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Friday, 23 March 2018

Comics Explained: Cloak and Dagger

Marvel has recently released the trailer for their new TV series Cloak and Dagger (above). Since their debut in 1982 this duo has regularly appeared in various Marvel comics, including their own. Due to this we'll not be able to cover all of their appearances. Cloak (Tyrone 'Ty' Johnson) and Dagger (Tandy Brown) are truly some of Marvel's most interesting characters so it is really exciting to see them finally making a live action debut - something which has been in the works for a while now. Before we look at their comic history we first need to look at their real world origin. 

Cloak and Dagger #1
Real World Origins
Cloak and Dagger were created by Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan making their debit in 1982's Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64. Mantlo was writing for Marvel and thought up the duo after a visit to Ellis Island where he said 'They came in the night, when all was silent and my mind was blank. They came completely conceived as to their powers and attributes, their origin and motivation. They embodied between them all that fear and misery, hunger and longing that had haunted me on Ellis Island.' In the 1980s both Marvel and DC were starting to move away from the Comics Code of Authority which often forbade comics dealing with serious topics, and Cloak and Dagger were part of this shift. Even their debut in Peter Parker #64 reflected this: Spider-Man first encounters them when they actually murder a drug dealer. In the 1980s it was common for characters who debuted in Spider-Man to receive their own four-issue title - he was Marvel's biggest seller so little marketing was needed to advertise their new title. Cloak and Dagger debuted in 1983 and soon became extremely popular where in 1985 Marvel gave them a bi-monthly series. 

Comic Origins
Their debut
The origins of Cloak and Dagger were set out in Cloak and Dagger #4. By the looks of the TV series trailer it appears that they've partially swapped the character histories of Cloak and Dagger - albeit their origins are heavily based on stereotypes of the 1980s. Ty Johnson was born into a poor family in south Boston and despite a stutter he excelled at school. That is until aged 17 he and his best friend Billy witnessed a robbery. The police blamed Billy but due to Ty's stutter he was unable to proclaim Billy's innocence and the police shot his friend. Feeling responsible and afraid of the police he ran away to New York. Meanwhile, Tandy was a rich girl from Ohio and her mother was a self-centered model who neglected her. When the only person to show her any affection moved to New York she followed. In New York Ty met Tandy and as he was homeless and hungry he thought about robbing Tandy. He decided against it but when someone else robbed Tandy he got her purse back. That night Tandy bought Ty dinner as a way to say thanks and they became friends. Later on they were kidnapped so a chemist called Dr. Simon Marshall could test out his new drug: D-Lite. D-Lite was supposed to be a mix between 'crack and heroin' and Marshall had been unsuccessfully testing it. The drug happened to kill those it was tested on except for one who would become the villain Mr. Negative. We later find out in 1991's Cloak and Dagger Vol.3 #19 that D-Lite also had mystical origins. A demon called D'Spayre helped create D-Lite as it creates a feeling of despair in those who take it and survive, something which D'Spayre feeds off of.

Ty and Tandy were kidnapped by Dr. Marshall in order to test out D-Lite. Unlike other test subjects they survived and gained powers through it. Here a controversy about them enters the mixture. There is an argument to be made that D-Lite really activated the duo's latent X-Gene making them mutants. Over the years creators have put forward evidence to support or go against this theory. This is not clear cut as well because both mutants and mutates can have powers being both science and magic related. Regardless of what they are it allowed Ty and Tandy to tap into the forces of two dimensions: Tandy could tap into the Lightforce while Ty could tap into the Darkforce. With the Lightforce Tandy can create 'light-daggers' which she can shoot from her hands and later we find out she can cure people with the Lightforce. This can even be done to cure drug addicts. Meanwhile, Ty became intangible thanks to the Darkforce (when disconnected from it his stutter returns), and he can travel through the Darkforce dimension unhindered - something without Tandy's protection can cause people to go insane. However, Ty needs to absorb people into the Darkforce to ease his 'hunger' but Tandy can use the Lightforce to ease this hunger. After gaining their powers they dealt with Marshall's thugs going under the names Cloak and Dagger. Later, in Peter Parker #64 they killed Marshall but Spider-Man befriended them.

As Cloak and Dagger
The duo from their debut
Unlike most heroes Cloak and Dagger did not regularly fight other costumed villains instead going after drug dealers and the drug industry in general. In Peter Parker #69 they returned to assassinate criminal kingpin and notorious drug trafficker Silvermane. Dagger managed to wound him but he would survive and in Peter Parker #81-82 they would try and fail to take out the Kingpin himself. After these failed attempts Dagger would opt for less brutal methods but this would clash with Cloak who required absorbing people into the Darkforce to survive - something which her Lightforce could not always stop. Throughout the 1980s and early-1990s the duo's popularity would skyrocket so they would regularly appear in crossovers with other Marvel heroes; most notably these included Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Power Pack, and New Mutants. It was during their crossovers with the New Mutants that the theory that they were mutants who had their powers activated by D-Lite came about although in this case it was directly stated that they were mutants instead of hinting at it. In fact, Cloak and Dagger Vol. 3 was called The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak and Dagger. It was in Vol.3 that Dagger became one of the few disabled superheroes. Writer Terry Austin made Dagger go blind and had research with the American Foundation for the Blind to accurately write and depict the physical and psychological impact of going blind as well as coping with it. However, this has since been forgotten, especially as by the mid-1990s the duo's popularity had wavered causing their title to be cancelled after nineteen issues.

Other Appearances
The duo at the top left during the final fight in Civil War
Since their cancellation the duo have still regularly appeared in the comics. When the Spider-Man villain Carnage created an army in Maximum Carnage they were two of the heroes to aid Spider-Man in defeating them. They even appeared in Infinity Gauntlet which is one of the comics which the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War is based on. When Thanos obtained all the Infinity Stones he snapped his fingers causing half the universe's population to vanish and Dagger was one of them. Cloak joined the remaining heroes to defeat Thanos and he did swallow Thanos into the Dark dimension. However, he realized that as the Titan has the Infinity Stones he cannot hold him and Thanos literally made him explode. When Thanos' actions were reversed the duo returned to life. Later they also took part in the street-level team Marvel Knights, in the comic Marvel Knights, and they were tricked into capturing the Runaways before trying to help the young heroes. During Civil War they sided with Captain America and were briefly imprisoned in the Negative Zone prison. When Captain America's allies free the prisoners during the final fight Cloak is the one who teleports them all to New York. Since then they've had a few other appearances including a time when Mister Negative, who can use both the Light and Darkforce, swapped their powers so Dagger used the Dark while Cloak used the Light.

Unlike other notable Marvel characters since the cancellation of their comic they haven't had their own major story arc and have largely been confined to guest appearances. They are really interesting characters though and hopefully this new TV series should spark more interest in them. If Marvel ever decides to bring back their darker, more adult MAX imprint a new Cloak and Dagger comic could fit perfectly in. 

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

Friday, 16 March 2018

The Time when Marvel and DC almost went Bankrupt

When Comics Almost Died
It is currently common knowledge that Marvel has in recent years been fighting hard to get the rights back to all of it's characters - Spider-Man and his associated characters from Sony (something which they've partially done); Deadpool, X-Men and Fantastic Four from Fox; and the Hulk's distribution rights and the character Namor from Universal. Why did Marvel sell off their characters in the first place? The answer to this is lies in the late-1980s and early-1990s when both Marvel and DC almost went bankrupt.

The Origins of the Comic Book Bust
The Comic Book Crash happened in a similar way to the Housing Market Crash of 2008 and even the Wall Street Crash of 1929 which brought about the Great Depression: speculation. DC and Marvel had their origins in the 1930s and 1940s - see here for DC and here for Marvel - during the midst of Depression and War where most people could not afford to buy non-necessities. Companies were also on a knife's edge and were often less willing to make risks in case it bankrupted them. DC's founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson after three years had to be bought out as he was going under. As a result companies like DC, Timely (Marvel's predecessor), Fawcett Comics and others printed few issues on cheap paper to save costs (incidentally this cost saving method created the first Batman/Superman crossover). This time was known as the 'Golden Age of Comics'. Cut to the 1950s and 1960s we have the 'Silver Age'. Superheroes had returned to popularity with a vengeance. DC had struck gold with their reinvention of the Flash and Green Lantern, a new series of Superman comics, and eventually bringing together their main heroes in the Justice League. Meanwhile, in the 1960s Timely, now called Marvel, under Stan Lee and Jack Kirby soon dominated the industry with their new comics including Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, X-Men, and the Avengers. Even non-superhero comics were doing phenomenally well. Consistently Archie comics outsold DC and Marvel featuring wholesome stories about love triangles in the town of Riverdale. One thing was consistent - these comics were cheap. Amazing Fantasy #15, Spider-Man's first appearance, was only sold for 10 cents. It was relatively cheap to be a comic book fan.
Spider-Man's First Appearance
Then we get to the 1980s and 1990s. Since the 1960s comic buying guides had been in circulation and soon comic collecting became profitable. The worth of Golden and Silver Age comics had shot through the roof by the 1980s due to both their comparative rarity and the popularity of their characters. An issue of Detective Comics #27, Batman's debut, went for $55,000 in 1991 to just show how profitable these were. Comics from the Silver Age, like X-Men #1, could be sold for a fortune - somewhere over $100 at times. Soon collectors, and non-fans, realized that if they bought a comic for $1 now and kept it in good condition then in ten to twenty years time they'll be guaranteed to earn a lot. Even if they waited a year they could earn up to $10. People would buy five copies of just one issue from the 10,000 comic stores across the US. This is when the problems began.

How the Bubble Burst
People started rapidly buying mainly Marvel and DC comics. Meanwhile, Marvel and DC saw the increased sales as a sign of increasing popularity of their stories. They had no idea that five issues of a Batman comic sold was actually going to one person waiting for its worth to increase instead of five people wanting to read the stories. Editors-in-chief saw an increase in sales so started printing more. In 1988 Marvel had 50 titles which grew to 140 in 1993. Not only that both companies started printing different variants of the same issue - sometimes up to 12 variants! Marvel in particular was at fault for flooding the market with titles. Both companies rose their prices as well, not much but there was still a price increase - from $1 in 1988 to $1.25 in 1993. While this was happening speculators were buying as many comics as possible so the normal quality checks were thrown out the window. Normally poor quality comics - whether through material, writing or art - were ignored by fans whereas speculators bought them regardless with the idea that they could potentially earn a lot later on. This became exacerbated with the creation of Image Comics in 1992. The idea behind Image was that Image wouldn't own their characters, instead the creator would - in contrast Spider-Man was owned by Marvel and not Stan Lee or Steve Ditko. This new company offered new promise for speculators: could they be the new Marvel or DC? Could they produce the new Wonder Woman or Superman? If this company went bust how much would one of their comics be worth in ten years or even twenty?

However, as the market had been flooded by comics of various qualities their worth soon plummeted. Comics were worth so much was because they were fairly uncommon so now this boom had made them extremely common. They just wasn't worth it any more and soon the boom became a bust. The bust didn't have a sudden, singular moment were comics lost their value as in 1929 or 2008. Instead it was a gradual but very destructive period between 1993 and 1996. Through this period we have the Comic Book Bust.

The Results
Naturally all comic book companies were immediately affected with many smaller ones going bust entirely. Several of the larger companies decided to drop distributors to distribute their comics themselves, however, through the bust without a distributor many companies could not even afford to distribute their own comics. Marvel, who tried to be their own distributor, even filed for bankruptcy in 1997. DC noticed a drop in sales in both Batman and Superman so decided to do something drastic which affected the industry greatly. In 1993 they killed Superman in The Death of Superman and paralyzed Batman in Knightfall. These saw great publicity and a boom in sales for DC until hardly a year later Superman returned and Batman regained his ability to walk. Fans were outraged that a potentially monumental part of comic book history had been used for a publicity stunt which further damaged the industry. Furthermore, The Death and Return of Superman would have a long term impact on writing with many comic book historians citing this as when 'death died in comics'. Today comics are known for killing off and then resurrecting dead characters yet this is a relatively new phenomenon. Most characters remained dead when they died but the return of such an important character changed this. Now anyone could come back.

In 1989 Time Warner had taken over DC which partially saved DC when the bust came. Starting with Tim Burton's Batman in 1989 a wave of adaptations of DC's properties, mainly Batman, began ranging from the other Batman movies to Batman: The Animated Series. DC managed to recoup a lot of their losses. Marvel in contrast had no parent company to bale them out so they literally had no choice but to sell off their characters. If they didn't we would be talking about Marvel past tense. Blade went to New Line leading to 1998's Blade yet that was not enough to save Marvel so they sold off more. The X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Punisher, Deadpool, Namor, and Elektra to just name a few were all sold. Marvel still was not doing well; throughout the late-1990s it had three separate owners!

2000s and After
To an extent the comic book industry has yet to recover from the crash. DC and Marvel combined sell a quarter of what they sold in the 1980s a month. A large part of this is due to how easy it is now to pirate comic books. In the early-2000s Marvel, DC, Image and other major companies had their heads just above the water where Marvel in particular was still in danger of going under. It was earning money through Fox's X-Men and Fantastic Four and Sony's Spider-Man but most of it went to Sony and Fox. In 2005 Marvel decided to make its own movies when the second-in-command at Marvel's film branch, Kevin Feige, realized that although Marvel could not use some of their big characters like Wolverine and Spider-Man they did have access to many of the key Avengers. Feige and the head of Marvel's movies, Avi Arad, decided that to make a huge crossover featuring many of Marvel's heroes. Feige thought big, so big that Arad resigned thinking it couldn't be done. Still not recovered from the bust Marvel had to go to Merrill Lynch for money. If their plan failed Marvel would not exist anymore. Feige wanted to start with Iron Man, a character who back then had few notable stories and most happened to be crossovers like the then recent Civil War story. He wanted Robert Downey Jr. to play Iron Man and initially Marvel refused due to his controversial public image so Feige had to threaten to quit if Marvel didn't accept Downey as Iron Man. To everyone's surprise Iron Man was both a commercial and financial hit - Iron Man actually earned more money than Merrill Lynch had initially given Marvel. Soon Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man 2 were made in order to eventually create The Avengers, a movie currently the fifth highest grossing movie of all time. This was also due to Disney purchasing Marvel which meant that funding for movies soon became less of an issue.
The New Era of Comic Book Media
The success of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) saved Marvel. The MCU created a new wave of comic book fans, including myself who became interested in comics through Iron Man. As a ripple affect other companies saw an increase in sales and started producing their own adaptations. When Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy ended DC tried to make its own version of the MCU starting with 2013's Man of Steel. Both Fox and Sony tried to reinvigorate their own franchises by introducing Wolverine movies, rebooting X-Men, and successfully trying to reboot Spider-Man and Fantastic Four with the failed Fan4Stic and Amazing Spider-Man movies. Image also dove into this with the TV series The Walking Dead and we might also be seeing a new Spawn movie soon. Even Dark Horse has joined in with a new Hellboy coming out before 2020. Archie comics have been rebooting their characters over the last few years which received an edgy TV adaptation as well with Riverdale. Comic sales rose in accordance with the movies. Sales are still a fraction of what they once was and there were some dips in sales, such as around 2012, but they are not as low as during the bust. You could say that Iron Man helped rescue the comic book industry.

Currently there has been another dip in comic book sales since 2016 - personally I put the blame on how easy it is to pirate comic books compared to just five years ago accompanying a huge amount of titles published by DC and Marvel in recent years. However, this drop in sales has not been disastrous compared to the 1990s. One thing you can't keep down is everyone's love for a superhero.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. For future blog updates please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

World History: Sengoku jidai

The Sengoku period
Sengoku jidai, or Warring States period, was a period in Japanese history starting in around 1467 and ending over a hundred years later around 1603. The last time we looked solely at Japan was when we discussed the Heian period which saw the rise of Japan's first shogunate. Until 1868 the emperor held de jure power but the shogun was the de facto ruler. The Sengoku jidai threatened all of this and remains one of the most cultural significant parts of Japanese history. Key players in the Sengoku jidai remain the most well know samurai and even the ninja originated during this time. How though did the Sengoku jidai begin?

The Ōnin War
The Onin War
The Sengoku jidai started with the Ōnin War. Since the early-fourteenth century the Ashikaga shogunate had been ruling Japan but there were issues for them. Their capital, where the emperor also was, of Kyoto had gone over 100,000 people meanwhile over areas of Japan saw a population increase as well. Trade with China had made several areas very prosperous which gave the daimyo (regional lords answering to the shogun) increased autonomy. Meanwhile, periodic famines and earthquakes had caused peasant protests. However, central authority remained strong until arguably 1441 with the death of Ashikaga Yoshinori, the ruling shogun. Yoshinori was known for his bouts of tyranny and when he was visiting the Akamatsu family they feared they would be next so they killed him. Yoshinori was followed by two relatively weaker shoguns with the Ōnin War starting under the reign of Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Yoshimasa was not a military leader but as he was a great patron of the arts Ashikaga rule remained intact. By 1464 he did not have a heir so he asked his younger brother, Yoshimi, to end his life as a monk and instead become the shogun when he died. Things went downhill when Yoshimasa had a son in 1465, Yoshihisa. A squabble between the brothers developed between who would succeed Yoshimasa: Yoshimi or Yoshihisa. Japan's most powerful families waded into the debate with the Hosokawa, Yamana, Ōuchi, Hatakeyama, and Shiba clans wading into the debate where some - like the Hatakeyama - went into a civil war. In 1467 the debates turned into a full blown war. For the next ten years the clans went to war mostly around Kyoto with it being burnt several times. With the authority of the bakufu (shogun court) evaporating Yoshimasa stayed in his complex writing poetry to cope with what was happening. By 1477 both sides had become exhausted and eventually Yoshihisa became shogun under the thumb of the Hosokawa.

However, the bakufu was weakened and with Kyoto devastated central authority had practically ended in Japan. The war had allowed regional daimyo and shugo (constables) to become powerful as their overlords had lost their power fighting during the war. Peasants also became increasingly autonomous with the Ikkō-ikki which was a 'mob' of peasants, Buddhist monks, Shinto priests and local nobles to defend their communities. In particular they followed the teaching of Jōdo Shinshū Buddhism - which taught that all believers can be saved by the Amida Buddha's grace. Now that regionalism had surpassed the power of the court in Kyoto (under Hosokawa rule) the bakufu had little direct control. If one of the regional daimyo could control Kyoto this would therefore give them legitimacy to conquer the rest of Japan. To make this confusing we have the emperor in theory exercising power but they really answered to the Ashikaga shoguns who answered to the Hosokawa, and those fighting were originally just fighting to control the Ashikaga.

Economy and Culture
One would imagine that with daimyo in control cultural and economic life would have disintegrated but in reality it didn't. First off we'll look at the economic life during the Sengoku jidai. As the bakufu went into decline powerful clans took over the economy - so much so that in 1500 the funeral rites of Emperor G-Tsuchimikado had to be postponed. Regional daimyo instead stopped sending taxes to the bakufu and instead kept resources for themselves. Gold, silver and copper could be mined and traded between different regions, and miners would become so valuable that daimyo used them as sappers when attacking enemy fortifications. There was also the growth of the jōkamachi - towns-below-the-castle - which became the center for local trade in Japan. As mentioned when we looked at Heian Japan society was heavily based on Confucian values, imported from China, which placed samurai and peasants at the top, followed by artisans, and finally the merchants (who were seen as parasites). At the jōkamachi samurai offered protection to merchants and artisans as it helped enrich their own coffers - social values could be set aside in favor of profit. Meanwhile, the larger families of the Hosokawa and Ōuchi could replace the bakufu as the center of trade with China. Being powerful clans and having bases on the sea - like Sakai and Hakata - they were the prime position to take control of the Chinese trade until the Ming emperor ended it 1549. Traders from Sakai and Hakata developed an intense rivalry which lead to fighting in the Chinese port of Ningpo in 1523. Something which we'll discuss later is the origins of trade with Europe.
An example of suiboku painting
Cultural life flourished during the Sengoku jidai. Kyoto had been for generations dominated Japanese cultural life but like with the economy it expanded outside the city. A priest Sesshū (1420-1506) had been in China during the Ōnin War and when he returned to Japan he brought a new style of painting with him called suiboku - here black ink and water are used to produce varying shades on white absorbent paper. After finding Kyoto ravaged Sesshū traveled west getting patronage from the Ōuchi. One scroll which he drew was fifteen meters long showing rural scenes through spring to winter. Sesshū and other suiboku painters drew heavily from Zen Buddhism. The tea ceremony is one aspect of Japanese culture best known in the West and owes much of its history to daimyo patronage during the Sengoku jidai. It had originated in ancient times but it developed during this period. 

Japan and Europe
Francis Xavier
History enthusiasts or those who have read the previous World History posts will notice that the Sengoku jidai coincided with when Europe colonialism began. At this stage Europe was the weaker partner as they came into contact with India, China and Japan. However, Europeans, in particular Iberians, had slowly started establishing themselves in Asia - Portugal established itself in 1556 while Spain did so in Manila in 1571. From the 1540s Europeans traded with Japan and for the most part Japan used Iberians as an intermediary. China had blamed Japan for the wakō, pirates, so had been barred from trading whereas the Europeans were free to trade. In exchange for silver Iberians would bring back Chinese silks which were seen as possibly the best in the world. Meanwhile, Japan was largely disinterested in European goods so originally it was just luxury goods like clocks which were traded. However, later on, although it remained limited, Japan exported swords, lacquer ware, and copper in return for gold, certain plants and most importantly guns. Tobacco was first taken from the Americas and planted in Japan by 1600, cotton was reintroduced, and potatoes and sweet potatoes got the name jaga-imo (Jakarta potatoes) as they came to Japan via Dutch settlements in Indonesia. Tempura is believed to be of Portuguese origin while the Japanese for bread is the same in Spanish and Portuguese (pan). Christianity was also introduced by Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier. The Portuguese poet Camões even wrote in his poem Lusiadas:
O Japan, land of fine silver, In future you will shine with the Divine Law.
It would decades though for Christianity to become so important that Japanese rulers were to notice it, or see it as a threat. Missionaries were largely limited to north Kyushu where it did not displace Buddhism or Shintoism. 

Oda Nobunaga
We'll focus the reunification of Japan on the three 'Unifiers of Japan' as the wars of the Sengoku jidai can be extremely confusing at times - just like the Chinese Warring States period or the War of the Roses in England. The first figure is Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga has left as complicated legacy in Japan: some see his military prowess and see him as a great figure, whereas others look at his intense brutality to enemies and Buddhists. A change in his personal history could have drastically changed Japan's history. At the age of 25 Nobunaga became head of the Oda clan in Owari after an eight year succession conflict in 1559. Just a year later Nobunaga decided to take part in the wars for Kyoto and therefore Japan as a whole. Daimyo of Suruga and Totomi, Imagawa Yoshimoto, also had designs on Kyoto so he decided to go through Owari to get there. With a much smaller force at the Battle of Okehazama Nobunaga's force of 3,000 defeated Imagawa's force of 25,000. Nobunaga split his army in two and sent one half into a mountain temple where they set up a dummy army. Imagawa was certain of his abilities and began his siege, and Nobunaga launched a surprise attack. Imagawa even thought the attack was his own forces being rowdy so gave an order to keep it down as he watched a play. He was soon killed by some of Nobunaga's soldiers. Before marching west to Kyoto he decided to secure his east flank by making alliances with important clans including the Hojo in Sagami, Tokugawa Ieyasu in Mikawa, and Takeda Shingen in Kai. Using European firearms Nobunaga began easily winning battles until he captured Kyoto in 1568 where he put the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, and the emperor, Ogimachi, under his control. 
Oda Nobunaga
Nobunaga could be brutal when he wished. In 1573 Yoshiaki resented the apparent upstart from Owari so started intriguing against him. Nobunaga soon discovered this and chased him from Kyoto where Yoshiaki was forced to become a Buddhist monk. Thus the Ashikaga shogunate came to an end. Nobunaga lived by the motto 'Rule the Empire by Force' and he firmly lived up to this with his attitude to Buddhists. Periodically through Japan's history rulers have begrudged the important role of Buddhists in society and during this period many had become important through the collapse of central power. One group included the Tendai monks who lived in the Hieizan mountain overlooking Kyoto and due to it being a sacred site it had often been spared from attack as a result. Nobunaga didn't care about this. In 1571 he set fire to the thickets around the mountain and had soldiers massacre everyone there. Ten of thousands of monks, women and children were slaughtered while burning to the ground a major site of religion, art and culture. He also began a siege in 1570 of Shinshu temple on an island in Osaka which was virtually impregnable as long as the monks could get supplies. Nobunaga refused to budge so much that it took until 1580 for the defenders to surrender. Not even a year later he sent an expedition to wipe out the Buddhists in the Shingon monasteries in Koyasan until the emperor personally intervened to spare them.

While Nobunaga was waging war in the west against independent daimyo he actually started ruling. He opened trade with Europe, Siam, the Philippines, and Indonesia while continuing trade with China and Korea. Domestically he wanted to preserve the jōkamachi economy by banning monopolies and banned guilds in an early version of the free market - although I would not apply the idea of the free market as we now know it to Sengoku jidai Japan. Meanwhile, Nobunaga was eager to preserve this military gains by having a series of fortifications made, as well as securing musket factories to ensure he had the superior firepower. Furthermore, he changed the warrior system so those who had proved their loyalty and prowess, including those from a lower class, could become retainers. However, in 1582 this did not stop one of his best generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, from sieging Nobunaga's palace. He was forced to commit seppuku (suicide) as his son died in battle. This was not the end of the story.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi
The second unifier is Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Like Nobunaga he has a mixed legacy where the brutality of the last years of his life has overshadowed the successes of his early life. We know little of Hideyoshi's life before 1570 indicating that he must have been from a lowly family, likely the son of a peasant, from Owari. It would take until the late-1800s for someone to rise as rapidly as he did again. Through his loyalty and military prowess he rose to be Oda's second-hand-man so he was sent west with Akechi. When he heard about Akechi's coup Hideyoshi made a quick peace to return east where he destroyed Akechi's force, and Akechi himself, at the Battle of Yamazaki. Over the next eight years Hideyoshi finished the reunification of Japan but he did so strangely more peacefully than Nobunaga. Although he often was ready to fight Hideyoshi he rather laid siege to castles and forts with a huge force forcing the defenders to surrender. Unlike Nobunaga who brutally treated those who surrendered Hideyoshi spared them but reduced their lands instead. Even with his allies he was cautious not to let them become too power: he got Tokugawa Ieyasu to surrender his ancestral lands (to redistribute among over loyal subjects) in return for new rich lands. The only time he did not spare those who surrendered was with his final battle. In 1590 the Odawara castle in Sagami of the Hojo family finally fell so Hideyoshi had them commit suicide and gave their lands to Tokugawa. This has been interpreted in two ways: one being Hideyoshi losing his mind and becoming more violent, or that the Hojo had plenty of chances to surrender but always refused to. After the unification of Japan finished.

Hideyoshi effectively became the new shogun - although he did offer the last Ashikaga to be shogun but he refused. European kings wrote to him on the same level as the Chinese emperor saw him as de facto emperor. It is hard to imagine a peasant son becoming so important. In 1590 he also finished Nobunaga's construction of a castle in Osaka. Now with central authority secure Hideyoshi ordered a census and wanted to return back to tradition. During the Sengoku jidai many peasants had decided to arm themselves but traditionally only the samurai were meant to hold swords. To rectify this and make society more clear cut Hideyoshi passed a decree in 1588 called the 'sword hunt'. Peasants had to chose whether to be a warrior or a farmer. The metal from the collected swords were melted down to form the Buddha statue in the Asuka-dera monastery in Nara. Finally, Hideyoshi banned slavery but did allow indentured labor to continue. We mentioned the tea ceremony earlier and one reason why it became so important was due to Hideyoshi: he used the ceremony to show his own power.

In later life Hideyoshi became more brutal and erratic. In 1587 he banned Christian missionaries as he feared they would create an alternate form of authority for Christian daimyo - something especially dangerous in Japan as the emperor was believed to be descended from the goddess Amaterasu. For a long time he overlooked individual Christians until 1597 he had 26 Christians (including three children) publicly crucified in Nagasaki. Then in 1592 he began an invasion of China. Historians still do not understand why whether it is due to fulfilling a dream of Nobunaga, delusions of grandeur, or a desire to renew trade with China. He wrote letters to Ryukyu, the Philippines, Goa, and Taiwan detailing his honors and importance. One even said 'When my mother conceived me, she was given a miraculous omen with respect to the sun, and on the very night I was born the room was suddenly aglow with sunlight, thus changing night to day.' As Korea refused to give Hideyoshi access (being a vassal of China) so his forces could quickly move onto Beijing the Japanese empire became bogged down in Korea. His forces easily won battles but the Sengoku jidai had few naval battles meaning the Korean navy easily destroyed the Japanese one. Also, the tactic of sieging castles into submission didn't work well in Korea as they were an invading force so couldn't rely on a possibly loyal population. Meanwhile, there was a succession crisis. Hideyoshi had made his nephew his heir but then in 1593 he had a son, Hideyori. Due to his nephew's public brutality and corruption Hideyoshi could have easily disinherited him but instead he chose to have his nephew's entire family executed. In 1598 he finally died.

The Creation of a new Shogunate
The Battle of Sekigahara on a screen commissioned by Tokugawa Ieyasu
Before his death Hideyoshi appointed five leading daimyo to a regency council called the Council of Five Elders: Tokugawa Ieyasu, Ukita Hideie, Maeda Toshiie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, and Mōri Terumoto. All swore to respect Hideyori as much as they respected Hideyoshi but in reality each vied for power. Ieyasu had a large family and the largest domain making him the best placed to move in. A son, an adopted daughter, and two granddaughters were married into strategically placed families creating lots of powerful allies. Maede was in ill health before Hideyoshi died and died himself in 1599 causing accusations of foul play. Soon Ieyasu was challenged by a group led by the young Hideyori and leading daimyo Ishida Mitsunari. In 1600 the two sides, both professing loyalty to Hideyoshi, fought at the Battle of Sekigahara. Tokugawa won a decisive victory beginning the Tokugawa shogunate. Although it would take until 1615 the Tokugawa would reshape Japanese history.

The Sengoku jidai shaped Japan greatly. Thanks to a breakdown of central authority during the Ōnin War new social structures emerged to cope. Then the 'Unifiers' of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu went on to change how politics worked in Japan. Meanwhile, this period has greatly influenced thought in Japan, and also how the West views pre-Meiji Japan. As mentioned earlier the ninja were active during this period but they were mostly peasants acting as spies and mercenaries. The current view on ninjas evolved through a romanticism of this era during the nineteenth-century. When you hear the names of many famous samurai they often refer to this period. Despite being over a hundred years of being fractured Japan was greatly shaped by the Sengoku jidai.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-R.H.P. Mason and J.G. Caiger, A History of Japan, Revised edition, (Singapore: Tuttle, 1997)
-Marius Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000)
-Philip C. Brown, 'Unification, Consolidation, and Tokugawa Rule', in William M. Tsutsui, (ed.), A Companion to Japanese History, (Malden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2009)
-H. Paul Varley, The Ōnin War: History of Its Origins and Backgrounds with a Selective Translation of The Chronicle of Ōnin, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967)
-John Whitney Hall, Nagahara Keiji, and Kozo Yamamura, (eds.), Japan before Tokugawa: Political Consideration and Economic Growth, 1500 to 1650, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981)
-Conrad Totman, A History of Japan, Second Edition, (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005)

Thank you for reading. Before we look at the Tokugawa we'll be heading west to look at the Three Gunpowder Empires. The first of which we'll look at is the Ottoman Empire. For future World History posts please see our list. For future blog posts please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby. 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

World History: Renaissance and Scientific Revolution

Michelangelo's David
The Renaissance and Scientific Revolution have endeared themselves into the public image. Two great events which fought against the darkness of the Middle Ages bringing culture, art, and knowledge back to Europe after the collapse of Rome. Figures like da Vinci, Galileo and Michelangelo revolutionizing the way we think bringing Europe from backwards religious dogma to secular and rational modernity. However, these viewpoints have been regularly challenged by historians with cultural and intellectual historian William Bouwsma arguing 'The venerable Renaissance label has become little more than an administrative convenience, a kind of blanket under which we huddle together less out of mutual attraction than because, for certain purposes, we have nowhere to go'. Meanwhile, in the introduction to his book The Scientific Revolution Steven Shapin argues 'There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this book is about it'. Today we'll look at both of these events to see just how much they are a 'blanket' for us 'huddle together'.

Origins of the Renaissance
'The great ruler of Heaven looked down' and upon seeing 'the presumptuous opinion of man more removed from truth than light from darkness, send to earth a genius universal in each that the world should marvel at the singular eminence of his life and works and all his actions, seeming rather divine than earthly.' This is what Italian author, artist and architect Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) said about renowned Michelangelo Buonarotti in his 1550 biographies of artists Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. It was Vasari who coined the word Renaissance from the word rinascita ('reborn' in Italian). Figures like Vasari looked to the Roman past which he thought had been swept away following the collapse of Rome, and later the Byzantines, which him and his contemporaries were bringing back. Vasari saw his contemporaries as 'rare men of genius' who made 'art' compared to the 'craft' of everyone else. Even before Vasari several artists saw themselves as breaking away from the present to focus on the glamour of the past and reinvigorating it. Francesco Petrarca, better known as Petrarch, wrote in a poem about Scipio Africanus in 1338 which showed this view quite well:
The sleep of forgetfulness will not long continue in the years to come. Once the darkness has been broken, our descendants will perhaps be able to return to the pure, pristine radiance.
From the fourteenth-century until the seventeenth-century we have the period generally known as the Renaissance. Originally it was used to describe solely the art and architecture of this period before expanding to become a general period. This thinking has greatly influenced how people look back on not only the Renaissance itself but also history before and after it. Nineteenth-century Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt in 1861 argued that the Italian Renaissance marked the end of the Middle Ages and the start of the modern world. In fact, we even use the term Middle Ages as it lies between the 'Renaissance' and the fall of Rome, or the 'Dark Ages' to show the supposed lack of culture and art (something influenced by Renaissance thinkers themselves). 

Why Italy?
The Sistine Chapel, another Renaissance feature
Although the Renaissance has been commonly believed to be an Italian exclusive movement in reality it encompassed most of Europe - after all one of the most renowned Renaissance writer is England's William Shakespeare and according to myth Leonardo da Vinci died in the arms of his close friend the French king. However, most figures associated with the Renaissance - da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli - were Italian. Why was this? Burckhardt argued that from the fourteenth-century the communes - Italian city-state republics - emerged which resembled the political structure of Rome, and this gave culture breathing room outside the repressive nature of monarchical rule. This argument has been largely refuted due to the Italian signori who came to power from 1250-1325 being now seen as conservative monarchs in every way bar name. We do not have a central reason why the Renaissance originated in Italy. Aspects of Burckhardt's theory does offer some explanation - although de facto conservative monarchs the signori were not feudal lords. As we shall discuss later the Middle East offered a great source of inspiration for the Renaissance which, as we discussed when looking at the Mediterranean trade, Italy was the main focal point of. The Black Death has also been cited as a factor. Italy was ravaged by the plague causing a wave of piety and pondering on the afterlife. Religion, death, and afterlife (sometimes all three) were heavily prominent in Renaissance works - such as Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, (important to note as well is how Dante is escorted through the afterlife by Roman poet Virgil).

Humanism of the Renaissance differed greatly to that of modern humanism - based on humane, secular values. A humanist of the fifteenth-century was someone who studied the humanities - something which would become important for the Scientific Revolution. Grammar, poetry, philosophy, and history were just some of the things studied, and all of these were made easier by the publishing boom. Books, manuscripts, and plays were easily distributed thanks to the creation of Gutenberg's printing press allowing humanists to get hold of everything from treaties to porn. One part of humanism was the focus on antiquity (the ancient world). Virgil escorts Dante through Heaven, Hell and Purgatory meeting various figures of antiquity; Cicero's (143-03 BCE) speeches were distributed to show good Latin style; and of course we have some of the most famous paintings including Botticelli's Birth of Venus. At times humanists tried to look for the 'truth'. By looking and studying poetry, history and other humanities the 'truth' of the world could be found and humanists eagerly sought to find it. One notable example is Lorenzo Valla discovering that the Declaration of Constantine was a fake in 1440. The Declaration was supposedly from Constantine the Great declaring that sovereignty of the Western Roman Empire to the Pope which the Papacy had since used to justify itself - Valla discovered that it was a forgery.
Religion was extremely important in the Renaissance as well - the most famous sculpture is perhaps Michelangelo's David after all. Religion and antiquity often came together in humanist thought. One example is that of Niccolo Machiavelli and his most famous text Il Principe (1553). Machiavelli was from Florence which often was torn between rival factions with the Medici family being one of the main ones. Inspired by the life of Cesare Borgia (1475-1507) and Florentine power struggles. Machiavelli rejected Aristotle but championed Plato's call in Republic for rule by enlightened single individuals. Machiavelli argued that if a ruler must exhibit virtu - the ability to shape the world to their whim - and bring stability to rule effectively. To preserve a state the leader had to use subterfuge, manipulation, and brutality while using religion to bring stability and unite the citizens. However, Machiavelli argued that a ruler should not be needlessly cruel. 'It is much safer for the prince to be feared than loved but he ought to avoid making himself hated'. Machiavellianism became part of the discourse 40 years after his death and he was received in different ways. His calls for harsh reactions and brutality was seen as unacceptable to many and intense anti-Italian hysteria in Europe greatly influenced this also - after all Mary Queen of Scots' Italian adviser was stabbed to death by angry Protestants in 1566. Meanwhile, those who saw themselves as being pragmatists and being logical praised Machiavelli. Francis Bacon in The Advancement of Learning (1605) praised Machiavelli for his pragmatism. 

Women and the Renaissance
The Mona Lisa. Were Women actors or subjects?
Despite featuring prominently in the art and literature of the Renaissance women had very little direct input in it. Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting of all time, was painted by a man after all, Leonardo da Vinci (as a side note records indicate that he might have been homosexual). Women were at times very prominent in Shakespeare's plays with Lady Macbeth, Ophelia, and Cordelia are just some of the prominent women in his writing. Although until 1660 all female roles were played by men. Some women in the Renaissance did exercise great amounts of power, both direct and indirect, despite the overwhelming patriarchal society. At times this became so prevalent that men directly criticized it, such as John Knox in The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558) and Jean Bodin in The Six Books of the Republic (1576). There were several women who exercised direct power during this period including Mary and Elizabeth I of England, Catherine of Aragon, and Mary Queen of Scots to name a few. Women could also exercise rule via their male relatives with Lucrezia Borgia being a prime example. Married several times and the daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, who would become Pope Alexander VI, she was also well-educated, fluent in several languages, and was a keen administrator. At times she even controlled Vatican affairs. Her power was so much was that her enemies accused her of mass poisoning, murder, and incest; something which continues to dog her image to this day. Her sister-in-law Isabella d'Este at times even ruled the Mantua court when her husband was away and her son was not of age. She oversaw the development of the textile and clothing industries as well as heavily patronizing the arts. Da Vinci painted a portrait of her and one theory alleges that she was the model for the Mona Lisa. Her letters show a deep and interesting interaction with her peers whom she showed favors for to earn their trust.
Isabella d'Este by Leonardo da Vinci
It should be emphasized that of course these were elite women. Poor or peasant women, and for that matter men, could not be educated or engage in the arts. This is the main reason why historians reject the notion of using the Renaissance to periodize this section of European history. Although the arts, books, and sculptures would greatly influence thought in the future, and definitely influenced the thought of the elite, but most people did not take part in it. Life did change for people during this time although it was not as drastic as images of the Renaissance have portrayed it. Meanwhile, gender relations were complex in early modern Europe where even peasant women could become powerful. In the strange tale of Martin Guerre in the mid-sixteenth-century where a man came back from war claiming to be him his wife, Bertrande, played a big role in the court case. Divorce and annulment could at times occur, although it was easier in some areas, and it was possible for especially urban widows to run their own businesses. Of course there was always reaction against established gender relations; in France the charivari parade would publicly mock 'hen-pecked' or impotent men. Homosexuality was both persecuted and tolerated depending who you were. Women were free to engage in homosexual activities (as it was seen as 'playful') whereas men who engaged in homosexuality were persecuted. In 1476 da Vinci was arrested on charges of 'sodomy' and didn't appear again until 1478. I use the term 'homosexual' and 'homosexuality' here to make explanation easier; attitudes to sexuality have never been set in stone so applying today's terms is an anachronism.

A Global Renaissance?
There have been other debates on the Renaissance ranging from whether it was actually the first European Renaissance - historians such as Étienne Gilson have argued that during the Medieval period 'Renaissances' did occur let in the twelfth-century and under the reign of Charlemagne. Other Renaissances existed throughout history outside of Europe - we have one under Heian Japan or the later Genroku period (1688-1703), a contemporary one under the Ottomans, one under the late Ming (1550-1644), and of course the Harlem Renaissance. Ming China even had similar laws to Europe called sumptuary laws - laws which forbade lower class people from wearing the clothes of higher classes and vice versa. Furthermore, the Renaissance had large amounts of influence from the Islamic world. As mentioned earlier Italian trade brought them into contact with the Ottoman Empire and Mamluks, and through them India and China. Italy and Spain both had a significant Arab and black African population - just look at albeit an Orientalist depiction of Moors in Shakespeare's Othello. Slavery also was widespread. Isabelle d'Este mentions purchasing two black slaves. Meanwhile, ideas and cultures disseminated through Europe from the Middle East. The Palazzo Priuli at San Severo, Venice from the 1300s shows clear Islamic inspiration, the Piazza San Marco shows clear inspiration from the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, and several portraits (like that of Doge Leonardo Loredan by Giovanni Bellini, 1501) clearly is inspired by the portraits of Ottoman sultans like Mehmet II.

Scientific Revolution or Evolution?
A German Wunderkammer
Now time to move onto the second half of our post: the Scientific Revolution. Steven Sharpin argues that instead of a revolution we actually saw an evolution. We see many similarities to the historiography of the Renaissance: new historical knowledge has been placed on the Medieval period not really being a time of backwardness. Sharpin has argued that it was evolution for two reasons: no coherent entity called 'science' emerged and many scholars viewed their findings as 'rediscovering' lost knowledge. Nicolaus Copernicus and Andreas Vesalius were just two who viewed their work as bringing back the knowledge which the Greeks and Romans once held. Influence from the Islamic world once again played a role in this. Muslim scholars preserved many of the Roman and Greek texts, and had studied them so soon their writings spread to Europe. Copernicus even mentioned Islamic scholars developing heliocentism in his writings. Furthermore, many supposed 'heroes' never made mention to science itself using the term 'natural philosophies' instead. In contrast, other historians have defended the idea of a Scientific Revolution. Definitely by the 1600s what we would call scientists definitely saw themselves as doing something 'new'. In 1620 Francis Bacon wrote New Organon (the second part of his writings) detailing what can be called science whose cover had a ship sailing off to a new world. Galileo Galilei in 1638 also wrote a text entitled Two New Sciences. New ideas and ways of study emerged where a teleological approach gave way to a mathematical one where first-hand evidence outweighed human testimony. We had Vesalius' extremely detailed On the Fabric of the Human Body (1543) detailing the anatomy of the human body to Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1663) having detailed diagrams of things Hooke had seen through a microscope, like a flea. We also saw the rise of the antiquarian (collector of antiquities and unique items) who collected rare and exotic items in order to study, or admire, them. German antiquarians even developed a name for their collections, Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities. Some of Europe's first museums emerged from these private collections. The revolution-evolution debate still goes on strong.

Heliocentrism, Copernicus, and Galileo are perhaps the best known aspects of the Scientific Revolution. Quite often it is portrayed as knowledge and rationality against religious intolerance and dogmatism. However, the reality is far more nuanced. Copernicus (1473-1543) was a priest and astronomer who had studied mathematics for years. For centuries the Ptolemaic theory, based on Artistotle's findings, had been most widely accepted which involved geocentrism - where the sun orbited the Earth. Copernicus saw discrepancies between his findings and Ptolemy's so proposed a system which had been periodically proposed since antiquity. In 1543 he presented his hypothesis, dedicated to Pope Paul III, in On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies which advocated for heliocentrism (where the Earth orbits the sun). Copernicus' hypothesis was challenged by both secular and religious authorities. For one, Copernicus' model was flawed and had many issues such as if the Earth orbited the sun why did an object when thrown upward not land to the west of where they were thrown? And why did objects fall if Earth was not the center of everything? Meanwhile, Christian officials, both Catholic and Protestant, criticized heliocentrism from a religious point of view. Martin Luther even accused him of trying to make a quick name for himself. The reason why Christian officials opposed heliocentrism was because of a line in the Bible. Joshua 10.13 said 'And the sun stood still' where the reasoning was that if the sun never moved how then could it stop? It should be noted that at this time the Bible was seen as the source of logic so if it went against the Bible it was therefore illogical, (and to an extent sinful).
Galileo's The Starry Messenger
Since 1543 geocentrism had slowly started to be widely challenged. In the 1570s Tycho Brahe measured a supernova and comet concluding that they must be beyond the moon, and therefore that the heavens did indeed change. Later, in 1609 Johannes Kepler used Brahe's findings and his own proposed that heliocentrism was right but in a different way to what Copernicus had argued. He argued that the planets moved in elliptical orbits around the sun at different speeds depending on distance from the sun. This would influence an Italian who used the newly invented telescope, Galileo Galilei. He was professor at Pisa and Padua, and had used a telescope to look to the stars. In 1610 he wrote The Starry Messenger detailing his findings, such as Jupiter having several moons (he only spotted four) showing that Earth was not the only center of rotation. Galileo was a forceful personality and eager for recognition; he even wrote to the Grand Duchess Christina in 1615 arguing that heliocentrism was in line with biblical teaching. The following year the Roman Inquisition declared heliocentrism heretical - some have argued that this was due to weakening of Catholicism thanks to the entrenching of Protestantism. People forget that it took over 70 years for Revolutions to be added to the Index of Prohibited Books. In 1632 Galileo decided to defend heliocentrism after 15 years of being banned in Dialogue concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican. To avoid censors Galileo wrote his book as a dialogue between two people subscribing to different ideas; promotion of heliocentrism would be hidden under a veil of an open dialogue. However, censors saw through his plan - partially because Galileo named the character supporting geocentrism 'Simplicio'. He was arrested, forced to recant and was put under house arrest for the rest of his life. It has been argued that the reason why the Church came so hard down on Galileo compared to Copernicus was due to pressure from the Holy Roman Emperor. The Thirty Years' War was threatening Catholic rule in Europe and a popular book refuting a Christian teaching could also undermine the Papacy further. Even then Galileo was persecuted so heavily was because of his insistence that Copernicanism was a truth not a hypothesis, widely distributed his writings in vernacular Italian, and said the Book of Nature was equal to that of the Bible. Copernicanism even had large support in the Church but Galileo's supporters had to back off due to his intransigence. As the decades went on support for heliocentrism slowly grew, especially after Isaac Newton published Principa Mathematica explaining gravity, until the Catholic Church formally accepted heliocentrism in 1822, and even then the Index of Prohibited Books continued to have heliocentric texts on it until the twentieth-century.

Religion and Science
As the previous section has shown although science and religion were at loggerheads it was not as intense as normally believed. A large part of this was due to the debates surrounding evolution in the late 1800s which greatly influenced how the Scientific Revolution was seen. Many of the natural philosophers did not see what they were doing as opposing religion - after all Copernicus was a priest who dedicated Revolutions to the pope! Galileo in his letter to the Grand Duchess Christina wrote 'the Bible teaches how to go to heaven, not how heaven goes' explaining his view. To him, and many other philosophers, the Bible spoke of the spiritual world and only referred to the natural world through metaphor. Humanist and theologian Erasmus (1466-1536) toed the line between Luther and Catholicism during the Reformation and held a view similar to Galileo. Erasmus religion as being a philosophy of life instead of being an exclusive prescription of salvation and saw interpretational dogma as being inhibitory. Most natural philosophers agreed with this view or saw their branch of science as aiding religion. Francis Bacon wrote that natural philosophy was the 'handmaid' of religion while Robert Boyle argued that natural philosophy as a 'reasonable worship' of God which was 'the first act of worship'.

We see a paradox with the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution. Only a select few managed to actively take part in both and even then they were largely Christian men as women, Jews, and Muslims were barred from positions which would allow them to engage in it. However, they greatly shaped how we think and view the world in Europe. It is no wonder that many intellectual historians focus on this time period. By straying from traditional view of the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution we see a more nuanced view of these periods and creates a more interesting view on the past. Although we got beautiful paintings and fabulous sculptures there are more to look at with the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Next time we will go to Japan and see how it reunified and how this would greatly influence Japanese history. The sources I have used are as follows:
-William Bouwsma, 'The Renaissance and the Drama of Western History', American Historical Review, 84:1, (1979), 1-15
-Mary Beth Rose (ed.), Women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives, (New York, 1986)
-Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, (Cambridge, 2006)
-Thomas Munck, Seventeenth-Century Europe: State, Conflict and the Social Order in Europe, 1598-1700, Second Edition, (Hampshire, 2005)
-Beat Kumin (ed.), The European World 1500-1800: An Introduction to Early Modern History, (London, 2009)
-Richard Mackenney, Renaissances: The Cultures of Italy, c.1300-c.1600, (Hampshire, 2005)
-Galileo Galilei: Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany, 1615:
-Steven Sharpin, The Scientific Revolution, (Chicago, 1996)
-Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, (1860)
-Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre, (Cambridge, 1983)

For other World History posts please see our page. For future blog updates please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Godzilla: The Kaiju in the Shadow of History

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)