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Why Japan Attacked Pearl Harbor

On December 7th 1941, a Japanese attack on the U.S Pacific naval headquarters at Pearl Harbor, damaged or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes in less than two hours which claimed the lives of more than 2,400 people, and wounded 1,000 more.

But why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor in 1941?

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Why is Japan Rearming?

The gradual but firm shift in Japan’s defence posture is among the most notable developments characterizing the Asia-Pacific’s international dynamics in the past few years. Its efforts to increase its military power, accompanied by attempts to change the Constitution to expand the means and the duties of its military forces are to be interpreted in a broader context of growing security challenges. But what exactly are the drivers behind Japan’s re-arm?

Japan’s defence policy after WWII

Japan’s past is the first element to consider to understand the importance of its changing defence posture.

After being defeated in WWII, Japan abandoned its pre-war militarism to embrace pacifism and rejection of the use of armed force. This principle was enshrined in Article 9 of its Constitution, which entered into force 1947 with US support. According to its terms, Japan denied its own right to belligerency, rejected war as a mean to solve international disputes, and renounced to develop any war potential. This meant that it could not possess its own armed forces and could not participate in any conflict abroad, not even for collective self-defence. Initially, the US had favoured this constitutional provisions as a guarantee that Japan would never try again to conquer the Asia-Pacific region has it had done in the past. Moreover, immediately after the war it seemed that the area would become a hub of peace and stability.

But the situation changed soon. In 1949 the communists took power in mainland China, thus radically changing the region’s geopolitical landscape. Only one year later, the pro-Soviet North Korea attacked its southern counterpart, triggering the three-years-long Korean War. Following the emergence of these threats, Washington applied the containment policy to counter the assertiveness of Moscow and its allies in Asia as in Europe. In this logic, the US started pressuring Japan to adopt a larger security role. However, this achieved very limited success. In 1951, America and Japan signed a Peace Treaty, and along with it a separate Security Treaty (later revised in 1960) that committed Washington to defend its ally. But under the Premiership of Yoshida Shigeru, Japan preferred to minimize its military expenditures in order to focus on reconstruction and economic growth, all while relying on its powerful American ally for protection. This approach, later named “Yoshida Doctrine” after its inspirer, became the cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy for decades, and it was an extraordinary success. Thanks to it, Japan managed to avoid international conflicts and to achieve an impressive GDP growth, rapidly turning into one of the world’s leading economic powers. As of today, Japan is still the third largest economy in terms of nominal GDP.

Yet, this does not mean that Japan did not have its own military. The terms of Article 9 notwithstanding, the country still had to make concessions. In 1954, it established its armed forces, which took the name of Japanese Self-Defense Forces (or JSDF). But as their name suggests, they were not comparable to the full-fledged militaries that other states had. The JSDF could not field any equipment considered to be “offensive” such as strategic bombers or aircraft carriers, and their role was strictly limited to defending Japan’s territory from an external (most likely Soviet) invasion. They could not participate to collective self-defence operations, as this would imply fighting abroad to protect an ally, and not even to peacekeeping missions. In 1976, the practice of limiting the defence expenditures to no more than 1% of its GDP became official. All this deeply influenced Japan’s role in overseas conflicts, even those occurring very close to its territory and whose outcome could affect its own national security. The first case is the Korean War: in spite of the geographical proximity and of their anti-communist stance, the Japanese limited their contribution to providing bases and equipment for the US-guided coalition. Still, with time new events pushed Japan to slowly change its stance.

The first one was the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991. Since Japan was (and still is) largely dependent on Middle Eastern oil for its energy supplies, the US expected that it would give a sensible contribution to the conflict. But on the basis of its constitutional limitations, Japan refused to do so, limiting its participation to providing financial aid to the international coalition. This form of “checkbook diplomacy” was largely criticized by the US, and as a result Japan adopted a new legislation allowing it to take part to peacekeeping missions with strictly non-combat roles. A few years later, North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1996 increased Japan’s fear of being involved in a regional conflict. Then, the test of the DPRK’s first ballistic missile in 1998 shocked Japan, thus prompting it to start cooperating with the US on anti-missile defence. Another change occurred in the aftermath of 9/11. As America begun its “War on Terror” under the Bush administration, it asked Japan to contribute to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Tokyo was again reticent, but in the end it accepted to deploy its forces to provide non-combat support. In 2004 it also adopted a new national defence document that called for an increase of its military capabilities, and most importantly Article 9 was reinterpreted to allow self-defence in case of attack on American forces defending Japan or even abroad, provided this represented a threat to Japan itself.

In spite of all this, strong restrictions remain on Japan’s military. Still, it maintains a well-trained and well-equipped military. As a matter of fact, despite the 1% GDP gap on defence expenditures, the sheer size of its economy means that its budget is one of the world’s largest in absolute terms. Nevertheless, until recently it has kept a low-profile defence posture. But with the emergence of new challenges, Japan is gradually moving out from its traditional policy to take a more important role in regional security, which also implies increasing its military capabilities and re-interpreting (if not changing) its Constitution.

The drivers of Japan’s re-arm

As seen, the earliest driver of Japan’s efforts to empower its military came from the need to give a greater contribution to international operations. This was the answer to its American ally, which criticized it for being a free-rider who takes benefit from US protection without giving much support to American-led actions. Gradually, Japan started participating more actively in international missions, dispatching its forces for peacekeeping, disaster relief, or maritime law enforcement.

But there are two other factors to be considered, the first of which is North Korea. Its ballistic missiles and the possibility of a new war in the Peninsula are considered serious threats by Japan. This explains both its diplomatic efforts to favour a negotiated settlement of the issue, but also its commitment to deploy anti-missile systems like Patriot Advanced Capability 3 batteries (PAC-3) or AEGIS-equipped destroyers.

Yet, this is only one part of the story. Coping with a potential conflict in Korea does not reveal why Japan is increasing its maritime and air power, nor why it is acquiring Anti-Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) systems and practicing amphibious operations. To understand this, the third factor should be considered, which is by far the main driver of Japan’s military build-up: the rise of China.

After it started its economic boom in the 90s, the PRC soon initiated a military modernization programme. Combined with its increasing assertiveness, this has resulted in heightening tensions with the US. While much remains to be done for China’s armed forces to match America’s military on an equal level, this has turned Beijing into Washington’s near-peer competitor, at least in the Asia-Pacific. In this context, Japan has started feeling concerned about China’s rise as well, something that clearly emerges from its official documents.

The reasons are double fold. First, its relations with China are problematic, and sometimes even tense. There is much animosity between the two about Japan’s invasion of China in the 30s and the war crimes it committed during that period. There is also a territorial dispute between them over the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands. Maritime security is another major issue: Japan’s economic prosperity and energy security depends on the sea lanes of communication (SLOC) connecting it with Europe and the Middle East; therefore, it is afraid that China may cut these maritime routes, thus posing an existential threat to its survival. Then, China does not appreciate Japan’s status as an American ally; which brings to the second aspect to consider: the role of the US.

As noted before, Washington has been asking Tokyo for a greater contribution to regional security. For decades, Japan has resisted these demands, but now that China is emerging as a military power capable of damaging the interests of both Japan and the US, Tokyo is more willing to expand the roles and the capabilities of its military; also because it understands that not doing so would alienate Washington and may ultimately result in the loss of its main ally, which remains essential for its national security.

This was also the main justification behind the reinterpretation of the Article 9 of the Constitution. The text of the Article has not been changed, as that would require a complex procedure including a referendum that would likely fail given the popular attachment to the pacifist principles of the Chart. But in 2014 Abe’s government introduced a new interpretation, which was approved by the National Diet the following year. According to it, Japan will be able to use the military even to protect a foreign country, provided that Japan’s survival is at stake, that there are no other means, and always by limiting its action to the minimum necessary measures. This move was strongly criticized by Japan’s neighbours, first and foremost China.

The axes of Japan’s re-arm

The central importance of China as the main driver of Japan’s re-arm is evident when examining the specific nature of its military reorganization. Its defence expenditures have been growing constantly in recent years, reaching around 4.94 trillion yen.

The land component of the JSDF is being reduced in favour of the air and naval forces. This is because in the case of an open conflict with China, the best defence for Japan would be to achieve the aero-naval superiority over its surrounding seas (in cooperation with the US) so to keep the Chinese forces away from its territory. In this context, Japan is deploying to the south more air squadrons equipped with F-15J fighters, as well as support aircraft like tankers and airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) planes. Recon drones like the RQ-4 Global Hawk could be adopted as well. A total of 42 F-35A fighters are also scheduled to be fielded, the first of which has been deployed at the beginning of 2018.

But it is the maritime part of the JSDF that is being developed the most. There are five notable trends in this. First, surface ships are being modernized and new ones are entering into service to bring the total from 47 to 54. These include new guided missile destroyers equipped with the AEGIS system, whose task is to patrol and protect the SLOC and the seas around Japan, contribute to air and naval superiority, and intercept incoming missiles. Second, the number of attack submarines is to increase from 16 to 22. Their mission is to counter the subs that the PRC is also fielding in larger numbers, to have assets that are not threatened by its anti-ship missiles, and finally to threaten the SLOC that are vital for China as well. Third, in a similar logic Japan is procuring more antisom aircraft for its naval forces. Fourth, it is enhancing its mine warfare capabilities, both in the form of deploying and removing naval mines. But the fifth and most notable development is the introduction of helicopter destroyers, which has also caused controversy. Currently, Japan has four ships of this kind: two belong to the Hyuga class while the other two are more recent Izumo-class units. They are the largest ships in Japan’s maritime force and, in spite of being smaller than their US counterparts, they are often described as de facto aircraft carriers. However, this is misleading. Currently these ships do not operate any fighter jet, but only helicopters; mainly because their deck cannot resist the extremely high temperatures generated by jet engines. Still, while it is a complex endeavour, it is technically possible to modify the deck of the two Izumo units to enable fighter operations, and there have been rumors that Japan is actually considering this option so to allow the ships to operate up to 10 F-35B fighters; something that has caused criticism from the PRC. Moreover, the number of planes they could carry is relatively limited, as their autonomy. As such, rather than for sustaining large-scale naval battles or as power projection means, these ships are more suitable for antisom missions thanks to their helicopters or for supporting amphibious operations along with dedicated landing ships, as they can carry 400 marines and around 50 light vehicles.

This brings us to the role of the land forces, which also have an important role that reflects Japan’s new strategic needs. The marines units are being expanded, a sign that Japan wants its military to be able to defend and if necessary retake remote islands to the south like the Senkaku or the Ryukyu. Also, radars and five regiments armed with anti-ship cruise missile (consisting in the Type 88 and the more recent Type 12) are being deployed on these islands along with anti-aircraft missile units. The aim is to create A2/AD zones over the East China Sea both for protecting the SLOC and for denying the access to the open ocean to China’s aero-naval forces; in the logic of keeping them at bay until the US Navy arrives. New missiles are also under development, among which the most notable is the HVGP (Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile), a hypersonic missile explicitly designed to defend remote islands and a sign that Japan wants to enter in the race to develop such systems.

What next?

Considering all these aspects, it is clear that Japan is taking a greater role in regional security and that appears more determined to protect its interests in a challenging international environment. Yet, it seems unlikely that it will opt for full militarization. The large majority of Japanese oppose a change in the Constitution and even the recently-approved reinterpretation was met with resistance. Japan remains more willing to solve international issues by diplomacy and economic assistance rather than by the use of force. Yet, to ensure its vital interests and to preserve the alliance with the US, which remains essential for its national security, Japan will likely continue on this course and increase its military capabilities. But this is something that is not only up to Japan: much depends on its American ally; and much, if not the most, on its Chinese rival.

Who was Mawlana Sayyid Abu Al-`ala Mawdudi?

Mawlana Sayyid Abu Al-`ala Mawdudi stands as one of the leading Islamic figures of the twentieth century. Mawdudi’s ideological contributions have made him a towering figure in modern Islamic thought.

His political and religious vision of Islam have gained widespread currency in Pakistan, as well as in the broader Middle East, North Africa, and throughout Central, South, and Southeast Asia.

Not only a political theorist, he was a well-known translator and commentator of the Qur’an; a best-selling author; a frequently jailed political activist; and the founder of Islamic party, Jamaat-ti Islami.

Born in 1903 to a religious family in Hyderabad Deccan, India, Mawdudi began his career as a journalist, ascending in his early twenties to the editorship of al-Jamiah , the newspaper of India’s leading Muslim clerical organization.

He went on to assume the editorship of Tarjuman al-Qur’an (Interpreter of the Qur’an ), which he used as a platform to advocate for a uniquely Islamic way of life and against the influences of the West, which he believed had captivated the Muslims of India.

Mawdudi’s emphasis became increasingly political following the landmark Indian elections in 1937 and the growing agi-
tation against British rule by Hindu and Muslim leaders.

Mawdudi’s ideas were grounded in the historical context in which he wrote. First the dismantling of the Mughal empire in 1857 and then the formal abolishment of the Ottoman caliphate after World War I fueled feelings of powerlessness among the Muslims of India.

In 1941 he founded the Jama`at-i Islami, a party he would lead for the next three decades until in death in 1979.

Although Mawdudi opposed the formation of Pakistan, following the partition of 1947 he became the leading advocate for political Islam in Pakistan, debating over the nature of the constitution and participating actively in electoral politics.

Mawdudi’s most fundamental contributions was championing the idea that Islam constitutes a nizam-i zindagi —a complete system of life that is an ideology, a civilization, and a legal-political order.

Both in his political writings and in his widely read Tahfim al-Qur’an , he built his argument on the need for an Islamic political system and to channel devotions into a broader revolutionary agenda.

His legacy arguably is that he was able to convince large sections of the middle class of the role politics and Islam- which still resonates today in modern Pakistan.

Who was Genghis Khan?

Who was Genghis Khan?

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Where is the Salahuddin of today?

A brief biography of Salahuddeen and the liberation of Jerusalem by HT Australia

Browsing through the pages of Islamic history, we come across many personalities who inspire us. There are few more loved, renowned and revered than Salahuddeen, and for good reason. His incredible attributes and feats, motivated solely by devotion to Allah, are matched only by his unique imprint upon the fabric of time.Individuals like Salahuddeen form a dazzling tapestry of courage, intelligence, honour and steadfastness. They are the threads of our history, and more often than not, were faced by harsh, seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Yet they overcame the troubles of their times to become stalwarts of the Muslim Ummah.


Born in Tikrit, Iraq, Salahuddeen was of noble Kurdish ancestry, with his father, Najm ad-Din Ayyub, a governor of the area.

He settled in a place called Mosul, and the ruler, the great Nur ad-Din Zangi, took Salahuddeen under his wing, sending him to Damascus to complete his education.

The Cairo Citadel, also known as the Citadel of Salahuddeen, was a pre-existing site fortified by Salahuddeen to defend against the Crusaders.

Asad ud-Din Shirkuh, an uncle to Salahuddeen, was a military commander under Nur ud-Din. Instability in the Egyptian region called for action, and Salahuddeen was sent with Shirkuh as his advisor. After a few missions to Egypt, Shirkuh was able to take command. After only two months in command, Shirkuh passed away, and thus Salahuddeen now had control over the whole of Egypt.

This Egyptian period in Salahuddeen’s history was his first as a leader. He fought against and abolished the rule of the ineffective and treacherous Fatamid Shia rulership in 1171, and under Salahuddeen’s rule, Egypt flourished. He revitalised the economy, expanded the military and built many great schools.

Education became a cornerstone of the new Egypt, and it soon became viewed as an intellectual center of learning, and thus Salahuddeen brought new life to the once ailing province.

The "Eagle of Salahhudeen", one of his symbols, which has gone on to become the symbol of many of the Arab countries' flags and coats of arms.

The “Eagle of Salahhudeen”, one of his symbols, which has gone on to become the symbol of many of the Arab countries’ flags and coats of arms.



Soon after, Salahuddeen’s mentor, Nur ad-Din, passed away in Damascus. At this point in time, the situation in Damascus was precarious.

Leadership had been passed to Nur al-Din’s son, Al-Malik As-Salih Isma’il, who was a mere child of eleven years. Division and conflict over authority prevailed, and the situation was worsening by the day.

The leaders and public of Damascus eventually saw the volatility of their situation, and, with various parties being potential claimants to the throne, requested for Salahuddeen to take authority over them.

Just as in Egypt, Salahuddeen’s rulership allowed Damascus to stabilise and start to prosper. With the death of the young Al-Malik As-Salih Isma’il, Salahuddeen gained a firm hand over Syria, and thus successfully united most of the regions under his command. Salahuddeen used diplomacy and administrative skill in piecing together an Ummah divided, and in doing so, he became the most powerful figure in the Muslim world.

All the while, the Crusaders watched on, but probably did not appreciate the significance of the consolidation taking place. After a few encounters against with Crusader forces, a shaky truce was declared between Muslims and the Christian kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem.

This truce though, was not to last, and Salahuddeen was aware that there would come, at some point, a trigger allowing him to play his hand.

The influential Christian knight, Raynald of Chatillon, betrayed the terms of the truce deal, attacking a Muslim caravan going to Hajj, launching a fleet of ships in the Red Sea and disrupting trading routes that Salahuddeen and the Christians had agreed would be kept open.

The most unacceptable of all of Raynald’s actions were his threats to attack Makkah and Madina and his insults against the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Upon hearing of this, Salahuddeen was furious. The audacity of Raynald was too much for Salahuddeen to ignore, and he swore to kill him by his own hand.

A medieval depiction of Raynald of Chatillon.

A medieval depiction of Raynald of Chatillon.


The advent of Raynald’s actions was the trigger Salahuddeen needed and awaited. It also became a rallying cry for an emboldened and better armed Muslim force which had benefited from careful consolidation and preparation for what was eventually to come.

Following the attack on Muslim caravans described above, Salahuddeen led the Muslims to the decisive Battle of Hattin. This battle took place in the last ten nights of Ramadan that year, and some historians have commented that in some views it was the day after the night of Laylatul Qadr. Whether this is true or not, the significance of Muslims fighting in the peak of summer (July is the hottest month in the Middle East) and winning such a decisive victory should not be lost on the reader.

Site of the Battle of Hattin (1187).

Site of the Battle of Hattin (1187).

For the first time, the Kingdom of Jerusalem was encircled by Muslim territory united under one commander. Salahuddeen this time had a well prepared army ready to face the mighty alliance of Guy of Lusignan, the King of Jerusalem, Raynald, and other Christian knights and leaders.

In a move indicative of his military acumen, Salahuddeen deprived the Crusader army of access to water, reducing the soldiers to a tired and unorganised mess. The Crusaders were humiliated, many being taken prisoner, most prominent among them being Raynald of Chatillon and Guy of Lusignan.

A diagrammatic depiction of the battle arrays at the Battle of Hattin.

A diagrammatic depiction of the battle arrays at the Battle of Hattin.

Salahuddeen ordered both Guy and Raynald be brought to his tent. Salahuddeen invited Guy to sit beside him, and when Raynald entered in his turn, he seated him next to his King and reminded him of his misdeeds.

“How many times have you sworn an oath and violated it? How many times have you signed agreements you have never respected?”

Raynald answered through a translator: “Kings have always acted thus. I did nothing more.” Historians note that during this time King Guy was gasping with thirst, his head dangling as though drunk, his face betraying great fright.

Salahuddeen spoke reassuring words to him, had cold water brought, and offered it to him. The king drank, then handed what remained to Raynald, who slaked his thirst in turn. Salahuddeen then said to Guy: “You did not ask permission before giving him water. I am therefore not obliged to grant him mercy”.

After pronouncing these words, Salahuddeen smiled, mounted his horse, and rode off, leaving the captives in terror. He supervised the return of the troops, and then came back to his tent. He ordered Raynald brought there, then advanced before him, sword in hand, and struck him between the neck and the shoulder-blade. When Raynald fell, he cut off his head and dragged the body by its feet to the king, who began to tremble.

A medieval depiction of Salahuddeen's execution of Raynald of Chatillon.

A medieval depiction of Salahuddeen’s execution of Raynald of Chatillon.

Seeing him thus upset, Salahuddeen said to him in a reassuring tone: “This man was killed only because he exceeded all bounds”.

Thus Salahuddeen fulfilled his oath to kill Raynald himself. King Guy was spared and was taken to Damascus for a time, then allowed to go free.


3 months after the Battle of Hattin, Salahuddin besieged and subsequently captured Jerusalem. Unlike the Crusaders 88 years earlier, who made Jerusalem a bloodbath during the First Crusade, Salahuddin did not terrorize. He spared the lives of 100,000 Christians and allowed Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem after gaining command. The terms involved simply involved paying a ransom and then being allowed to go free.

A 20th century depiction of Salahuddeen entering Jerusalem.

A 20th century depiction of Salahuddeen entering Jerusalem.

After defeat at Hattin, the Crusaders did not rest. Immediately preparations began for the Third Crusade. The English king, Richard the Lion Heart, began by leading a siege called by Guy of Lusignan, whom Salahuddin had earlier captured and set free. The province of Acre was besieged and very soon the situation for the Muslims became difficult and they were forced to surrender. Disregarding the mercy that Salahuddin had shown in Jerusalem, once again the Crusaders spilt much blood. Thousand of men, women and children were slaughtered at their hands.

Despite their best efforts, the Crusaders could not re-take Jerusalem. Battles were fought between the Muslims and the Crusaders, but overall, a stalemate ensued. Salahuddin was unable to force Richard the Lion Heart to retreat and Richard was unable to breach Salahuddin’s defences.
With no advancement by either side, a treaty was signed. Under the terms of the treaty, Jerusalem would remain in Muslim hands, but Christian pilgrimages would be allowed.

Only a year later, Salahuddin was struck with a severe fever and died at the age of 57. So came to an end the life of one of the greatest Muslims to have ever lived. As if to attest to his character even after death, Salahuddin, a noble commander and leader, had given so much in charity that his wealth was not even enough to cover the cost of his funeral.

We ask Allah Most High to have mercy on him and send many more of his like.

The Mausoleum of Salahuddeen next to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.

The Mausoleum of Salahuddeen next to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.


The grave of Salahuddeen in Damascus, Syria.

The grave of Salahuddeen in Damascus, Syria.

When the Ottomans almost conquered Italy

In 1480 Memet the Conqueror launched the most audacious expedition of his leadership.

He sent an army under the Grand Admiral of the Ottman Navy, Gedik Ahmet Pashato Southern Italy to capture Otranto.

The army moved inland towards Brindisi, Taranto and Lecce, but Duke Ferrante of Naples led a counterattack.

The army was pushed back to Otranto and majority of the Ottoman Army sailed away.

However, they left a group of troops stationed at Otranto whilst the Greek Island of Rhodes was being captured.

When the Island of Rhodes was abandoned, the Ottomans returned and continued fighting well into 1481.

The occupation of Italian lands so close to the main altar of Christiandom caused a great level of concern and panic.

Blame was shifted around in Italy. Venice people were acused of doing nothing and even accused of helping the Ottomans.

In spite of the retention of Rhodes, fear of the Ottomans was now at the highest.

Mehmet the Conqueror himself was said to be coming to Italy and the Pope considered fleeing to Avignon.

Instead he asked for assistance. But what saved Italy from the Ottomans was only the eventual death of Mehmet in 1481.

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When the Ottoman Caliphate Saved Britain

When the Ottoman Caliphate Saved Britain

From her accession to the throne in 1558, Queen Elizabeth began seeking diplomatic, commercial and military ties with Muslim rulers.

In 1570, when it became clear that Protestant England would not return to the Catholic faith, the pope excommunicated Elizabeth and called for her to be stripped of her crown.

Soon the might of Catholic Spain was against her, an invasion was imminent.

English merchants were prohibited from trading with the rich markets of the Spanish Netherlands.

Economic and political isolation threatened to destroy the newly Protestant country.

Elizabeth responded by reaching out to the Ottoman Caliphate. Spain’s only rival was the Ottoman Empire ruled by Sultan Murad III.

The Ottomans had been fighting the Hapsburgs for decades, conquering parts of Hungary.

Elizabeth hoped that an alliance with the Sultan would provide much needed relief from Spanish military aggression and enable her merchants to tap into the lucrative markets of the East.

The Caliphate was far more powerful than Elizabeth’s little Island nation floating in the soggy mists off Europe.

Elizabeth wanted to explore her new trade alliances, but couldn’t afford to finance them. Her response was to exploit the obscure commercial innovation – joint stock companies.

The capital from the companies was used to fund the costs of commercial voyages.

Elizabeth enthusiastically backed the Muscovy company which traded with Persia and went on to inspire the formation of a company that traded with the Ottomans and the East India Company which would eventually conquer India.

In the 1580s she signed a commercial agreement with the Ottomans that would last over 300 years granting her merchants free commercial access to Ottoman lands.

As money poured in, Elizabeth began writing letters to her Muslim counterparts extolling the benefits of reciprocal trade.

She wrote as a supplicant, calling Murad “The most mighty ruler of the Kingdom of Turkey, sole and above all, and most sovereign monarch of the East Empire.”

She also played on their mutual hostility to Catholicism, describing herself as “the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries.”

Thousands of English traders crossed many of today’s regions, like Aleppo and Mosul which were far safer than they would have been on a journey through Catholic Europe where they risked falling into the hands of the Inquisition.

Some Englishman even converted to Islam such as Samson Rowlie, a Norfolk merchant who became Hassan Aga.

English aristocrats delighted in the silks and spices of the East, exchanged it for munitions that were shipped out to Turkey.

The sugar, silks, carpets and spices transformed what the English ate, how they decorated their homes and how they dressed.

Despite the commercial success, the British economy was unable to sustains its reliance on far-flung trade.

After Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1604, the new King, James I, signed a peace treaty with Spain ending England’s exile.

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When the Mongols Destroyed Baghdad

For many historians, the arrival of the Mongols in Baghdad is the single most devastating moment in the history of the Muslim Middle East.

It’s easy to see why—and hard to argue otherwise—because the ransacking of Baghdad would mark the end of the Islamic Golden Age.

Baghdad had been established in 762 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur. Throughout its history, it had been the capital of the Muslims, as well as the world in general.

The libraries of Baghdad were unrivaled. The House of Wisdom, established soon after the city was built, was a magnet for the most intelligent scientists, thinkers, mathematicians, and linguists of the world.

But by the mid-1200s, the Abbasid Caliphate was nothing but a shell of its former self, having no power outside of Baghdad.

Most of Persia was disunited as the Khwarazmian Empire had mostly deteriorated by then. The Ayyubid state established by Salah al-Din was only in control of small parts of Iraq and Syria.

The Abbasid army was effectively non-existent, and only served as bodyguards of the caliph. And the scientific achievements of the Muslim world were now centered in places such as Cairo, Muslim Spain, and India.

It was at this historic and landmark city that the Mongols arrived in 1258. Their army, estimated at over 150,000 soldiers, stood before the city that was just a shadow of the great capital of the Muslim world of the 800s.

The siege began in mid-January and only lasted two weeks. On February 10th, 1258, the Mongols entered the city of the caliphs.

A full week of pillage and destruction commenced. The Mongols showed no discretion, destroying mosques, hospitals, libraries, and palaces.

The books from Baghdad’s libraries were thrown into the Tigris River in such quantities that the river ran black with the ink from the books.

The loss of life is estimated that between 200,000 and 1,000,000 people were butchered in that one week of destruction.

Baghdad was left completely depopulated and uninhabitable. It would take centuries for Baghdad to regain any sort of prominence as an important city.

After Baghdad, the Mongols continued on westward. They conquered Syria from the Ayyubids, with help from the Armenians and neutrality from the Crusaders.

In Palestine they reached the extent of their conquests. The new Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt, under the leadership of Baibars defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260.

This prevented a Mongol invasion of the Holy Lands of Makkah, Madinah, and Jerusalem. This also ensured the safety of the only remaining powerful Muslim empire of the time, the Mamluks.

Despite ultimately being unsuccessful in their attempt to destroy Islam, the Mongols left a deep political, economic, and military scar in the heart of the Muslim world.

Entire regions were depopulated. Irrigation canals, fields of crops, and economic infrastructure were destroyed beyond repair.

The political institutions, such as the caliphate, that held the Muslim world together for centuries were simply abolished.

The Mongol Il-Khanate established by Hulagu’s descendants would rule over Persia, Iraq, and Anatolia for over 100 years.

Over decades and centuries, the Mongols in Southwest Asia slowly converted to Islam and became absorbed in a Persian/Turkish culture.

The Mongol invasion is one of the most demoralizing times of Islamic history, but from which we can learn an important lesson.

The Muslim world was largely unable to repel the Mongol invasion due to disunity and weak political and military institutions.

Throughout Islamic history, disunity has always led to invasion and defeat, while unity has led to great Islamic times that benefited the entire world.

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When Britain was the largest drug dealer in the World

The British Empire was the largest drug pusher the world has ever seen. By the 1830s the smuggling of opium into China was a source of huge profits and these profits played a crucial role in the financing of British rule in India and were the underpinning of British trade and commerce throughout the East. This is one of those little details that are often overlooked in general histories of the empire, where the opium trade is generally played down and sometimes ignored altogether. Denis Judd’s acclaimed volume, Empire , a 500-page history of the British Empire, has no discussion of either the trade or the wars it occasioned. 1 More recently, the prestigious Oxford History of the British Empire: the 19th Century , edited by Andrew Porter, barely acknowledges the trade in over 700 erudite pages. 2 This is despite its tremendous economic importance: opium is estimated to have been “the world’s most valuable single commodity trade of the 19th century”, 3 and despite the fact that the Second Opium War actually brought about the overthrow of the government of the day in a vote of confidence and forced the holding of a general election, something not even the massive opposition to the recent Iraq war managed. Moreover, the opium trade was, in the words of the historian John K Fairbanks, without any doubt, “the most long-continued and systematic crime of modern times”.

The production of opium in India had come under British control towards the end of the 18th century. In 1775 the British gave the East India Company a monopoly over its production and sale, and towards the end of the century the company established an opium agency to manage the business. Sale and consumption of the product in India itself were successfully discouraged, something which seems to show a clear awareness of its disastrous consequences. 5 The export of opium to China, however, was to develop into a massive concern. In the 1760s some 1,000 chests of opium (each weighing 140 lbs) were smuggled into China, and this figure gradually increased to around 4,000 chests in 1800. In the years from 1800 to 1820 the trade stagnated with an average of 4,500 chests being shipped each year. Expansion only really began after 1820 so that by 1824 over 12,000 chests were being smuggled into China, rising to 19,000 in 1830, to 30,000 in 1835 and to 40,000 chests (an incredible 2,500 tons of opium) in 1838. 6 By this time the opium trade had become a vital national interest, “the hub of British commerce in the East”. 7 The opium trade was one corner of an Eastern “triangular trade” that mirrored the 18th century Atlantic slave trade. The smuggling of opium turned a large British trading deficit with China into a substantial surplus, paying for British imports of tea and silk, for the export of manufactured goods to India and for a substantial proportion of the costs of British rule in India. According to one authority, the opium trade was absolutely crucial “to the expansion of the British Empire in the late 18th and 19th centuries”. This was both because of the revenues it produced and because of the powerful network of “narco-capitalists”, merchants and financiers it created, “who profited from the trade, and whose influence buttressed the imperial lobby throughout the 19th century”. For the British administration in India, opium was its second most important source of revenue and, for most of the 19th century, its most important export. 8 The trade kept the East India Company “afloat financially”. 9 Moreover, as John Wong has shown, it not only turned a British trade deficit with China into a substantial surplus and generated massive profits, but also provided substantial revenues for the British government in London. The duty that was levied on the tea imports, which was paid for by smuggled opium, was sufficient to finance a considerable proportion of the costs of the Royal Navy during the 19th century. The opium trade was clearly not a small-scale affair carried out by small-time crooks and gangsters. Instead it was a massive international commerce carried out by major British trading companies under the armed protection of the British state. According to William Jardine of Jardine Matheson, the most important of the companies involved in the trade, it was “the safest and most gentlemanlike speculation I am aware of ”. In a good year profits could be as high as $1,000 a chest. His wealth was sufficient to buy him a seat in the House of Commons and, as we shall see, to get him the ear of the government. 10 Jardine Matheson and Co was founded in 1832 and was the most successful of the opium smuggling companies. It is still a major financial and trading company today. Jardine’s partner in the enterprise, James Matheson, shows the uses to which the profits from the trade could be put. In the 1840s he too became an MP, sitting in the Commons for some 25 years. He bought the Hebridean Island of Lewis for £500,000, had Stornoway Castle built and cleared more than 500 families off the land, shipping them to Canada. He went on to become chairman of the great P & O shipping line, the major opium carrier for most of the 19th century, a governor of the Bank of England and the second largest landowner in Britain. His successor in the company, Alexander Matheson, a nephew, was likewise to settle on extensive estates in Scotland, bought for £773,000, and was to be an MP for nearly 40 years.

After three opium wars….

What of the opium trade? By the 1860s the British were exporting 60,000 chests of opium to China annually, rising to 100,000 chests (over 6,000 tons of opium) annually in the 1880s. After this the trade began to decline in the face of competition from Chinese produced opium. It still remained a profitable business for the rest of the century and beyond. The British opium trade with China did not finally come to an end until 1917. As for Britain’s pre-eminent position in China, this began to come under pressure from rival imperialist powers towards the end of the 19th century and from Chinese revolutionary nationalism in the early decades of the 20th century. But Britain’s influence was only finally eclipsed in the 1930s.


Source – The Blood Never Dried by John Newsinger

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