of modern Czechia. In 1609 the Letter of Majesty granted some religious freedom to Protestants in Bohemia. In 1618 Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Matthias was heirless so he had the fiercely Catholic Ferdinand of Styria elected to the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary. Ferdinand sent two councilors to Prague who were thrown out of a window on May 23 1618 in what has since been called 'the Second Defenestration of Prague.' They survived and Catholic propaganda portrayed them as being guided to safety by angels while Protestant propaganda had them land in manure. When Matthias died in 1619 Protestant rebels became emboldened and invited the Calvinist elector of the Palatinate, Frederick V, to be king. Ferdinand II asked the Spanish for assistance while Frederick called all the Protestant powers for assistance. However, none answered for several reasons - James VI and I of England and Scotland wanting to save money opted out of a costly war for example - but none wanted to act alone. By 1623 the Protestant armies had been defeated - until the Danish intervened.

Danish Phase. Denmark-Norway was a Lutheran state and king Christian IV was also the ruler of a duchy called Holstein in the Empire. Christian's involvement in the war was religiously and politically motivated. Catholic victory made him fearful that Catholics would threaten his Protestant state while the strengthening of the Empire under Ferdinand would threaten his new influence in northern Germany. In 1625 Christian sent his forces to aid the Lutheran state of Lower Saxony. This phase did garner some Protestant support internationally - Charles I was Christian's nephew - and even France. The Bourbon dynasty which took over France continued the old Valois hostility towards the Habsburgs - a powerful Protestant state was more favorable to the Catholic Habsburgs in Germany and Spain. However, despite English/Scottish aid and French money Christian's army was obliterated so he signed the Treaty of Lubcek in 1629. He could retain his lands in return for not intervening in the German states.
Gustavus Adolphus
Swedish Phase. Here politics started to override religion. King Gustavus Aldolphus of Sweden intervened in 1630. Although a Lutheran power Gustavus wanted to secure economic dominance in the Baltics, as well as push back Catholic influence. The Swedish war effort was heavily subsidized by the French which Gustavus used to hire mercenaries and use artillery to reduce pressure on the Swedish military. Gustavus has been called 'the father of modern warfare' for him merging infantry with artillery. The Swedish repeatedly won battles until the Battle of Lutzen in 1632; although the Swedish won Gustavus was killed. In 1635 the Peace of Prague largely took Sweden out of the war with some of its aims - Lutheran states in northern Germany would be secured. Then the final phase was ultimately politics driven.

French Phase. France viewed the Habsburgs as being too powerful so physically entered the war themselves in 1635. Although Sweden continued fighting they largely took a backstage to the French. Sweden would fund France this time around. The Portuguese also rose up against Spanish rule in 1640 which France sent money to support. Throughout the entire conflict the Spanish war against the Dutch was continuing further draining the Spanish coffers - something made far worse by rising inflation caused by the influx of silver and gold from the Americas. Then in 1643 Denmark-Norway intervened again in the war, fighting the Swedish instead. In 1648 all sides were exhausted.
A 17th C. depiction of the mass executions of religious opponents during the War
Treaty of Westphalia. After thirty years of conflict the German lands were ravaged, up to 40% of the German population had been killed. A wave of witch-hunts of swept Europe again, diseases like typhus and cholera had ravaged the population, while raiding armies had destroyed crops leading to mass famines. In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia brought an end to both the Thirty Years' War but also the Dutch Revolt. Politically the Dutch and Swiss gained their independence, the borders between the combatants were formalized, and the member states of the Holy Roman Empire were granted increased autonomy. Meanwhile, in religious terms cuius regio, eius religio was applied across the Empire with recognition being expanded to Lutherans now. The Thirty Years' War can be seen as the last Medieval war and the first modern war. Civilians were affected like few other wars in Europe, religious toleration was partially implemented, and the idea of the sovereign state started to be implemented. Now we have one last conflict to discuss.

Wars of the Three Kingdoms
This refers to three conflicts: the Irish Rebellion, Scottish Bishops War, and English Civil War. Here religion, autonomy and sovereignty coalesced into a series of conflicts which ravaged the British Isles. For most of his reign Charles I had ignored parliament and ruled in his own right, but he had largely focused solely on England - despite becoming king in 1625 he waited until 1633 to be crowned in Scotland. The Three Kingdoms each also had their own religion - England was largely Anglican, Scotland was largely Calvinist, and Ireland was mostly Catholic (although some areas were largely Calvinist, like Ulster). After 1633 Charles had been implementing Anglican rites in Scotland angering many Scots which came to ahead in 1639. Many Scots resented English intrusion and there was friction as the stricter Presbyterian church saw the Anglican church as being too Catholic influenced. When the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was read out in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh a riot broke out which escalated into a full conflict called the Bishops' War. Charles wanted to raise an army to fight the Scots so asked parliament who basically refused as they disliked the idea of the king using an army against his own subjects, especially as a third of parliament was similarly religiously inclined as the Presbyterian Scots. Parliament had resented Charles ruling with the Divine Right of Kings - that kings ruled with God's blessing - and the reforms of Archbishop Laud who seemed to Catholicize the Anglican church. Parliament gave Charles a series of grievances and declared that it will now forever be in session. Meanwhile, in Ireland Charles' Lord Deputy Thomas Wentworth promised Catholic Irish rights if they would form an army to help fight the Scots. This angered the ruling Protestant class and the British who feared a Catholic conspiracy. In 1641 Irish Catholics rose up and in 1642 a Civil War erupted in England.
An anti-Irish engraving to demonize Catholics during the Irish Rebellion
From 1639 to 1651 several wars between royalists, English parliamentarians, Scottish covenanters, Irish Protestants, and Irish confederates broke out. These include the two Scottish Bishops' Wars, the three English Civil Wars, the Irish Rebellion, and Oliver Cromwell's genocidal invasion of Ireland. In 1649 Charles I was executed and his sons were sent into exile forming the British republic. Religion was a deep issue in this. Irish Catholics were deeply dehumanized during since 1641, so much so that when Cromwell invaded Ireland a genocide took place. In England Cromwell offered religious tolerance to all non-Catholic Christians and let Jews back into England (after they had been expelled by Elizabeth I) in order to pave the way for the return of Jesus. Doing so would increase the power of parliament and ingrain the idea of parliament's sovereignty in Britain - Charles II when restored would remain fearful of parliament repeating what it did to his father, and his brother, James VII and II, was deposed at the behest of the English parliament by William of Orange (although the Scottish weren't consulted and William had plans to oust James anyway). Again religion was partially behind the 'Glorious Revolution' as James was Catholic - James had been exercising power over parliament to improve the rights of Catholics not long after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Although religious tolerance for Catholics was not to be achieved until 1823 (for Jews and atheists it would take much longer) the British parliament would remain one of the most powerful in Europe until the nineteenth century. Marxist historian Christopher Hill and John Morrill, who was partially inspired by Hill's ideas, use the term the English Revolution to highlight the societal shifts behind the Civil War with Hill in particular describing it as a bourgeois revolt - or a revolt allowing a bourgeois revolt.

Conclusion
The Wars of Religion show the wide origins for wars. Wars never have just one singular origin and despite being called Wars of Religion economics, ethics, sovereignty and politics were deeply entrenched in the wars. Following the wars religion started to be less and less of a determining factor in the origins of European wars while economics and politics became more and more important. Meanwhile, the wars helped shape the countries that they ravaged. The destructive wars led to limited religious tolerance for the religions which fought, and the political landscape was drastically changed - Britain, for example, seeing the strengthening of parliament's power which would shape Britain's future. Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan was written in 1651 to oppose the new power of parliament in favor of the Divine Right of Kings. Despite the destruction the wars helped shape Europe.

The next World History post will focus on Russia during this time period and how it slowly became a complex, multi-ethnic empire. For other World History posts please see here. The sources that I have used for this post are as follows: 
-Myron Gutmann, 'The Origins of the Thirty Years' War,' The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 1988, 18:4, 749-770
-Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, (Cambridge, 2006)
-Geoffrey Parker, The Thirty Years' War, (London, 1984)
-Geoffrey Parker, Europe in Crisis, 1598-1648, (London, 1990)
-Thomas Munck, Seventeenth Century Europe, 1598-1700, (Hampshire, 1990)
-Mark Kishlansky, Monarchy Transformed, Britain 1603-1714, (London, 1996)
-Philip Benedict, Early Modern Europe: From Crisis to Stability, (Newark, 2005)
-Christopher Hill, The English Revolution, 1640, (London, 1940)

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