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Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany
Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany
by Robert P. Ericksen
Edition: Paperback
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A failure of leadership?, February 3, 2013
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The question of how far responsibility for the Holocaust can be attributed to ordinary Germans as opposed to the Nazi leadership has been debated ever since 1945. For the Allies in 1945, especially the Americans, it appeared clear in their own minds that responsibility lay not with a narrow circle of leaders but more broadly with German society as a whole so that a thoroughgoing process of de-Nazification was needed. Ericksen considers that the American assessment at the time was largely correct and addresses specifically the question of complicity of Churches and universities in the Nazi state and the Holocaust. His study concludes that both these parts of society were deeply complicit in what happened. Despite individual dissidents, "institutional approval of church and university for the Nazi state" was expressed openly and never recanted. Therefore it was not surprising that when individual Germans who were members of Churches and graduates of universities who were asked to do terrible things by the State, they "presumably had a right to think they were given permission by their pastors and professors".

The study begins with the role of the Churches. Germany in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century led the world in many areas including biblical scholarship, exerting enormous influence through theologians such as Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich. 97 per cent of Germans identified themselves as Christian, mostly Protestant, many of whom were active in their Churches and fervent believers. Many Christians however developed a strong hostility to Weimar which they saw as too permissive and liberal, in opening up opportunities to groups that were kept outside the circles of power in Imperial times such as Socialists, Communists, Jews, women - and for Protestants who saw themselves as custodians of "true" German identity, Catholics. The bastions of Church and University dominated by the old establishment found these changes threatening and were happy to throw their lot in with Hitler.

The pro-Nazi "Deutschen Christen" ("DC") formed even before 1933 adopted an ultra-nationalistic and anti-Semitic stance. The theology and practices they developed included excising the entire Old Testament from the Bible and putting forward a belief that Jesus was not Jewish but "Aryan". Paul on account of being Jewish was also a target of this group - even though excising Paul from the Scriptures cut the ground under Luther who relied heavily on Paul in formulating his own theology during the Reformation.

The Confessing Church formed in opposition to the heretical positions of the DC also in the end fell in line behind the Nazi state - for example in reducing or eliminating readings from the Old Testament during Church services. Their efforts of behalf of "Jews" were largely confined to trying to protect Jewish converts to Christianity - while nothing was said and done to support their Jewish neighbours and work colleagues when they started disappearing. Many leaders of the Confessing Church expressly welcomed the rise of Hitler. Fear of Communism also played in large part in their preference for the Nazis. The Nazis themselves in their platform expressed a belief in "positive Christianity" as a plank of the German nation. Despite some small victories by the Confessing Church, for example in resisting DC appointments to Episcopal Sees, the Church largely fell behind the Nazi state. Dissidents such as Martin Niemoller and Bonhoeffer exercised little influence - even if after the War, both were held up as heroic examples of German resistance to the Nazis.

In the case of the Catholic Church the situation was a little different. The Catholic Church was hostile to the ideology of Nazism, as being too "racist and materialistic". Catholics were initially told by their Bishops not to join the Nazi Party. Theologically, strong criticism was made of "positive Christianity" in its tendency to distance itself from ideas of the centrality of sin and the restraints on behaviour that the theology of sin and its avoidance could in theory place. In the end, however, the Catholic Church also caved in, more afraid of Communism than of Nazism, with the signing of a Concordat with Germany in 1933. Under Pope Pius XII, the silence of the Church on the fate of Jews remains deeply problematic to this day. During the War, Catholic bishops supported the war effort - even if a tense relationship existed between the Nazi State and the Catholic Church during the Nazi period. While Protestants were happy to shake Hitler's hand "warmly", Catholics did so "with their fingertips".

Universities even more than Churches embraced the Nazis. Drawn from the conservative upper tiers of German societies, this was perhaps "natural" for the professors and students. German student organisations were dominated by Nazis even before 1933. German historians were as early as the 20s leading a drive for expansion to the East. After 1933, German universities (the author uses Gottingen as his main case study), rapidly came under the control of Nazis with Jewish and politically "unreliable" teachers driven out - with the complicity of the Faculty. The period was characterised by the domination of student and professorial life by Nazi organisations. Professorial appointments could be determined by the ideological reliability of the candidate rather than academic qualifications - despite the long tradition of academic freedom and rigour in the process of academic appointments in Germany. Students and Faculty participated enthusiastically in book burnings. Syllabuses were rewritten. For example, Spinoza on account of his Jewish origins, was removed from the Philosophy syllabus and new areas of study, such as Volkskunde (to show the greatness of the German people) and racial science (to show their biological superiority) took root. Legal historians sought to place German law within the context of its Teutonic origins, downplaying the historical importance of Mesopotamian law codes and Roman law. Einstein exited the physics syllabus.

Universities in the end provided not only the technical skills for industrial scale killing but also the ideological mindset to make it possible. Resistance in the Universities to the Nazis was almost non-existent unlike in the case of the limited resistance of the Churches. Many of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando groups were led by highly educated men and the Holocaust could not have been possible without the skills of the young educated Germans who ran the systems required for it to happen. There was "no other genocide in which the killing process employed architects, chemists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and a vast bureaucracy, both civilian and military".

Following the War, the Allies in the author's view, correctly assessed the deep roots of Nazism within German society and attempted to embark on a wide de-Nazification process. This was deeply resented by most Germans who instead sought to deny their recent past. One Church leader complained that Allied films of the death camps were even being shown in "Black Villages" in Africa bringing shame to Germany. Churches handed out certificates of "cleanliness" to parishioners with a Nazi past, actively sabotaging the process of de-Nazification. There was little or no institutional willingness to face up to the Nazi period, for example for Christians through the well established theological framework for confession and repentance of sin.

It was only in the 80s that scholars in Germany began to dig deeper into the Nazi past and accept that the roots of the Nazi State lay deep within German society rather than being an imposition by the leadership. This now appears accepted as the dominant paradigm and the author's work sits within that paradigm. He develops the argument further to place Churches and Universities in a central position in bringing about the Nazi state and the Holocaust.

Ericksen notes that the clergymen and professors who were most enthusiastic in their support of Hitler were marked by a particularly intense nationalism which may have compromised the values that they may have otherwise derived from the ethos of their religion and universities. Churches after all were supposed to cultivate spiritual and ethical insight and universities intellectual acuity, both of which failed badly in their supposed roles.

The author makes the oft repeated observation that the Nazi state and Holocaust was perpetuated by a "nation and culture most deeply rooted in the modern west and thus much like the United States and other Western nations today". In this regard, he does not accept the view of German "otherness", sometimes articulated in terms of the view that Germany displayed a particularly virulent form of anti-Semitism. Good historians in the author's view see the Holocaust as not outside history but within it. The Nazis grew out of a particular historical context. That makes the Holocaust a "human problem, not a German problem". He ends on a sober note that though we have a "right to find fault with those who succumbed to Hitler's charms and followed his lead .... pointing fingers should leave us concerned about where our [own] steps might go astray".

The conclusion from current trends in scholarship may be that German society as a whole rather than a narrow group of leaders should in the end carry most of the responsibility for what happened. However, Ericksen's focus on Church leaders and universities might also raise an additional question, namely the specific role of elite groups in society and the results of kind of leadership they give. In his study of the origins of persecution of Jews, heretics and others in Europe during the Middle Ages, RI Moore finds those origins not in general mentalites of society as a whole but in the specific direction given to society by intellectual elites (RI Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society). Moore argues that the origins of persecuting behaviour in Europe lie in this period (which also saw the birth of the European university) with a continuous history since that time - culminating in the Holocaust. Ericksen's study too stands as a warning of the importance of ethical and intellectual rigour that is required for leaders who take upon themselves the role of shaping the soul and the mind of any society - and of the far reaching effects of that leadership in determining how society thinks - and consequently what it does.


Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India
Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India
by Aseem Shrivastava
Edition: Hardcover
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multiple crises of modernisation and globalisation, January 19, 2013
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"Churning the Earth" describes the underbelly of the modernisation and globalisation of India. Standing at odds with the usual triumphalist narrative of India's rapid trajectory from a "developing" to a "developed" country that has undoubtedly brought significant benefits to the richest 25% of the population, the authors look at the lives of the rest. It is the study in particular of the losers from these processes, such as the tribals and landless rural population who have sat at the margins of Indian society - as well the related social strains created by a more unequal society and environmental degradation. They describe the situation as like "being on different coaches of a long, accelerating, burning train. The few air-conditioned coaches in the front are insulated from the fire that is blazing in the coaches at the back".

The authors set the historical context with the first globalisation set into motion by the worldwide spread of British capital between 1870 and 1914. The "second globalisation" sees the expatriation of US capital from 1945 onwards - founded originally non unequal power relations between the centres of capital and the recipients of capital - even if those relationships may now be changing very quickly.

India after decades of controlled capitalism working within parameters set by an activist state enters the era of neo-liberal globalisation in 1991 with reforms that bring increasing deregulation of the economy. This process in the authors' view has created something like a "puppy" fed on a special diet so that "one of his legs has grown astonishingly fast, while the other three get stunted". Some sectors grow at stellar rates and some people make fortunes while the rest languish and in some respects even go backwards.

These changes include robust growth of a manufacturing sector capable of producing goods that compete on the world market but with no growth in employment as result of the increasing application of capital intensive technology in manufacturing and services. India in 2012 has an industrial output that is three times larger than that in 1990 with the same number of jobs (a phenomenon also found in the West - and in China where employment in manufacturing has been falling over that last 15 years despite expanding output). These changes are accompanied by the growth of a huge informal labour market - where people work without an assured income or benefits - and in the West too, there is an increasing casualistion of the labour force.

The stagnation of agriculture is particularly problematic where more than half of India's labour force is employed. Investment in rural India has been falling - with the result of stagnating or declining yields and ecological degradation as a result of intensive industrial scale farming. Water stress is also acute with most of the country's agriculture still dependant of rain. Part of the problem arises from credit facilities for farmers being curtailed, despite a promising start in bringing banking to rural India under Mrs Gandhi in the 1970s. MS Swaminathan, the "father" of the "green revolution" that introduced much of the original technology whose problems are only now becoming understood, speaks of the "acute economic and ecological distress at hand" and speaks of the "disaster at hand", noting that the "future belongs to nations with grains and not guns".

There are also large numbers of underfed children in rural India (though the proportion of stunted children has been falling). The authors note that industrialised Gujarat, one of the "show cases" of post-reform India does far worse than other parts of India on the global hunger index. Poor overall health outcomes in rural India (worse than China, Malaysia or Sri Lanka that spend a smaller proportion of GDP on health) exist side by side with world class medical facilities in cities and a burgeoning health tourism sector catering for Western patients.

Land seizures in India for expanding mining and industry are also widespread as in China, despite the democratic system of government in India that in theory ought to allow landowners to exercise their rights to hold their land. The authors describe what is happening as an accelerated Indian version of the Enclosure movement in England when over a couple of centuries powerful interests seized lands that were part of the commons for centuries - accompanied by numerous insurrections - similar to the violent resistance in parts of India to mining.

Rural suicide is also endemic among farmers usually as a result of debt and the inability to maintain a livelihood - a flashpoint in the crisis in agriculture (a problem that is also found in the USA, UK and Australia but brushed under the carpet). The growth of large agribusinesses (domestic and foreign) at the expense of smaller farmers is part of the problem, reducing the opportunities and market access that smaller farmers once had.

The authors are sceptical that the growth that benefits the top quartile can ever "trickle down" to the rest. He refers to JK Galbraith's observation that "faith in trickle down is a bit like feeding race horses superior oats so that starving sparrows can forage in their dung". They consider that under liberalisation the opposite outcomes occur marshalling empirical data to show this, including declining availability of food grains per capita, lowering yields from agriculture as industrial production techniques and the salination of and lowering of water tables wear out the productive capability of the land. This India which is overwhelmingly rural has "virtually disappeared from the radar screens of the powerful administrators". Gujarat's government claims there are "no villages at all" in the State - there are 18,000. City dwellers are "mostly ashamed of rural India".

It might be easy to dismiss the work as just a Jeremiad - except that the hard data marshalled by the authors is compelling. The authors also do go on to address solutions based on sustainable and fair practices. They discuss ways of more sustainability farming land producing less damage to the land and the commons and resisting solutions based on technology alone with consideration of social impacts. They set out a number of illustrative examples of grass roots based projects to provide better incomes, harvesting and use of water at local levels, local organisations directed at education where the State has failed to deliver, government backed bio-diversity projects and community led land re-generation projects.

The authors in emphasising local and community based solutions (which are undoubtedly very valuable, especially the strengthening of social solidarity that projects like this produce) do not underestimate the role that a state that re-directs itself under pressure from the citizenry could perform, in for example legislating more protection for vulnerable people - including protecting land rights - and enforcing those protections. The authors perhaps imply the need for a more interventionist state (in reminding us of the constructive role the state played in earlier times in bringing banking to farmers) to regulate the chaos and destruction that a minimally regulated neo-liberal dispensation has unleashed. Perhaps, one senses that throughout the world, at least since 2008, states are more prepared to take on and contain the destructive forces of unregulated neo-liberalism that have catalysed the multiple crises that we face. The author concludes on an optimstic note in hoping the citizenry can push through the changes that are needed - in India and elsewhere. One hopes so.


The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250
The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250
by R. I. Moore
Edition: Paperback
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Origins of Persecution, January 13, 2013
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This is landmark study of how Western Europe became a "persecuting society" - when after centuries of relative tolerance, European societies began to turn on minorities. Moore studies this change primarily having regard to the position of heretics, Jews and lepers, when at about the same time, namely during the eleventh century, all became targets of persecution - and persecution of minorities thought to be threatening has been a theme of European history until the mid-twentieth century.

The period sees the beginnings of persecution of religious dissidents identified as heretics - and for the first time since the fifth and sixth centuries ACE, major efforts were made to attack those seen as heretics. Dissidents put down strong roots in parts of Europe notably Languedoc and Northern Italy and could gain rapid popularity by preaching against the wealth and excess of clerical elites. They were met with violent opposition to end their influence.

At about the same time, Jewish people also became a target of persecution after centuries of relatively cordial relations with Christians when they had become well integrated into society. Increasingly subject to restrictions on what work they could do and where they could live and the clothes they could wear, Jewish people were confined to occupations such as money lending - while Christians reduced their role in that sector of economic life. Used by the rulers to manage financial affairs and collect taxes, they became a target for exploitation by lords and kings (who could randomly seize their assets), massacre and expulsion.

Lepers also become stigmatised and isolated in leper colonies - with some evidence of an increase in the prevalence of Hansen's disease during the High Middle Ages and a subsequent decline in infections when populations acquired greater resistance to the disease.

Other groups subject to increasing persecutions included prostitutes and gay men.

Moore sets out to answer the question as to why persecution of these different groups establishes itself in European society about the same time. Moore challenges the previously accepted paradigm of heresy studies that heresy involved the collective response of society to a threat to the accepted order. Deliberate socially sanctioned violence began to be directed during the era not by society at large and popular action but through established governmental, judicial and social institutions against the targeted groups. In other words, this was not a matter of general popular prejudice but violence and persecution directed by the leaders of society. Moore finds little evidence of popular roots to these changes (although other scholars challenge the notion that anti-semitism engaged only some classes - and hold all classes partook in the phenomenon) The case studies Moore presents supports the view that "heretics and Jews owed persecution in the first place not to the hatred of the people, but to the decisions of princes and prelates. In neither case have we found grounds to justify a description of the persecutors merely as agents of society at large, at least if our conception of society is one which includes the great majority of its members". While poorer people may have used opportunities that arose during disturbances to loot the property of a target group, this did not necessarily mean that they were motivated by a visceral hatred of the group. A" persecuting society" came into being to give effect to the interests of the leaders of society, both lay and clerical, and has remained in place into modern times.

As to why these changes occurred during the eleventh century and not before, Moore turns to the broader social changes at the time. Around 1100, the economy was becoming increasingly monetised with rising prosperity. Groups outside the traditional power structure such as merchants could become very rich and powerful based on their wealth - and sometimes the towns in which they lived could become strongholds of heresy. Jews too forced into money lending found that they too could benefit from these changes. Money could fall into the hands of "men of no family or background". Money in the "wrong" hands could produce social dislocation through challenges to and sometimes the outright dissolution of traditional feudal bonds that tied the common people to lords and prelates who react ferociously to hold onto control and leadership of society.

The construction of heretical dissent was also less straightforward than simply identifying a person holding the illicit dogma in question and "correcting" that person. Clerics had to identify heretici within known categories of "comprehensive and sinister threats to the faith". Of one interrogation, the cleric in charge said that "they gave most Christian answers ... But since people like these always deny charges against them, and at the same time try to seduce the hearts of the foolish in secret, they were assigned to judgment ...". The Clericus also feared the "illiteratus, idiota, rusticus", ie common people who were commonly the accused in heresy trials - and tried to pigeon hole them into known categories of heresy, dating back sometimes to Augustine in the fifth century - even if perhaps the rustic accused had no theological understanding of the intellectual constructs assigned to him or her. This "served to stimulate and assist the development of claims and techniques of government and church and state, as well as the cohesiveness and confidence of those who operated it. It was the dark underside of the revival of the twelfth century".

Accusations of witchcraft, sorcery and sex with another man became increasingly used in the climate of rising persecution to attack political rivals.

Jews before the era could and did hold prominent positions in Courts. El Cid employed a Jewish Treasurer. Count Raymond VI of Toulouse employed Jewish officials and this was one of the accusations against him used to launch the Albigensian Crusade against him. The Papal Court itself used Jewish advisors and well into the twelfth century, the Pope used them to run his household. It appears that Jewish emphasis on eduction produced highly skilled men (and women) - whereas the Christians lagged. Christian and Jewish cultures were also well integrated and a French bishop noted that "Jews won more converts than Christians because the rabbis preached so much better than Catholic priests". The Jewish community "offered a real alternative, and therefore a real challenge". By the end of the era, few Jews were found in government employment - driven out of office by Christian rivals.

Moore specifically addresses the specific question of the role of the Church in these developments. He concludes that the growth of secular power, and the pursuit of secular interests, constituted the essential context of the developments in question. He refers to specific examples of the Church intervening to protect persecuted groups such as the well known mission of St Bernard of Clairvaux to Germany, to prevent a massacre of Jewish people. It could be noted that the modern period when the influence of the Church began to decline did not see any reduction in the persecution of Jews, gay people and other minorities and in some respects, their position worsened, culminating in the Shoah during the Twentieth century. While Jewish people lived in their own quarters during the Middle Ages, the ghetto is largely thought to be something that became well established during the Renaissance. Michel Foucalt's classic Madness and Civilisation studies the worsening position of the "Mad" as modernity set in. The criminalisation of homosexual acts also dates to the ninetheenth century, arguably a product of the Enlightenment project of classification and setting the bounds of what lay within "nature" and what lay outside it. However, the Church did not stand outside the antecedent developments of the High Middle Ages and in the author's judgment, played a role, albeit a secondary one, in the creation of a "persecuting society". The role of the literati however in bringing about these changes was crucial and could often come down to self interested protection of their interests as holders of "true" knowledge on which their status depended, against holders of rival knowledge, namely Jews and heretics. In this respect, the role of the literati in these changes is a salutary example of the dangers in assuming that intellectuals in any society will always provide leadership that is enlightened and humane. While leadership of this kind could at times come from clerics such as St Bernard of Clarivaux, the literati as a whole took a leading role in persection of target groups. The role of universities and of intellectuals in Nazi Germany in this regard may be an apt comparison.

When first published in 1987, Moore's work was well received and now comes to represent a dominant paradigm - with his concept of a "persecuting society" widely accepted.

The study raises wider questions of how relevant his analysis is beyond Western Europe. Moore believes that most complex traditional societies employed persecution of people thought to be threats - even if Europe may have practiced persecution more severely than other societies, for example compared with the milder version found in Byzantium. He makes the observation that persecution of heretics was enjoined on imperial authorities as a duty in China. A persecuting state perhaps ushered in the ascendancy of Neo-Confucianism about the same time and the gradual erosion of the previously prominent place of Buddhism and Taoism amongst elites. Indeed, developed concepts of Orthodoxy and heresy are found in imperial China (Shek, H. R. (2004), Heterodoxy in Late Imperial China). In Islam as well, Moore notes the discriminatory treatment accorded to Christians and Jews and the episodes of persecution that occurred from time to time. However, he notes that within Islam itself a wide range of observances were tolerated. He does not address the later period when greater conformity was required. The end of the medieval period and the early modern era sees the dominance of state supported Orthodox Sunni Islam throughout most of the Muslim world and Shia Islam in Iran and greater pressure on other forms of Islam.

India (which Moore does not discuss) proves a more difficult subject - traditionally viewed as more open and tolerant than other major societies in the Eurasian area. Yet, one can observe over the first millennium a transformation of India from a place where a vibrant Buddhist tradition existed alongside at least six schools of Hindu thought to a society where all of these traditions had been superseded by a dominant Vedanta Hinduism. Even as early as Maurya times, Indian rulers distinguished between the Orthodox (brahmanas) and the heterodox (sramanas) with recorded episodes of persecution of Buddhism and Jainism along the way.

Through Eurasia, Medieval and Early Modern states make increasing efforts to achieve cultural and relgious homogenisation, arguably culminating in nineteenth and twentieth century nation building projects. The extent to which persecution in the sense studied by Moore drives these processes, remains an area that requires further exploration including areas of difference and similarity between the various regions of Eurasia. Moore considers that persecution in other societies though at times savage was generally episodic in contrast to more deeply entrenched and uniquely European set of mentalites that have continued through centuries. To come to a view on whether other Eurasian societies were that markedly different to Western Europe will perhaps require more intensive study of how Islamic, Chinese and Indian societies dealt with dissent and difference. There is perhaps evidence of long standing prejudice in all these societies towards various target groups - although the extent to which that prejudice led to sustained action against targeted groups is not well studied. This may be a task for the next generation of scholars.

Indeed, if homogenisation is believed by States and their leaders to be necessity to underpin their rule, the question also arises whether persecution is necessary to achieve that outcome. Comparative study of the major societies of Eurasia may supply a tentative answer. And if the homogenising ideology is based around civic values (such as those that underpin the US, India, Indonesia and the EU) rather than ideologies based on religion and ethnicity, achieving the desired end by means other than persecution may be easier - perhaps.


Animated Soviet Propaganda: From the October Revolution to Perestroika (4 DVD Set)
Animated Soviet Propaganda: From the October Revolution to Perestroika (4 DVD Set)
DVD ~ Animated
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating glimpse into a different world, January 4, 2013
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This is fascinating collection of animated short films from the former USSR. Broadly describable as propaganda, the films span three periods. The first is from 1917 to 1941 representing attempts to mobilise people to build the new socialist society. The second period spans the war and its aftermath - and the films are aimed at boosting morale and encouraging people to fight the German invaders. The third period covers the post-War era until 1989 when the object was to convince Soviet citizens of the superiority of their system over that of the West - and of the threat they faced from USA and its allies.

The films are reproduced on four discs. The first titled "American Imperialists" tries to show the malevolence of the capitalist enemy. "Mr Twister" is a tale of an American industrialist who takes a vacation with his family in the USSR. He refuses to stay in the hotel he has booked because on arrival he realises that there are non-White guests with who he must share the hotel. His Soviet hosts however in the end compel him to accept the company of the guests after a series of pranks and misadventures they engineer and subject the Americans to. The American bigots, in the end, are shown a better alternative in "socialist humanism". Highlighting racial prejudice of the enemy was a common theme of Soviet propaganda - in contrast to the supposed welcome offered by the USSR to all. It is perhaps ironic that the Americans in the end elected a black President (twice) and it is Russia that has acquired a reputation for unfriendliness to dark skinned foreigners.

However, propaganda in the end to work must combine some fact with message - to try to sell the ideology being promoted. The "Shooting Range" addresses the entrenched unemployment that has dogged the US since the 70s, where the only job a young man in New York can find, is as a live target at a shooting range. Although bitter hyperbole, the film deals with a problem that was and is real enough. "Ave Maria" is a poignant series of images dealing with atrocities of the Vietnam War to the music of Schubert's "Ave Maria". "The Millionaire" is the story of a dog which inherits its owner's fortune and ends up in the image of a brutal capitalist whom everyone kow tows to and the dog gets himself elected to the Senate on the back of public acclaim. Ridicule of the enemy was also a theme of the propaganda.

The second disc titled "Fascist Barbarians" and is a series of cartoons showing the German invaders in a true enough light - and the ultimate triumph of the Red Army. The final films deals with the post-War era and a fear of a revived Germany attacking the USSR again - with Western backing, an underlying fear of the Russians during the 50s. Many of the films are moving - showing the true enough heroism of the Russians in defeating the enemy, such as the Young Pioneers who take on German tanks.

The third disc "Capitalist Sharks" aims to convince Russians of the badness of capitalism. A 1920s cartoon is set on Mars where oppressed and badly treated workers are rescued from their situation by Space-Bolsheviks who arrive in a spaceship from the USSR and lead a revolution. The cartoon reflects an early engagement by film makers in the USSR with the sci-fi genre. "The Shareholder" describes the life of worker in a capitalist country who is issued a share in the enterprise he works for and fooled into believing that he really is a stakeholder. In the end, he is left in destitution as the real owners, namely finance capital, automates his job and enriches itself, leaving the employees with nothing - a sharp reminder from an earlier era of very contemporary problems.

The last disc extols the virtues of Communism including a film promoting electrification and collectivisation of agriculture from the 20s and 30s. An animation from the 70' inspired by the poetry of Mayakovsky, showcases the industrial achievements of the USSR.

The artistic merit and technical quality of the films is excellent - even if as propaganda, some of the films in light of later knowledge of some of the terrible costs of the Soviet experiment appear less than convincing. The output of the 20s in particular is outstanding - a time of great artistic freedom in the USSR when artists experimented widely in styles and techniques before the Stalin era. Later styles reflect Western influence, for example the Disney like cartoons of the 50s - albeit in the service of Zhdanov rather that Hollywood. The cartoons from the 70s have a touch of Woodstock and psychedelia.In some cases, the cartoons reflect Russian styles including folk art.

Interestingly, these cartoons were for domestic consumption and not known outside the USSR - at least until after the end of the USSR. Perhaps for good reason. Viewers in Western countries may have been less convinced by the depictions of their own societies than people in the USSR without knowledge of the outside world, even though some aspects of the critique of capitalism are uncomfortably close to the bone - and resonate today against the backdrop of the economic crisis that set in after 2008.


Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD
by Peter Robert Lamont Brown
Edition: Hardcover
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Problem of Wealth, January 4, 2013
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This is a searching and authoritative study of how early Christianity dealt with the problem of wealth. The scriptural position taken literally was uncompromising. It was harder for a rich person to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle (Matthew 19:24). The rich were enjoined to given their wealth away and live a life of poverty. Brown in his work explores how Christian thinkers dealt with these teachings in a situation when many rich people began joining the Church, especially towards the end of the fourth century ACE when the religion had established itself as the dominant faith supported by the Imperial State.

The narrative begins with the socio-economic context of the Fourth Century ACE. The century rather than being a period of decline was one of innovation and renewal when the Roman economy was newly monetised. The gold solidus introduced under Constantine proved to be a remarkably stable and long lasting currency which facilitated robust economic activity and the accumulation in specie of large fortunes. Although the basis of wealth remained land, the rich were able to convert agricultural wealth into gold. The top decile of Roman society comprising a small number of super rich and larger numbers of moderately wealthy were the beneficiaries of these favourable conditions and formed the imperial elite comprising both Italians and wealthy provincials, many of whom were "new men" who depended on and rose to social prominence and wealth as a result of imperial service and honours. Power for them was readily converted into wealth.

It was in this context that the Christian Church of the Fourth century found itself. At the time of the conversion of Constantine, the Church's social base lay amongst town folk from the middle levels of society. They were not the poorest but reasonably well off middling people, often skilled craftsmen, teachers and other urban service providers of modest to comfortable means. By contrast, the aristocracy in general remained pagan. It was after about the 370s once the religion had established itself as the religion favoured by the State that the rich began joining the Church and the religion began to assume the character of a majority religion. These changes were encouraged also by the "gentle violence" of the Christian Imperial Court, although it officially maintained a policy of neutrality in matters of religion until the end of the Fourth Century. Against this background, rich men without any prior training or Christian background began to obtain the role of bishop, including Ambrose of Milan. These developments also accompanied a new vigour amongst the leaders of the Church directed against whom they saw as their enemies, both pagans and non-Nicene Christians, bringing to an end the era of toleration of the reigns of Constantine and his sons.

The uses and abuses of wealth engaged the attention and interest of both pagan and Christian elites. Concepts of charitable giving found expression in both traditions as obligations on the part of the wealthy to share their wealth with others. Both traditions also took a hostile position towards or at least discomfort with the idle rich. For the pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus, the sad contrast was between the supposed frugality and virtue of the past exemplified by the Republic and the excesses of his own time, attributable especially to the new money associated with the Constantine era when imperial officials were able to make huge fortunes. One form of pagan giving was the endowment of public buildings and putting on of games for the civic population. This was wealth that the Church however taught would be better directed at donations to the Church and poor relief and became an early target for Christian leaders.

For Christians, their moral compass on matters of wealth and its uses came from the passages of the Old and New Testaments requiring the rich and powerful to do justice to the poor (eg in the book of Isaiah) and specific injunctions of Jesus for the rich to give what they had to the poor in return for a reward in the afterlife. This view of giving took the form of a commercial transaction which may appear odd and distasteful to a modern sensibility. The Christian view of the proper uses of wealth in the end prevailed in favour of pagan concepts of public endowment and largesse, with the Church itself receiving gifts from rich donors which it in turn was supposed to apply for the benefit of the poor.

The narrative at this point turns to the lives of five prominent men of the era. The first is Symmachus, the pagan magnate who witnesses the decline of the old religion and an increasing numbers of aristocrats becoming Christians. Their wealth "slipped into the hand of the church".

Ambrose of Milan who is the second subject represents the new phenomenon of a Christian Bishop for the first time entering the circles of power to influence the policies of the Imperial Court. He also represents a new confident type of Churchman who ushers in the ascendancy of Nicene Christianity over its rivals, both Christian and Non-Christian. This new power is underpinned in part by the ability to bring the crowd onto the street to get one's way and even to take on the power of the Emperor (perhaps foreshadowing the conflicts between Church and State during the Middle Ages).

Ambrose importantly, argued for a sense of human solidarity, bringing the poor within the one human community rather than as outsiders receiving charity from those who saw fit to give. He said that it "is not anything of yours that you are bestowing on the poor; rather, you are giving back something of theirs. For you alone are usurping what was given in common for the use of all. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich". The view put forward by Ambrose stood in contrast to the Classical view that distinguished between citizens (who alone were entitled to the Annona or corn dole and giving by the rich) to the exclusion of non-citizens, often rural refugees surviving on the margins. This change bringing all within the community of "God's people" represents a key transformation in Late Antiquity.

The narrative then moves to consider the life of St Augustine. Augustine did not come from a wealthy background so that for him, poverty may have been something close to the bone. He did not speak forcefully like Ambrose in favour of redistributing wealth but looked to some kind of spiritual communism in which all souls were brought together based on his reading of Plotinus - in some kind of metaphysical communion. He however did give much thought to the uses of wealth and took a high minded but "middle of the road" position that in the end prevailed.

The next subject of the discussion is the late Roman nobleman Ausonius who exemplifies the life of a wealthy aristocrat through his life of consumption and otium (leisure and study) in Aquitania, a life though luxurious was based on the flimsy foundations of the Late Antiquity which would disappear in a generation when the Roman Imperial state in the West begins unravelling. Ausonius represents a Christianity that is comfortable in and with the world and with wealth, in contrast to the more high minded and austere Christianity of Augustine that followed in the next generation.

The final figure Brown looks at is Paulinus of Nola. Like Ausonius, Paulinus was a Christian from the wealthiest segment of Roman society. But unlike the case of Ausonius, for Paulinus and others of the generation that followed, wealth was a "slime" to be discarded in order to access spiritual riches. Paulinus was the first Roman aristocrat known to have abandoned his estates and wealth in order to be ordained a priest and live a religious life, to the disquiet and even shock of other members of his class. He reflects the new austere spirit of Christianity and its rejection of wealth and the good life and enjoyed by the upper classes. For the aristocracy, the abandoning of wealth was shocking because it meant turning one's back on the duty that came with wealth including obligations of public service - and to be condemned as such.

At the end of the period, the "poor" had come to assume the place of the old Roman plebs as the object of the munificence of the rich, and giving to the poor by the rich (usually done in a public and ostentatious manner) was seen as a way of getting through the "eye of the needle". Against this background, teachings developed arguing that the rich held their wealth on trust for the poor and by giving, achieved spiritual riches - "salvation economics". Pagans on the other hand would argue that wealth belonged to the human creator of the wealth and not held on trust for God or the poor.

The entry of greater numbers of wealthy people into the Church in the later fourth century also produces greater stratification within the Christian community. Damasus and Jerome both deal with the issue in different ways. Pope Damasus encourages the rich to enter the Church to provide it with greater respectability and Jerome inspired by Syrian models encourages rich Romans to take up ascetic and chaste lives, scandalising aristocratic families when women from these families do what Jerome asks. Jerome and Churchmen of his day though wedded to a notion of personal poverty, lived in the shadow of enormously expensive libraries on which their intellectual endeavours depended presumably funded by wealthy patrons and donors, recalling perhaps Gandhi's quip that keeping him in poverty, cost his friends a fortune.

The increasing flow of wealth to the Church triggered conflicts over who should get the new wealth. Pope Damasus in Rome for example objected to funds from Christians in Rome going to endowments in Palestine, believing that all donations to the Church from Roman Christians should be under his control.

Two sharply different views of the use and deployment wealth emerge out of the debates of the era. Augustine urged giving by the rich to the Church, which would then use for its own benefit, for the "Holy Poor", namely the clergy - and give to the rest of the poor as it saw fit. He also preferred steady giving over time so that the Church enjoyed an assured flow of income rather than spectacular acts of giving everything away as a one off event. A more radical giving and self-impoverishment was urged by others. These differences also reflected how the rich came to be viewed. For Pelagians, the position was "tolle divitem et pauperem non inveniens" (Get rid of the rich and you will find no poor). Augustine however responded "tolle superbiam, divitiae non nocebunt" (Get rid of pride and riches will not harm).

However, it was the view of Augustine which prevailed. Following the trauma of the Gothic invasions of the early Fifth century and the dislocation and insecurity of life in the period, those "whose wealth had survived the shocks of this new crisis were unlikely to feel guilty about what little was left to them". With the collapse of the Roman state in the West during the fifth century, it is the Church, supported by the increasing wealth in its hands, that steps in and assumes many of the functions of State at the regional level, anticipating the Medieval Church. Also settled by this time were concepts of charitable giving to and through the Church (as opposed to more uncompromising Pelagian concepts of abandoning wealth and pagan concepts of civic endowment) that survive into and beyond the Middle Ages.

Brown's study of how Roman elites and intellectuals after the coming of Christianity addressed the question of wealth and gave effect to the teachings of the scriptures on the ownership and uses of wealth, does not however deal with how the rest of the population dealt with these questions. This indeed may be what Brown calls one of the vast areas of silence that the surviving texts do not speak to - and can only be guessed at. There is evidence of social banditry during the era - and indeed in pretty much every pre-modern society - including the Robin Hood like Christian bandits of Augustine's own time, the Circumcellions. How these groups thought about these issues can only be speculated on. Did they reject the elite concept of limited redistribution of wealth through individual donations by rich givers in favour of involuntary redistribution through banditry of what Ambrose said belonged to everyone? Did they not think about the theology very much at all and simply did what they thought they had to do to survive? In this regard, the better documented medieval period shows some insight into the groups such as the Dolcinites who did provide a theology to support their forced expropriation of the rich - and appealed directly to scripture to support their actions.

However, it appears that neither the rich voluntary givers of Late Antiquity studied by Brown (and those of the Middle Ages) nor the poor who forcibly took wealth from the rich operated beyond the level of individual action or action by small groups in their local areas. The theology of Ambrose in other words did not operate as a generalised political programme driven by the State for the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the rest of the population (even if the non-conformist Pelagius and his followers may have implied such a proposition). Political programmes of this kind were generally not found in any pre-modern society (with some arguable exceptions of "State Socialism" such as the "Equal Field System" (juntian zhidu) of the Tang Dynasty in China). However, by Early Modern times in Europe, the relevant passages of scripture could and did inspire such political action pushed through by powerful states. Cromwell in dispossessing cavaliers could raise his voice in prayer to ask "Strengthen us, O God .... that many be made not poor to make a few rich" (although sadly, he did not see fit to apply the prayer in Ireland). It is hard to see that Ambrose could have conceived the passages of scripture he relied on to support his teachings on wealth working in this way to dispossess violently the rich. The rise of mass political programmes in the nineteenth century calling for the redistribution of wealth took these issues to a more intense level - with theological support for socialist programmes based on the same basal arguments known to Ambrose and his contemporaries. Karl Marx was concerned enough with these trends in theology that he specifically attacked what he called "clerical socialism" in the Communist Manifesto, anxious to stamp socialism with a resolutely secular character.

The scriptural debates concerning wealth studied by Brown resonate to this day, as countries such as the United States and France debate how the upward sliding scale of taxation should or should not be used to redistribute wealth from the "1%" to the "99%". Were they to hear the theology of Sister Simone Campbell and the "Nuns on the Bus" on the justice of redistributing wealth, Ambrose and Augustine may well recognise the arguments and the difficulties in giving effect to the same uncompromising passages of scripture - even if they might find it surprising that the State had the power and the means to do so on a scale that would have been unimaginable in his day when the best they could hope for it their day would have been the voluntary practice of "salvation economics" by a few rich people. Brown's work is a valuable and thought provoking study of how an ancient society dealt with an issue that still confront societies of the 21st century, with theologians attempting to give life and meaning to the same scriptural passages in a very different setting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rome's most influential legacy?, December 8, 2012
This is an survey of the development of Roman law from its origins in the eight century BCE to its final codified form during the sixth century ACE. The author sets out a description of Roman law as it evolved against the context of the political and social history of Rome. He covers both an outline of the key elements of Roman law as well as the administrative and procedural aspects such as the system of law making and courts. The narrative shows the evolution of the law in Rome from a body of customs governing the lives of the early tribes of Latium to is final classical form in its codification under Justinian.

The author's narrative covers three broad periods, the first being the period of the Monarchy until the expulsion from Rome of its last Etruscan king in 510BCE. The second is the Republican era and finally, the Empire commencing during the reign of Augustus and concluding during the age of Justinian. During the period under study, Roman law evolves from a system of tribal law that would to a modern sensibility appear alien and unfamilar (such as the hurling of traitors over the Tarpeian rock and practices of human sacrifice) to the final codified system of the 6th century ACE that in its key elements is clearly recognisable to us and forms the foundation of the law in much of the World.

The earliest codification of Roman law occurs with the publication of the Twelve Tablets following a period of conflict between Patricians and Plebeians. The Plebeians won the right to have the laws made known to them - resulting in their publication in the Twelve Tablets. One may today be struck by the oddness of not being told what the law is - and being penalised for breaching laws one does not know about. However, this was the position in which the Plebeians had found themselves. I recall a lawyer from the Philippines describing the practice of the law there during the Martial Law era when he has told of breach of a decree by a client of his. When asked what the law breached was, he was told that the decree was secret and could not be publicised.

Republican law dealt with matters of personal law such as marriage and inheritance as well of criminal and civil law. Many of the laws in the early stages were known as the "mores maiorum" or customs of the ancestors which over time solidified into a body of written law. During the early period, there was also no clear distinction between civil and religious law.

The laws also covered matters of the constitution of the polity. Early Roman law makers surveyed the systems of governance in other parts of the Mediterranean such as Athens and adopted elements of other legal systems that could be useful. The author does not refer to the likely influence of the Carthaginian constitution on Rome, importantly, the power to rule devolving on two elected magistrates, suffetes (suffetim in Punic) in Carthage and consuls in Rome. Power was shared between the Senate and House of the People with various powers exercised by magistrates including the Tribunes who representing the people could exercise powers of veto against laws.

The expansion of Rome into the Mediterranean results in the Roman Republic having to deal with other societies and their laws. Out of this interaction, Rome develops a separate body of laws applying to non-Romans (ius gentium) operating alongside the law applying to Romans (ius civile). As Roman society becomes more complex and wealthier, a system of standing courts is developed in the late Republic.

The establishment of the Principate by Augustus at the end of the 1st century BCE represents a major watershed when the Princeps (or Emperor) assumes wide ranging powers of lawmaking, although initially, Republican law making institutions were kept alive even if only in form. New bodies of law emerge made by imperial magistrates, known as the "ius honorarium", representing the increasing centralisation of law in the Emperor. Imperial statues become one of the key sources law, known as edicta.

The granting of Roman citizenship to all subjects of the Empire in 212ACE by imperial statute represents a significant milestone in the implementation of a single system of law for all and rendering less important the historic distinction between ius civile and ius gentium. Leading jurists also begin writing commentaries on the law, such as Gaius and Ulpian. Gaius importantly, divided the subject matter of law into personae (persons), res (things) and actiones (legal actions), a distinction that remains important to this day.

The re-organisation of the Roman legal system continued under Diocletian and Constantine who in response to the crisis of the Third Century, create the system known as the Dominate when imperial authority is further centralised and an increasingly bureaucratic government entrenched. The period also sees major law schools being established in Constantinople, Alexandria, Caesaria, Athens, Carthage and Augustodunum, required to turn out large numbers of government officials.

The Emperor is under the Dominate required to be accepted as "dominus et deus" ("Master and God") succeed by its Christian equivalent after Constantine when the Emperor assumed supreme power in matters temporal and ecclesiastical. The process involves imperial legislation to outlaw pagan worship (described in Charles Freeman's AD 381). Despite the increasingly repressive character of the Roman state and society, a great achievement of the period is the culmination of Roman law in its classical form, embodied the code and digest that form the basis of much modern law, arguably, the most significant part of the Roman inheritance.

The model of late Imperial governance that combined supreme secular and religious authority in the monarch remained the basis of the Byzantine Empire until its end some thousand or so years later. Indeed, the two states that saw itself as Byzantium's successor, Ottoman Turkey and Imperial Russia both operated under a similar model. The Ottoman Sultan combined the Islamic institution of Caliph (effectively defunct for many centuries) with the titles assumed as successor to the Roman throne while the ruler of Muscovy declared his state to be the "Third Rome". In a sense, therefore, the model of governance introduced by the Dominate, carries through to the early twentieth century until the end of the Ottoman and the Romanov dynasties. That model also resonates in the doctrine of the divine right of kings asserted by the kings of England and France - unsuccessfully in the end. Remarkably, the later Roman system still finds a distant echo in the British system of government which vests supreme temporal and ecclesiastical power in the monarch. Under Anglican canon law, the monarch "hath the chief power in this realm of England and other his dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain" (Article XXVII of the Thirty Nine Articles).

The apogee of Roman law during the Classical period occurs when Justinian has the law codified (following the earlier Code of Theodosius). The Digest of the Justinian Code becomes the foundational source of Roman Law and remains so to this day. The Digest comprises fifty books (titula) each divided into Chapters (leges). The work of Justinian in codifying the law formed part of a project of unification which included "unity in territory, religion and law" where the law was used as "a tool of integration". The rediscovery of Roman law in the West in the 11th century sees it becoming the basis of civil law in the West. Church law was also "imbued with the principles detailed in the principles of Roman law".

One might observe that the intellectual heritage of Rome though accessible through the original texts to a small elite and through translation and secondary sources to more people, its reach and influence in the end remain limited - perhaps it was wider before the Second World War when a Classical education reached a wide section of the elites in most Western countries. It is Roman law however that arguably the represents the most lasting legacy of Rome that affects large numbers of people through its application in countries as far apart as Indonesia and South Africa. It's indirect influence in civil law jurisdictions brings the ambit of its reach even further. The influence of Roman law on English Common law is also well understood. Intriguingly, the possible influence of Roman Law on Shariah has also been recognised (for example on the law of contract), which though based on the Quran and Hadith, may also reflect influences of Roman Law absorbed following then establishment of the Caliphate in former Roman territories in and around the Mediterranean. The direct and indirect influence of Roman law may indeed reach most of the people in the world (indeed more people than belong to the Roman Church and its derivatives) and as such may represent the most far reaching and long lasting legacy of Rome.


The Indian Ocean (Seas in History)
The Indian Ocean (Seas in History)
by M. N. Pearson
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars An enaging survey, October 19, 2012
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The historical study of a sea or ocean is perhaps one of the most challenging kinds of history to write, involving as it does having to negotiate a vast range of material and the task of pulling out of that material common themes and issues. Pioneered by Fernand Braudel's work on the Mediterranean, the genre has produced works on other seas including the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean has seen a particularly steady stream of work beginning notably with KN Chaudhuri's "Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean". Pearson's book represents an important contribution to the genre.

The Indian Ocean he notes has "a long history of contact and distant voyages done by people from its coasts" unlike the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans which became joined as a common space only after the Fifteenth Century. Study of the subject therefore benefits from a large body of evidence and materials produced over a long period of time which the historian may access.

The first chapter deals with the "deep structure" of the Ocean, based on its geography, topography and climate, including in particular the workings of the monsoon winds that carried ships and trade across the Ocean from Antiquity. The second chapter explores the distribution of peoples around the sea, and in particular looks at why port cities emerged as such to assume an important role in the history of the Ocean and its littoral states. It also looks at the lives of traders and fisherman who made their living off the sea differentiating them from the peasants who tilled the land and comprised most of the population. Access to the sea is generally thought to economically advantage people living in its ports benefiting as they do from the role of ports as magnets for produce from the inland and also from across the seas. Pearson however does not dwell in detail on this aspect of the economy of the Ocean in creating a common space.

The third chapter begins the historical narrative with the Sumerians and Vedic Indians and a review of their mythological interpretations of the Sea and well as the early sea faring and maritime commerce of the Mesopotamians and Harappans. This is followed by the arrival of Greek and Roman ships in the Arabian Sea as well as Chinese visitors during Gupta and post-Gupta times. The key process during the Late Antiquity however was the spread of Indian commerce, religious traditions and culture to the Malay World with the establishment of significant "Indianised" states in mainland and maritime South East Asia such as Funan and Sri Vijaya, The joining of the Ocean in Antiquity also brought with it influences from outside, notably Greek and Roman influence seeing the establishment of Christianity in South India and Ethiopia.

Following the establishment of Islam as the dominant political and religious force in the Middle East, Islam follows into the Ocean with the establishment of Muslim merchant communities across the entire Ocean from Arabia and East Africa to India and South East Asia to become eventually the dominant religious and cultural force across the Indian Ocean world. Indian Muslims rather than Arabs or Persians play a key role in introducing Islam into the Malay world. Powerful Muslim states are established in Iran, India and eventually South East Asia. The coming of Islam to the Ocean also sees major technical innovation in navigation, notably the introduction of the lateen sail - still seen today around the Ocean. The arrival of Zheng He's treasure fleet in the Ocean in the fifteenth century brings a new element into play. Chinese navigational advances brought to the Ocean include the compass (previously introduced). The Chinese presence however is short lived until the return of China to the Ocean in the Twenty First Century.

Europeans arrive in the Ocean in the Sixteenth Century after an absence of about fifteen centuries (since Roman times). The Portuguese (unlike their Roman predecessors) are a disruptive element who attempt forcibly to seize the commerce of the Ocean from Muslim merchants - with mixed results. Basic patterns in Oceanic trade and movement of people and goods do not change despite these events. The Portuguese are joined by the Dutch who succeed in establishing a territorial empire in Indonesia.

However, it is the arrival of the British that proves to be the harbinger of more significant change. The British, through their control of India, succeed in dominating the Ocean militarily, politically and economically and for the first time in the history of the Ocean succeed in marginalising the peoples who inhabit the Ocean. Indigenous shipping gives way to modern British (and European) shipping. Insurance, finance and the economy generally are also dominated by Europeans even if Indian bankers still manage to hold onto a reasonable share of the pie. British settlers also arrive in Australia and South Africa, introducing a new people into the Indian Ocean world. The end of colonialism however sees a rapid return to greater control of the Ocean by its peoples with European commercial, political and military power giving way to local States as well as new competitors from outside the Ocean such as China, Japan and the US (not to mention the former USSR).

Pearson's sweeping survey deals with India (or South Asia) more than any other region, which he sees as the "fulcrum" of the Ocean, containing about 70% of the population that lives in littoral states and an economy that dwarfs all others combined. He avoids concentrating on material life (unlike say Braudel) and looks to the "unity" of the Ocean through the prism of "global historians" of "migration, commerce and conquest" as well as shared cultural and religious traditions. This represents a fresh new approach into the study of seas.

The Indian Ocean is thought by some to be the emerging focal point of world history where old and new powers will compete for resources, allies and influence. Three of those powers indeed are Indian Ocean states themselves, namely India, Indonesia and Iran. Other powers with key interests in the Ocean include China, Japan, Russia and the US. Robert Kaplan's Monsoon sets out his analysis of how these dynamics may work. Andre Frank argues that the Indian Ocean always has been the focal point of world history and that its return to prominence after a period of European and North American dominance represents but a reassertion of "deep structure" in world history. If Kaplan and Frank are right, Pearson's work provides an engaging survey of the historical context for important processes now unfolding before us.


The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times
The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times
by Giovanni Arrighi
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - but where to next?, September 21, 2012
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The origins of the twentieth century and in particular the economic system under which we live are described in this work by one of the foremost economic historians of recent times. Arrighi traces those origins to the Late Middle Ages beginning with the rise of Genoese merchant capitalism. He argues that the development of capitalism over the 700 years or so he covers represents cycles of growth and accumulation with the role of hegemon passing from Genoa to the Netherlands, from the Netherlands to Britain and finally from Britain to the United States. Each hegemon has not only been larger and more powerful than its predecessor but takes the process to a qualitatively different stage.

Medieval Genoa was a small Italian city state in competition with others such as Venice but is able to tie its economy to that of Imperial Spain of the sixteenth century. Though bankers and financiers to the Spanish Hapsburgs, it had little control over the political forces on which its mercantile success depended, relying on Spanish power to make its markets and ensure the flow of new world silver in huge quantities (which Joseph Schumpeter sees as the beginnings of modern capitalism). It thus externalised the cost of protection which was both a weakness and strength. Nor was Genoa a producer (unlike Venice which responded to the challenges to its trading networks by Portugal by becoming a manufacturer). The only assets that a Genoese merchant carried sometimes were just his skill and his networks. The French looked on in amazement at the Genoese merchant who turned up with nothing more than a ledger and a bench by knowing what to do and by buying and selling, made his money.

The rise of Dutch power and its successful overthrowal of Spanish rule in the Netherlands in the end results in the replacement of Genoa with Holland as the new hegemon. During the seventeenth century, the Dutch operating off the resource base of a "nation state" rather than a city State are able to operate on a larger scale. Importantly, the Dutch unlike the Genoese depended on their own very substantial military forces on land and especially at Sea and also acquire large overseas territorial holdings in Indonesia and South Asia. The Dutch therefore could internalise protection costs.

The British eventually surpass the Dutch and during the eighteenth century assume the role of hegemon. Like the Dutch they depended on their own substantial military forces especially the Royal Navy and acquire an even larger territorial empire (in India) that towards the end of the nineteenth century proves crucial through the utilisation of its surplus capital and manpower in buttressing Britain's own position. Unlike the Dutch, the British go on to internalise production so that an important underpinning of Britain's nineteenth century wealth becomes its industrial capability.

The United States by the mid twentieth century replaces Britain as hegemon. Like Britain, the US depends on its own military forces and also internalises production. By 1950, about half the world's manufacturing belongs to the US. Unlike Britain, the US is a vast continental State that controls directly a huge resource base whereas Britain depended for the same scale on an Empire which in the end it was unable to hold. The United States also unlike any of its predecessors internalises transaction costs. That is, unlike the disparate and loose links between diverse (usually family owned) businesses found in the British model, the US pioneers large vertically integrated businesses. The result is that "the internalisation within a single organisational domain of activities and transactions previously carried out by separate business units enabled vertically integrated, multi-unit enterprises to reduce and make more calculable transaction costs".

Arrighi's narrative over the longue duree considers in some detail the operation of each system, the Genoese, the Dutch, the British and the American - as well as the transition from one hegemony to the next. Importantly, in that transition, conflict (such as the Anglo-Dutch naval wars) between the losing hegemon and the new hegemon could and did co-exist with co-operation and even the facilitation of the rise of the new hegemon by the old. When Dutch merchants saw that the Amsterdam exchange did not produce returns as good as what they could get on the London exchange, that is where they sent their capital thereby facilitating the rise of the new hegemon. Similarly, when British investors found in the nineteenth century that they could do better by investing in the US, that is where they went. After the First World War, the UK had moved from being a creditor to a debtor of the US, unable to compete with the bigger and more efficient producer. Arrighi argues (one of his main theses), that each cycle ends with an over-accumulation of capital where finance capital replaces real capital as the dominant part of the hegemon's economy. The resulting crisis forms part of the process for the transfer of hegemony. Each transition also involved the deployment of military force.

Arrighi also sees a back and forth swing between cosmopolitan capitalisms spanning the globe (Genoa and Britain) and "national" type capitalisms that depend far more on their own resources and are less prepared to open themselves to global forces (Holland and the US).

But what will happen next? Arrighi canvasses a number of future scenarios including a resurgent West combining the US and Europe which uses its military power to force the outcomes it wants (resembling sixteenth century Portugal perhaps). He also considers a peaceful rise of Asia eventually to occupy the centre. A third possibility is chaos. The first two scenarios assume Asian military weakness in the foreseeable future. This view may be thrown into question by unfolding developments such as reduced defence budgets in the US and Europe and increasing defence budgets in Asia as well as the development of a serious indigenous defence capability in China (and India).

What the future prospects are is a subject also covered in some detail by Arrighi in his later work "Adam Smith in Beijing; Lineages of the Twenty First Century". In this later work, Arrighi explores the possible transition to the next hegemony, an Asian hegemony of some kind, against the backdrop of the of dominance finance capital typical of the late part of a hegemonic cycle and a crisis of that capital, a resurgent China and a situation paralleling that at the end of the British cycle where the old hegemon finds itself severely indebted to the rising hegemon China. That ouctome resembles the second scenario described in the earlier work.

Whether China will replace the US as the new capitalist hegemon is of course one of the significant questions of our times. Like the US, the Chinese State occupies a vast continental land mass holding even larger demographic resources and as the US once did controls the world's largest manufacturing capability. It also has an ever widening military capability - although not yet sufficient to match the US. These similarities alone may on the face of things allow a compelling case to be made for a future Chinese succession. However, India too holds similar advantages (though economically smaller than China at the present time), as well as having produced long established vertically integrated mega-businesses with a global reach following the US model. Brazil and a resurgent Russia as well as Indonesia and a host of important smaller states (eg South Korea, Turkey, Iran, Thailand and Mexico) may also play a key role as centres of power in their own right. It is also easy to forget the substantial resources that Europe commands despite its current problems. We also see the beginnings of serious industrialisation in Africa. A linear progression to a new hegemony led by China therefore may face challenges, other than simply resistance by the US to this outcome.

The evolving pattern of diffused economic power rather than an overwhelming concentration of that power in China (and in the US and Britain in previous economic cycles) may suggest a fourth possible scenario - with a historical precedent - that could be added to Arrighi's three. Perhaps, a return to a pattern of connected but largely self referential economic circuits of the Later Middle Ages of the kind described by Janet Abu Lughod in her seminal work on the era (Before European Hegemony) may offer an alternative prospect for what lies ahead. If the best technologies and ways or doing things can spread across the world in the rapid and perhaps unprecedented ways in which we are now seeing, one might guess that the advantages that some parts of the world hold over others reduce rapidly producing a 21st century version of the kind of world system described by Abu Lughod. But who knows.


An Economic and Social History of Later Medieval Europe, 1000-1500
An Economic and Social History of Later Medieval Europe, 1000-1500
by Steven Epstein
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction, March 24, 2012
This may be the best introduction available to writings on the economic and social history of the Middle Ages. It not only provides an excellent overall coverage of the subject but also touches on some of the broader debates in history concerning Europe and the World.

Each chapter of the book addresses a theme but following a broad chronological framework.

The first subject of the book is a coverage of the early medieval period after the end of Roman rule in the West which saw a contraction in population, trade and urban life. The Carolingian revival in the eighth century saw a return of economic life. Importantly, the introduction of a new heavy plough allowed the cultivation of much of northern Europe opening it up for agriculture and settlement. The tenth century crisis with invasions by Norsemen, Hungarians and Arabs however sees an end to the period taking the reader into the period under study.

The author begins with a discussion of agriculture which supported the vast majority of the population through the period 1000-1500. The climate begins to warm producing greater yields and higher population growth. The period saw the expansion of farming into uncultivated lands especially in Northern and Eastern Europe, often encouraged by Kings and nobles. Serfdom though widespread was not universal with communities of free peasants that had survived from Antiquity. Though farming expanded territorially, it is not clear that there were overall improvements in living standards.

The next chapter deals with trade which never died out during the early middle ages but expands vigorously from about 1000 onwards, resulting in the establishment of a powerful merchant class and merchant controlled cities such as Venice and Genoa. Trade not only crossed Europe but also engaged merchants from Byzantium and the Muslim world (contrary to a Papal prohibition). The West's trading partners at this stage were more developed societies with a wider range of capabilities for example in manufacturing, navigation and science. One consequence of trade was to carry with it into Europe new techniques and technologies such as those used in the production of textiles and in navigation.

Merchants often survived by extracting privileges from Kings and nobles and those privileges were sometimes required to be supported by armed force. European merchants were able to secure facilities in Byzantine and Muslim ports as trading posts but none were given in return in their own lands. Epstein thinks that the Greeks and Muslims lived with this because of the high prices Western merchants were prepared to pay.

The period also sees the introductions of forms of commercial organisation such as the commenda a kind of partnership and new skills in numeracy required for commerce involving the introduction of Arabic numerals (originally from India). Epstein brings into the commentary the role of Jewish merchants who often were the link between the Christian and Muslim worlds and an important part of the commercial world.

The narrative goes onto look at cities and guilds, looking in more detail at the kinds of organisations and state support for trading and manufacturing.

This is followed by a discussion on economic and social thought. There was wealth of discussion on subjects such as usury (and how to circumvent it), the morality of fixing prices to ensure affordable goods, justice in exchange, fair wages, slavery, the family and marriage. He compares Christian thought with Muslim and Jewish though to find broadly similar issues being dealt with in comparable ways. All prohibited usury - and all found ways around the prohibition.

Epstein also explores the beginnings of a "persecution society" where certain groups began to be marginalised such as Jews, non-conforming Christians and Muslims who sometimes suffered massacre or expulsion. The period sees the beginnings of differentiation of people by skin colour and ideas of superiority of one's own taking hold. Epstein suggests that these changes may have occurred as a result of greater contact with the Muslim world and further afield with Asia producing a sense of threat and insecurity.

The period comes to a close with the famines and epidemics of the fourteenth century that may have taken away a third of Europe's population - with similar death rates in the Islamic world. That period sees violence against Jews as the supposed carriers of the epidemic despite efforts by the Church to protect them. The economic disruption of the plague included upward pressure on wages as surviving workers tried to use their better bargaining power.

Whether because or despite these calamities, the period sees significant technological innovation including the spinning wheel, treadle looms and fulling mill, all of which helped improve engineering skills. The medieval machine was one of the great innovations of the period used for example in mills. Ironwork also improved with the introduction of the blast furnace. Clocks, better ships, fire arms and printing were also introduced during the period. Italian cities pioneered patents to protect intellectual property. Much if not most of the new technology was introduced from the Islamic world and even further such as India and China. However, by the end of the period, Western Europeans were less dependant on the introduction of technology from Asia and the Middle East - and were in some areas outperforming the rest of the world.

The final theme of the study is war and social unrest which includes a wide ranging discussion of medieval warfare, Crusade, Jihad, violence against minorities such as Jews and lepers, war finance and urban and peasant revolts. Epstein notes more frequent violence after the Black Death, bringing the era to a close and the beginning of a new era when led by Portugal and Spain, Europeans expanded into the world. The coda comprises a series of biographies of fifteenth century lives through which the reader sees the period when the "medieval" transforms itself into the "early modern". That transformation however was not sudden but a process of evolution over the five centuries Epstein studies.

Epstein's work includes a survey of the writings on the subject starting with the seminal works of Henri Pirenne, concerned what he saw as a fundamental issue of the era, namely the rise of a merchant class. Pirenne importantly saw the rise of commercial capitalism during the period, taking head on the dominant view of his times originating with Marx and Weber that this was a unique feature of Western Europe in modern times. Most economic historians now see Pirenne as correct. Marc Bloch's magisterial work on feudal society is then surveyed reflecting the French Annales school and its synthesis of economic, social and cultural history (which is an approach that Epstein also follows). He then looks at the quantitative analyses of John Hicks and the work of Carlo Cippolla which argues that the middle ages were a prequel to modernity.

Epstein's book apart form setting out a compelling discussion of the subject touches on wider debates, in particular whether the rise to dominance of the West in the modern era has its origins after 1500 or before. The comparative position of Western Europe at the beginning and the end of the era as described by Epstein suggests that the later rise of the West to dominance could not have happened without the developments of the period under study. Had ships of the Carolingian era somehow managed to reach the Americas, it is doubtful that they could have sustained the project of subjugation of the peoples there and colonisation of the continent. In fact, that scenario is not entirely hypothetical given the Norsemen's failed attempt to colonisation of North America during the period. However, when Columbus managed to reach the Americas at the end of the period, Europeans were capable of such a project. Even if the later dominance of Europeans in Asia may have depended to a greater or lesser extent on access to the resources of the Americas, what the Medieval period did achieve for Europeans was a position of no longer being the laggard and being able to meet Islam and Asia on an equal footing. In the early Middle Ages, Europeans remained susceptible to attack from outside and domination of parts of the continent by Arabs, Norseman and Hungarians with the centre of gravity for Christendom lying in Byzantium. By the end of the period, despite a formidable adversary in the Ottomans, no serious outside threat to Western Europe remained and the West and not Byzantium (nor Russia) was the centre of the Christian world.

The story of Europe's economic trajectory from being less developed than its neighbours to catching up may also be of interest to students of developmental theory. While there are significant differences between the highly organised and industrialised societies of today and medieval society, there are some striking comparisons. Europe's development until 1500 appears to have involved a policy mix of borrowing technologies and techniques from more developed neighbours to the South and East, developing more secure enivroment and institutions so that trade could flourish, protecting labour to ensure a supply of workers, State action to encourage growth and innovation, outright protectionism and use of force to achieve economic ends. A contemporary observer of the development of Third World countries into First World countries would not be surprised any of this. Epstein perhaps holds up a distant mirror to our own times.


Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850
Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not: Global Economic Divergence, 1600-1850
by Prasannan Parthasarathi
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rise of the West - A New Study, March 6, 2012
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The last decade has seen a profusion of writing on the "rise of the West" - and Parthasarathi's work represents a well argued thesis that makes a valuable addition to the literature on the subject.

Andre Frank's groundbreaking "Re-orient" perhaps represented the first major work in the current slew of writings on the subject, making an argument that the coming of Western dominance was largely founded on the arrival of Europeans in the Americas and the appropriation of its resources by Western powers especially its silver to buy their way to hegemony. Frank bases his argument primarily with reference to the comparative position of China vis a vis the West before and after about 1800, with the balance tipping towards the West in the early nineteenth century. Kenneth Pomeranz finds the origins of Western (British) dominance in the proximity of coal to England's industrial complexes, allowing for an energy revolution in Britain on which it could found fast growth whereas regions of China such as the Yangzi valley which though similar in key respects to England in the eighteenth century, were too far from the coal deposits of Northern China to create a similar set of synergies. Frank and Pomeranz are identified with what is called the "Californian school" which argues broadly for a historical position of Asian centrality, interrupted briefly by a period of Western dominance, with the traditional pattern based on an Asian centre now making a come back. John Hobson's The Eastern Origins of Western Civilisation, works within the same broad framework and explores the acquisition by Europeans of various Asian technologies such as gunpowder, the compass and even the steam engine to eventually overtake Asia. These explanations for Western dominance are based firmly on material forces - as do the explanations given by Ian Morris in his work on the same macro-historical question and Bin Wong.

Older discussion on the subject emphasise ideological factors underpinning the West's dominance such as the famous Weber-Tawney thesis which looks to the rise of Protestantism as key to Western Europe's later dominance and its last iteration in David Landes writings emphasising various cultural attributes that were said to be uniquely European with its origins going back into the Middle Ages. Joel Mokyr's writings sit in the same tradition.

Parthasarathi's work broadly sits within the Californian school and puts forward an explanation for Western dominance based on the specific patterns of world history during the period he studies from about 1600 to 1800 rather than on broad ideological constructs. He makes his arguments based on data from Britain (like Pomeranz) and unlike earlier writers from the California school, compares Britain with India (rather than China). He also provides comparative perspectives from China, Japan, the Ottoman Empire and France. Parthasarathi covers a broad sweep both in temporal and geographic terms that also looks at data from Africa and the Americas.

Parthasarathi's arguments incorporate elements of the theses of other California school thinkers but adds new elements to produce an original argument that emphasises the key role of State power in the rise of the West. He sets the scene with a survey of the world from about 1600 to 1700 to conclude that the most developed parts of the world such as Britain, the Yangzi delta, Japan and parts of India such as Gujarat, Bengal, the Coromandal were more alike than different. All were underpinned by robust manufacturing, high skill levels, an interest in knowledge and technological improvement, vibrant monetised economies and complex legal and commercial institutions. India in particular dominated the global market with its cottons, which were in demand throughout the world.

The beginnings of British and subsequently European dominance lie in the eventually successful efforts by Britain to imitate and then overtake Indian cotton production and capture the lion's share of the global market. Key to this process was vigorous support from a strong interventionist state which provided British industry with tariff and other types of protections, including at times, prohibitions on Indian imports. He contrasts the policy of the Ottomans which was to ensure adequate supply of goods such as cottons to its peoples regardless of the origin of the goods - instead of making a determined effort encouraging local production as did Britain. Turkey by the end of the period of the study is in deep financial crisis and the "sick man of Europe". France also though like Britain attempts the use State power, does so less effectively and unlike Britain has limited access to the Atlantic trade.

The next key development was the exploitation of coal in Britain and the energy revolution this creates. This was largely in response to deforestation reducing the availability of wood, the traditional fuel in most parts of the world. By contrast, China also suffering similar problems did not expand in the same way coal production, its coal recourses being more distant from the centres of industry. Japan follows a different path by effectively protecting its forests. India by contrast was not subject to any of these challenges and suffered no energy crisis on account of abundant forests and had little incentive to experiment with more efficient and plentiful energy production allowed by coal.

The extensive uses of coal in Britain allows for an expansion of the iron industry which becomes a key factor underpinning the widening gap between Britain and the others. These coal-iron-energy complex by the end of the eighteenth century provides the basis for the the wide application revolutionary new technologies used in cotton production, namely the water frame, spinning jenny and the mule, eventually to make Britain the "workshop of the world". Underpinning these changes is a powerful British state that supports its merchants through protection and a policy of import substitution, the exploitation of coal and the development of new technologies. Britain's competitors did not use State power in quite the same thoroughgoing way.

In his final Chapter, the role of the State assumes key significance. Britain hugely extends its lead (over India in particular) by having acquired political dominance over the subcontinent. Following policies that encourage imports of British manufactured goods, a withdrawal of State support for Indian enterprise and the consequent withering away of the technological and economic capabilities built up over the previous centuries, the gap widens - with insufficient levels of compensating European inputs to maintain a high growth pattern.

Parthasarathi in emphasising the role of a powerful interventionist State in Britain does not exactly break new ground. Similar ground has been covered by Ha Joon Chang in his historical surveys on how countries became developed, which focus on the critical role of strong State driven economic policy (eg Kicking Away the Ladder). That was a view that was widely accepted if not conventional fifty years ago but was rapidly abandoned and then forgotten (at least in the West) after the neo-liberal ascendancy of 1980s and beyond. Parthasarathi shares with Chang views on the centrality of State action and Parthasarathi's original contribution to the current debate amoung historians is to introduce into the discussion in world history begun perhaps by Frank and Landes over a decade ago, the kinds of experiences previously written about by developmental economists .

The debate on the "rise of the West" has its current counterpart in the study of the "rise of the East". The exercise of State power once again looms large and holds a mirror to the past economic development of the West. Despite the ritual pronouncements of Asian states in favour of free trade and their membership of the WTO, the lessons of Britain's rise through the exercise of State power do not appear to be missed in China, India and other high growth economies. These economies have travelled along a path that is similar to that of Britain under the Stuarts and early Hanoverians - or for that matter the US in the nineteenth century under the influence of Alexander Hamilton -of protecting infant industries followed by a later acceptance of a free trade position once one's protected industries are well established and strong enough to to compete in the world market. Parthasarathi's sets out an intriguing account of attacks on women wearing clothes made of Indian cloth and the tearing off of their dresses by mobs in Early Modern England. This will immediately resonate with any student of the colonial era nationalist movement in India where the compliment was returned with the destruction of British cloth by nationalists. It seems that in "East" and "West", protectionist economic went beyond State policy or economic theory and could and did become an affair of the street.

Parthasarathi's study is rigorously empirical, supporting his arguments based on a detailed study of data rather than overriding theoretical constructs such as the "Protestant work ethic" or a "culture of reason". Explanations based on overriding theories such as this can be made to appear very convincing and by providing a simple explanation for a difficult subject obtain quick acceptance among a broad readership. Explanations based on empirical study can produce more complex answers - however those who have the patience to bear with arguments based on sifting through hard data may in the end be rewarded with a more satisfying and convincing explanation.

Indeed, the new forms of cultural determinism that one sees taking hold during the last couple of decades in the study of history, when tested against the actual record, are apt to mislead as much as the older types of crude economic determinism if not more so. Parthasarathi does a good job of puncturing these types culture based arguments to explain divergences in economic development based on the actual record.

Joel Mokyr in his review of Parthasarath'is book on EH-Net does not appear to produce any knock out arguments to rebut Parthasarathi's arguments even if he raises some interesting questions. He does however make the point that despite the introduction of industrial revolution technologies to India in the nineteenth century, labour productivity was lower in India with higher rates of absenteeism, implying some kind of cultural difference, referring to Gregory Clark's contraversial arguments along these lines. However, most developmental experts who find differences between the productivity of workers in poor and rich countries usually find that once basic nutrition and calorific intake is improved, these kinds of differentials reduce. It is also interesting that French government officials in the nineteenth century would express alarm and frustration at what they saw as the sloth of French peasants compared with their more industrious British peers. It is now thought that the "sloth" seen in French peasants may in fact have been the result of lower food intake and that their supposed laziness may in fact have been a perfectly rational way in which to work making the best use of their smaller calorific intake. One could suppose that something similar may have been happening with textile workers in nineteenth century India although a systematic study of comparative nutrition and health outcomes would be required to come to a conclusive view. Mira Wilkins study of the different levels of investment into British and Indian mills especially in management may also be relevant although Mokyr does not mention her work.

Interestingly, idealistic explanations for the rise of the West though in the end perhaps less convincing when tested against the actual empirical data are remarkably resilient. Troublingly, one perhaps can also detect in an embryonic form at least similar types of idealistic agreement being mounted to explain the present the rise of the East. Commonly argued is the position that Confucianism in some way gives East Asia an advantage over others with its emphasis on hard work and discipline, mirroring in an eerie way the old Protestant work ethic argument. In the case of India, one sees a complex of ideas emerging that seek to argue India's revival in present times based on supposed virtues peculiar to India (for the example it is argued that Indians do business in ways that may hold an advantage over other models). It would be unfortunate if such arguments take hold and confuse and mislead in Asia, in the same way that similar arguments once did (and to some extent still do) in the West. Parthasarathi's work hopefully will help encourage those who try to explain the "rise of the East" in terms of a supposed "Asian values" framework to look to the hard data which may tell a different tale - and it is by the grunt work of sifting through that data that a historian is in the end best able to follow Von Ranke's injunction to tell it "as it happened". Parthasarathi's work, on this measure does not disappoint.
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