Category Archives: Politics

Books Early modern history Feminism Women's history

Notes from Women and the Pamphlet Culture of Revolutionary England 1640-1660 by Marcus Nevitt

p. 36 Katherine Chidley desired “to develop a much more finely nuanced view of the reciprocal dynamics of pamphlet controversy than Edwards and other polemicists of the period: she eschews the annihilative rhetoric and rhetorical dead ends of textualized violence. Thus her own texts do not feature as ‘gloves’ thrown scornfully in the face of an implacable opponent, but betray, as will be shown, a pacifistically dialogical perception of the pamphlet form and the agency involved in early modern pamphlet exchange. Thus in entitling her response to Antapologia as A New Yeares Gift .. To Mr Thomas Edwards; That he may breake off his old sins in the old yeare, and begin the New yeare, with new fruits of Love, she binds herself not to a masculinist rhetorical system of incisive printed assertion and its counter, but to a very different series of reciprocal obligations, as inherent in gift exchange…

p. 37 “inevitably going to be perceived as disruptive and transgressive. However, the sheer violence of the responses from the likes of Woodward and Goodwin, men who were, relatively speaking, her religious allies, requires further explanation. … some women could write controversial religious literature in this period that was met (at least initially) with praise rather than opprobrium. However, the prophetic modes of writing by women like Anna Trapnel, Elizabeth Poole or Mary Cary afford them protection which is denied Chidley because of her generic choices … Chidley writes animadversion… an extremely common form of pamphlet writing which proceeds through the absorption, reconfiguration and rebutal of other printed texts and images.”

p. 41 “her inclusive manipulation of animadversion’s and humanism’s first principles (that truth must be attained through dialogue) actually has its roots in a pro-toleration position which was daringly egalitarian and sought to uphold the fundamental democratic rights of virtually all citizens and believers irrespective of wealth and social status … While Chidley was as virulently anti-Catholic as the next 17th-century puritan, she was, nonetheless, relatively unusual in her persistent assertion that: “Jews and Anabaptists may have a toleration also”.

p. 45 “Agency for Chidley, as it was indeed for Trapnel, is thus fundamentally dependent on a willingness to stress the presence of others in the creative process. Her animadversions open up the confines of the genre by downplaying the importance of the individual, combative author-hero in favour of a complex exploration of the multiple agencies required to make pamphlet dialogue and (as importantly) religious toleration work.”

p. 59 “Women’s weeping has become a symptom of, as well as an appropriate reaction to, the current crisis… 17th-century parliamentarians and republicans were not slow to notice that women formed an integral part of the royalist symbolic economy at the time of the regicide, and they were quick to accord them a passive status in their own political world. Alongside republican masculinism, many male-authored, non-royalist pamphlets discuss the nature of the trial and execution of Charles in terms whereby anti-monarchism and antifeminism appear to be almost synonymous. Thus, according to Milton, those who mourned the death of the king were not only the ‘blockish vulger’ of ‘the Common sort’, but were also predominately female. Hence he draws parallels with the Iliad’s ‘captive women’ who ‘bewailed the death of Patroclus in outward show’ but were actually grieving for their own enslaved condition.”

p. 93 “Elizabeth Alkin, or ‘Parliament Joan’ as she was frequently labelled by male contemporaries, is one woman who significantly problematizes the prevalent notion of an all-male civil war news press. … p. 1010 “in the climactic year of 1649, at about the same time as Elizabeth Poole was making her appearances before the General Council of the Army, Alkin .. became a book trade informant, searching out unlicensed or seditious presses for the authorities. In July of that year, A Perfect Diurnall, makes reference to ‘one Jone (a clamerous woman) whose husband was hang’d at Oxford for a spire, & she sometimes employed in finding out the presses of scandalous pamphlets’.

p. 105 “between 21 June 1650 and 30 September 1651 Alkin involved herself in the publication of ten issues of different newsbooks.”

p. 121 “On the Sunday morning of 17 July 1652 at a chapel in Whitehall not far from the tavern which was the scene for Anna Trapnel’s The Cry of a Stone, Oliver Cromwell’s chaplain, Peter Sterry, ascended the pulpit to begin his weekly sermon before a congregation packed with dignitaries, soldiers and statesmen. .. I saw at one end of the Chappell a great disturbance among the people … in the midst of a crowd a Woman … continually withholds the unspeakable horror, the ‘monstrousness’ of a solitary, semi-naked ‘mad’ woman in a chapel full of armed guards. The newsbooks of the following week were quick to recycle the incident … all other newsbook accounts corroborate the woman’s nudity but flesh it out with various other details . A Perfect Account therefor informed its readers not only that a woman ‘stripped herself quite out of her cloathes in Church’ but also that she ‘cried out, Resurrection I am ready for thee’ and was accordingly ‘committed to custody’. The woman’s direct speech and the authorities ‘examination and exemplary punishment’ of her are also recorded in .. The Faithful Scout, and Mercurius Britannicus confirms the woman’s words but concludes its coverage of the event with a lamentation of the fact that the woman escaped ‘without any known Mulct [punishment]” … a London-based Scottish writing master called David Brown.. outraged at the possibility that the incident might have gone unpunished, penned a scurrilous pamphlet inveighing against the actions of the woman and any who might be inclined to sympathize or support her … the only further clues that the pamphlet provides as to the woman’s identity is the single statement that she is ‘a bold woman of about 30 years old, sober in her speech.”



Books Environmental politics History

Notes from: The great leveler : violence and the history of inequality from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century

I don’t agree with the book’s conclusions, but it assembles a great deal of interesting material.

p. 37 “A collaborative study of 21 small-scale societies at different levels of development – hunter-gatherers, horticulturalists, herders and farmers – and in different parts of the world identifies two crucial determinants of inequality: ownership rights in land and livestock and the ability to transmit wealth from one generation to the next. Researchers looked at three different types of wealth: embodied (mostly body strength and reproductive success), relational (exemplified by partners in labor) and material (household goods, land and livestock). In their sample, embodied endowments were the most important wealth category in foragers and horticulturalists, and material wealth was the least important one, whereas the opposite was true of herders and farmers… Transmissibility of wealth is another crucial variable. The degree of interngenerational wealth transmission was about twice as high for farmers and herders as for the others, and the material possessions available to them were much more suitable for transmission than were the assets of foragers and horticulturalists. These systematic difference exercise a strong influence on the inequality of life chances, measured in terms of the likelihood that a child of parents in the top composite wealth decile ends up in the same decile compared to that of a child of parents of the poorest decile. … even among the foragers and horticulturalists offspring of the top decile were at least three times as likely to reproduce this standing as those of the bottom decile were to ascend to it. For farmers, however, the odds were much better (about 11 times) and they were better still for herders (about 20 times)…according to this analysis, inequality and its persistence over time has been the result of a combination of three factors: the relative importance and characteristics of different classes of assets, how suitable they are for passing on to others, and actual rates of transmission. .. transmissibility is critical: if wealth is passed on between generations, random shocks related to health, parity and returns on capital and labour that create inequality will be preserved and accumulate over time instead of allowing distributional outcomes to regress to the mean.”

p. 39 Historically, inequality was sometimes slow to take off. Catal Hoyuk, a Neolithic proto-urban settlement in southwest Anatolia… is a striking example. Its several thousand inhabitants relied on a mixture of horticultural hoe-farming and herding. Land was abundant, and there are no clear signs of governmental structures r social stratification. Residents inhabited family households where they stored grain, fruit and nuts … Intact millstones and querns are unevenly distributed across dwellings, whereas households generally enjoyed broad access to cooking features and stone tools. Intact querns are predominately found in more elaborate buildings, but we cannot tell whether these represent higher status households or whether they merely hosted cooperative tasks related to food processing. The observation that most millstones and querns had deliberately been broken long before they would have worn out may speak against the first of these interpretations. This custom may even reflect a widespread though not universal injunctions against intergenerational transmission of these valuable assets: in later Mesopotamian societies, querns featured prominently among heritable wealth. It is possible that levelling measures were actively applied go curb wealth imbalances among households.

p. 40 Yes inequality increasingly became the norm. Archaeological evidence from Mesopotamia shows strong signs of stratification long before the first states were established in the region. In the village of Tell es-Sawwan on the Tigris, north of modern Baghdad, for example, a mud wall with a ditch that contained many sling missiles, all made of clay, points to violent conflict some 7,000 years ago, conditions that were conducive to the creation of centralised leadership and hierarchy. Some of the richest burials at this site are of children, reflecting status distinction based on family wealth rather than personal achievement. .. some time between 6,000 and 4,000BC all the basic ingredients of structural inequality were already in place”

“A cemetery at Varna by the Black Sea in what is now Bulgaria has yielded more than 200 occupied graves from the 5th millennium BC. One burial stands out, a middle=aged man laid to rest with no fewer than 990 gold objects … a third of all gold objects found at this site and a quarter of their total weight… more than half of the occupied graves contained some goods, but fewer than one in ten is rich in deposits, and only a handful contain a wide range of material. The Gini coefficient for the number of goods per grave varies from 0.61 to 0.77, depending on the period, but would be much higher if we could adjust for the distribution of value.”

p. 71 once Rome projected power well beyond the Italian peninsula and increasingly tapped into the resources of the Hellenistic kingdoms of the eastern Med. The size of aristocratic fortunes grew enormously…over the course of about five generations, the private wealth ceiling had risen by a factor of 40. .. inflation had been modest, and there is no sign that average per capita output or personal wealth among ordinary citizens had grown by more than a trivial fraction of the expansion experienced by upper-class fortunes.

p. 73 Where did all the additional resources come from? Economic development grounded in market relations certainly picked up in the later stages of the Republican period. The use of slaves in cash crop production and manufacturing, as well as rich archaeological evidence for the export of wine and olive oil, points to the success of Roman capital owners. Yet this was only part of the story … our sources emphasize the paramount significance of coercion as a source of top incomes and fortunes … at a time when annual interest rates of 6 per cent were common in Rome itself, wealthy Romans imposed rates of up to 48% on provincial cities, which were in desperate need of money to satisfy the demands of their governors.”

p. 75 Imperial unification and connectivity facilitated the expansion and concentration of personal wealth. Under Nero, six men were said to have owned ‘half’ the province of Africa (centred on modern Tunisia), albeit only until he seized their properties. While clearly hyperbolic, this claim need not have been dramatically far from the truth in a region where large estates could be described as rivalling city territories in size.”

p. 77 It is possible to quantify Roman imperial inequality at least in rough outlines. At the peak of its development in the mid-second century CE, an empire of some 70 million people generated an annual GDP of close to the equivalent of 50 million tonnes of what, or approaching 20 billion sesterces. The corresponding mean per capita GDP of $800 in 1990 International Dollars appears plausible in relation to other premodern economies… about 1.5 percent of all households captured between a sixth and close to a third of the total output.”

p. 78 A conservative range of assumptions points to an overall Gini coefficient of income in the low 0.4s for the empire as a whole … not far below the maximum that was actually achievable at that level of economic development, a feature shared by many other premodern societies.p. 81 “Inasmuch as inequality could be contained within intact imperial polities, it was by menas of violent recirculation of assets within the elite.. Mamluk Egypt, in which this principle plated out in maybe its purest historically documented form… Incessant jockeying for power within this class determined individual incomes, and violent conflict frequently altered these allocations” .. the mature Ottoman empire … officeholding was to be nonhereditary and officials’ assets were concerned prebendal, in effect appurtenances of services rather than private property. When they died, gains made during office were to be deducted from their estates and absorbed by the treasure. In practice, all their possessions might be ceased for the simple reason that officeholding and wealth were deemed indistinguishable. Confiscations at the time of death were complemented by the liquidation and expropriation of current officials who had attracted the sultan’s attention.”

p. 54 premodern societies … were about as unequal as they could be. Exceptions were rare, the only reasonably well documented case is that of classical Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, where direct democracy and a culture of military mass mobilization helped contain economic inequality. If modern estimates based on scant ancient evidence can be trusted, Athenian per capita GDP in the 330s BCE was relatively high for a premodern economy – maybe four to five times minimum physiological subsitence, similar to 15th-century Holland and 16th-centyury England – and the market income Gini coefficient reached around 0.38. By premodern standards, the implied extraction rate of about 49 percent was exceptionally modest.”

p. 146 “In World War I, the democracies of the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada were prepared to ‘soak the rich’, whereas more autocratic systems such as Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia preferred to borrow or print money to sustain their war effort. The latter, however, later paid a high price through hyperinflation and revolution, shocks that likewise compressed inequality.”

p. 147 “In the United Kingdom, top income tax rates rose from 6% to 30% during World War I, and a new war profits tax levied on companies – raised to 80% by 1917 – became the single most important tax in terms of revenue. .. the country lost 14.9% of its national wealth and it lost another 18.6% in World War II.. The share of the largest `% of fortunes in all private wealth contracted from 70 to 50% – less dramatic than the concurrent collapse from 60 to 30% in France, but nonetheless significant.”

p. 353 “land reform has a poor track record in alleviating inequality. A survey of 27 reforms during the second half of the 20th century shows that in a large majority of cases (21 or 78%) land inequality either remained largely unchanged or even grew over time. Cronyism might undermine peaceful land reform. .. in the Philippines even when a more serious attempt was made after 1988, results were modest, just as they had been in India, Pakistan and Indonesia. In Iran in the 1970s, although more sharecroppers obtained some land through compulsory sales of excess landlord holdings, favouritism coupled with compensation requirements and the lack of state support coupled with compensation requirements and the lack of state support, all of which advantaged better-off peasants.”

p 356 Genuinely peaceful reform often appears to have required some form of foreign control that checked the power of local elites. It worked in Puerto Rico in the late 1940s – and even there it was an outgrowth of equalizing reforms in the United States that had been driven by the Great Depression and World War II and coincided with top-down land reform in Hapan under American occupation. Colonial rule was also instrumental in Irish land reform. In the late 1870s, the so-called ‘Land War’ agitation for fair rents and tenant protections from evictions, involved organised resistance in the form of strikes and boycotts… The British Parliament addressed these grievances in a series of acts that regulated rents and provided for loans at fixed interest for tenants who wanted to purchase land from willing landlords. In 1903, the Wyndham Act finally bought peace as the government agreed to cover, out of state revenue, a 12% premium between compensation offered by tenants and the asking prices of landlords, thereby subsidizing the privatisation of smallholdings. This allowed smallholders to take control of more than half of all Irish farmland by the time of independence in the early 1920s.” (Barraclough, 1999, “Land reform in developing countries: the role of the state and other actors.” UNRISD Discussion Paper 101

p. 365 “scholarship on the relationship between democracy and inequality has long produced contradictory results. .. democracy does have a robust effect on tax revenue as a share of GDP. This suggests that democracy’s role in shaping the net distribution of resources is complex and heterogenous … Two reasons for this stand out: equalization can be impeded if democracy is ‘captured’ by powerful constituencies, and democratization provides opportunities for economic development that may by itself increase income inequality.”

p. 405 The last generation to have lived through the Great Compression is rapidly fading. .. As with people, so with levelling. In developed countries, the massive decline in inequality that commenced in 1914 has long run its course. For about a generation, give or take a decade, income disparities have been growing in all countries for which we have reliable data… inequality began to rise in 1973 in the United Kingdom, and in 1973 or 1976 in the United States, in 1977 in Ireland, in 1978 in Canada and in 1981 in Australia.

p. 410 “formally or effectively post-communist societies have witnessed enormous increases in material inequality. This development has been particularly dramatic in China, where the market income Gini more than doubled from 0.23 in 1984 to somewhere around 0.55 in 2014 and the corresponding measure of wealth concentration rapidly rose from 0.45 in 1995 into the 0.7s by the early 2010, and likewise in Russia, where the market income Gini has hovered above 0.5 since 2008, up from 0.37 in 1991”

Books Environmental politics History Politics

Notes from Growing A Revolution: Bringing Our Soils Back to Life

p. 27 “By my reckoning, we’ve already experienced four major revolutions in agriculture, albeit at different times in different regions. The first was the initial idea of cultivation and the subsequent introduction of the plow and animal labor. This allowed sedentary villages to coalesce and grow into city-states and eventually sprawling empires. he second began … as farmers adopted soil husbandry to improve their land. Chiefly, this meant rotating crops, intercropping with legumes … and adding manure to retain or enhance soil fertility. in Europe, this helped fuel changes in land tenure that pushed peasants into cities… Agriculture’s third revolution – mechanization and industrialization – upended such practices and ushered in dependence on cheap fossil fuels and fertilizer-intensive methods. Chemical fertilizers replaced organic matter-rich soil as the foundation of fertility. Although this increased crop yields from already degraded fields, it took more money and more capital to farm… The fourth revolution saw the technological advances behind what came to be known as the Green Revolution and biotechnology breakthroughs that boosted yields and consolidated corporate control of the food system through proprietary seeds, agrochemical products, and commodity crop distribution – the foundation of conventional agriculture today…. A recent study coauthored by hundreds of scientists from around the world concluded that modern agricultural practices must change again if society is to avoid calamitous food shortages …Those at the vanguard invoke a variety of names — agroecology, conservation agriculture, regenerative agriculture and the Brown Revolution…. the common ground they share in placing soil health at the heart of their practices.”

p. 35 Myth 1: Industrialised Agrochemical Agriculture Feeds the World Today According to the UN Food and Agrculture Organization, family farms produce 80% of the world’s food and almost three-quarters (72%) or farms worldwide are smaller than one hectare.

Myth 2: Industrialized Agrochemical Agriculture Is More Efficient Most industries have economies of scale that lower production costs per unit output for larger-volume operations. But efficiency can also be viewed in terms of input use per unit of production. An authoritative 1989 National Research Council study concluded that ‘well-managed alternative farming systems nearly always use less synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilisers and antibiotics per unit of production than conventional farms.’.. Farms that grow a diversity of crops produce more food per hectare overall. “.. we burn ten calories of fuel to grow one edible calorie. Because of this, it has been said we are eating oil. But it would be more accurate to say we are eating natural gas. For industrial fertiliser production not only depends on the ready availability of cheap energy, it also consumes a lot of natural gas as feedstock… It is axiomatic that for any organism to be viable over the long run, it must get more energy from eating than it expends acquiring food. That modern societies don’t hold to this simple test of biotic viability should concern anyone with an interest in the future.”

p. 39 The GMO sidewhow “A 2016 report from the National Research Council Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops found that ‘nation-wide data on maize, cotton or soybeans in the United States do not show a significant signature of genetic engineering technology on the rate of yield increase”… overall pesticide use in the United States increased by about 7% as a result of adopting GM crops, according to a 2012 study”.

p. 46 “Roots are not simply straws. They are two-way streets through which carefully negotiated and orchestrated exchanges occur. Plants release into the soil a variety of carbon-rich molecules they make, and which can account for more than a third of their photosynthetic output. For the most part, these exudates consist of proteins and carbohydrates (sugars) that provide an attractive food source for soil microbes. In this manner, plant roots feed the fungi and bacteria that pull nutrients from the soil – from the crystalline structure of rock fragments and organic matter. .. with the help of soil-dwelling bacteria certain mycorrihizal fungi use their thread-thin root-like hyphae to seek out and scavenge particularly biologically valuable elements, like phosphorus, from rocks or decaying organic matter.”

p. 47 “rhizosphere-dwelling bacteria are most effective at promoting plant growth once a critical microbial density is reached, triggering a process known as quorum sensing. When enough individual bacteria of the right kind are present, they coordinate the release of compounds that aid in promoting plant growth. But if the population of soil microbes drops too low, they turn off the tap. … where are the most bacteria-eating protists and nematodes? Around the roots, where the bacteria are. .. after sacrophytic fungi and bacteria consume organic matter, they become enriched with nutrients. Predatory arthropods, nematodes and protozoa feast on them, then release those nutrients bac into the soil in plat-available forms. … rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and micronutrients, it makes excellent micromanure.”

p. 49 “even when standard soil chemistry tests say you need to add fertilizers, the right soil life – if present and abundant – may be able to supply what plants need. Growing evidence shows that synthetic fertilizers work like agricultural steroids, propping up short-term crop yields at the expense of long-term fertility and soil health.”

p. 57 Since colonial times, the average amount of soil carbon held in North American agricultural oils dropped from around 6% to below 3% .. by 1980 roughly a third of the carbon humanity had already added to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution came from plowing up the world’s soils, primarily in the Great Plains, Eastern Europe and China. Overapplication and overreliance on nitrogen fertilizers accelerated the loss of soil organic matter…. [which] feeds the microbial life that helps make and keep soils fertile”.

p. 81 Lal had worked on soil problems in 14 countries on four continents … his experiments all pointed to the value of ground cover and mulch for preventing destructive erosion and for keeping soils fertile… funders and aid agencies wanted breakthroughs and rapid revolutions, not gradual improvements of the soil. Commercial interests pushed to develop solutions that could be commodified: they wanted agrochemical products, not practices that anyone could adopt for free. No modern, forward-looking foundation or agency wanted to hear about mulching and growing a diversity of crops. Such simple answers did not – and still don’t – fit the technophilic narrative of progress.”

p. 83 “Globally conservation agriculture was practices on less than 3 million hectares in the early 1970s. By the early 1980s, it had more than doubled … and by 2003 it increased another twelvefold to 72 million hectares. By 2013, it had doubled again, to 157 million hecatres. And yet, despite the rapid pace of adoption, only about 11% of  global cropland is under conservation agriculture .. about 3/4 in the Americas… just a few percent of cropland in Europe, Asia and Africa.

p. 87 On the Great Plains undisturbed prairie … secret to productivity lay in a mix of warm- and cool-season grasses, legumes and members of the sunflower family.”

p. 105 “Consider the case of the western bean cutworm and corn earworm. A mother earworm feeds on pollen and lays her eggs on an ear of corn. Only one of her darling cannibalistic babies survives – the one that eats all of the others. When Pioneer, a subsidiary of DuPont, developed Bt corn that killed the corn earworm.. it created a golden opportunity for the western bean cutworm. [previously eaten by the earworms] .. the new technology to control one pest created a new, even more problematic one.”

p. 147 “Consider a direct side-by-side comparison of organic corn grown under a conventional plow-based system and his no-till system. In a field previously planted with hairy vetch, growing no-till corn took a total of just two passes of diesel-fed machinery: one to simultaneously roller-crimp the cover crop and plant the corn, and another at harvest time.. conventionally without a cover crop involved multiple lasses across the field to plow, disk, pack, plant, rotary-hoes, cultivate and finally harvest. The conventional plot produced 143 bushels per acre, the no-till 160.

p. 149 “The Rochdale Institute’s Farm Systems Trial is America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming…in addition to measuring crop yields, the standard measure of agronomic success, the study also tracked economic returns, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil health. The organic systems consistently performed better by all measures, except for yield, which was comparable after an initial several-year period of lower corn yields in the organic plots. Averaged over the full duration of the trial, including the transition years wen organic plots went ‘cold turkey’ off chemicals, there were no statistical difference between organic and conventional yields…. but there was no initial loss in yield on the plots where the rotation started with soybeans.”

p. 159 glomalin … a protein that mycorrhizal fungi make in the walls of their hyphae and exude out into the soil … hyphae need it to work properly. .. it seems to ‘weather seal’ the porous walls of fungal hyphae, which are otherwise like pipes full of holes. The glomalin acts like a polymer coating, sealing leaks where necessary. This allows hyphe to transport material over long distances in the soil across pressure changes in pockets of air and water. Glomalin also helps aggregate the soil. It’s sticky, glue-like qualities bind small particles together. And its wax-like property that seals up hyphae makes some soil pores impermeable to water, but not to air.. stablises the passages through which water moves and can be stored… the physical structure of fertile soil depends on its biology. This is what conventional agroncomists missed.”

Books Feminism Women's history

Notes from Tamta’s World: The Life and Encounters of a Medieval Noblewoman from the Middle East to Mongolia, by Antony Eastmond

p. 15 Despite its complexity, Tamta’s life can be summarised in one sentence. Of Armenian birth, she was raised at the Georgian court before being married to two Ayyubid rulers, raped and then married by the Shah of the Khwarazmians, captured by the Seljuks, transported by the Mongols, before finally returning to the city of Aklat as its ruler for the last decade of her life.”

p. 22 Even to define her family’s ethnicity is problematic. “… the Armenian-speaking historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi essentially regarded them as Armenian … his idea of what constitutes ‘Armenian’ fluctuates, as elsewhere in his history he notes the family was of Kurdish descent… the Ayyubid family of Saladin into which Tamta was to marry are similarly recorded by Arab historians as being of Kurdish descent, originating from a village near the Armenian city of Dvin … they reinvented themselves as Arabic-speaking rulers. ”

p. 26 Whatever the origins of Tamta and her family, the Mqargdzelis rose to prominence not in Armenia but Georgia. Following their father Sargis, Ivane and his elder brother Zakare found promotion at the Georgian court of Queen Tamar (r. 1184-1210_. Tamar, the only daughter of King Giorgio III, had faced considerable opposition to her elevation to the throne on her father’s death. However, after a decade of rebellion and plot she managed to establish herself as the legitimate, sole ruler. This later enabled her daughter Rusudan, to succeed to the throne after her son, Giorgio IV Lasha, died without legitimate heirs…. Zakare, the elder brother, was appointed by Queen Tamas … commander of her army, and Ivane was made … chamberlain…”

p. 73 Akhlat … is now a small provincial town on the north-west shore of Lake Van in eastern Turkey, its population of just 20,000 dispersed over a wide area … its old buildings were burned down during the Khwarazmian and Mongol sieges of the 1220s and 1230s and what was left was destroyed in two devastating earthquakes in 1246 and 1276…cold and snow are cliches in all of the medieval descriptions of the tosn … its key value lay in its location: it was the meeting place of four different worlds … to the north-east stood the Christian kingdoms of the Caucasus, Georgia and Armenia. It was from here that Ivane drew his army that was to face defeat in 1210 by the walls of Akhlat… the city’s population was largely Christian and Armenian … in the north and west was the plateau of Asian Minor. Although historically a province of the Byzantine Empire, much of the territory had come under the control of Turkish tribes in the course of the 12th century .. still contained a majority Christian population, mostly Greek speaking, but also Armenian and Syriac. To the south lay Syria and the Jazira, a confederation of Arabic city-states, divided among the Ayyubid family of Saladin. Finally to the south-east lay the Persian world of Azerbaihan and Iran. And … from the 1220s Akhlat became a frontier for yet more groups to cross and conquer, the Khwarazmians from Central Asia and then the Mongols.

p. 77 “Under its Sokmenid rulers the fabric of the city had been transformed over the previous 50 years using the income it earned from its position on the trade routes between Anatolia and Iran as well, perhaps, as the spoils it had taken from the Georgians in the 1160s. This had enabled Shahbanu, the wife of the Shah-i Armen Nasir al-Din Sokmen II, to begin an extensive building programme in the city. Like Tamta, she had come to Akhlat as a diplomatic bride to form an alliance with the neighbouring emirate of Erzurum… a campaign had begun to renew and repair all the roads leading to Akhlat; the old wooden bridges were replaced with new stone ones and a series of caravanseais was established along the roads leading to the city…

beseiging the city, Ivane was captured, p. 82 “although al-Awhad was still in command of Akhlat … it seems that he was barely in control: his army was effectively beseiged in the town’s citadel by its population Indeed even al-Awhad’s marriage to Tamta seems to have been organised without his knowledge … it balanced the needs and bargaining strengths of three different groups… although she started off simply as a pawn … she stood to be transformed by the wedding. The act of marriage provided a new and potentially powerful dimension to her identity as the figure that each party in the negotiation needed in order to placate the others. … Tamte’s ability to reduce taxation of monasteries and improve access for pilgrims to Jerusalem show she was able to capitalise on this, and convert her position to one with real power.

p. 89 the marriage of Simonis, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos (r. 1282-1328) to Stefan III Milutin, the King of Serbia …in 1299 the Byzantine Emperor was forced to agree to the marriage: Byzantine power was on the wane, and he needed a way to prevent further incursions from Serbia into his territory. Simonis’ dowry was Byzantine lands in the north-west of the empire, which were already in Milutin’s hands: presenting them as a dowry legalised the transfer of ownership and allowed the Emperor to save face… p. 90 Simonis was just five when the marriage was agreed. Milutin was in his forties. This would be his fourth marriage (possibly his fifth) and his sexual appetite was legendary.. Simonis’s age outraged Byzantine society. Andronikos had to plead forgiveness from the Patriarch of Constantinope, wringin his hands like Pilate and claiming that it was a matter beyond his control… Simonis was forced to go to live at her new husband’s court in Serbia, supposedly looked after until she reached puberty. But within three years – when Simonis was at most only eight – she was repeatedly raped by her husband, leaving her unable to have children. Over the years that followed she tried to escape and get back home on more than one occasion; but even when she succeeded … she was forcibly returned by her own brother. Adopting a nun’s habit had proved no defence; her brother simply ripped the clothing off her back and tied her to her horse for the return…. Milutin’s ability to mistreat his bride with impunity clearly symbolised the impotence of the empire”

Tamta married Al-Awhad’s brother Al-Ashraf when the former died … her influence seems to have worked throughout the Ayyubid confederacy. Tamta’s advocacy for pilgrims indicates that she also still retained contacts with the Georgian and Armenian heartlands in which she had grown up.”

p. 216 “The most impressive account of a pilgrimage made during Tamta’s time as wife of al-Ashraf comes away from Jerusalem, at the monastery of Gandzasar, located in the eastern Armenian prvince of AStsakh (now the disputed territroty of Nagorno-Karabagh in Azerbaijan). It concerns a woman named Khorishah, a senior member of the ruling family of the region and a close ally of the Mqargrdzelis.. an inscription set up on the north side of the nave in 1240 by Khorishah’s son … “my mother became a nun and went three times to Jerusalem. There, from the gate of the Holy Resurrection, she took herself to the dwelling of the nuns wearing a hair shirt and, after many years spent in … penitence, she passed into Christ, adorned with the seal of light, and her remains are preserved there.” [travelled between 1216 and her death in 1238 ” “Once in the Holy City she earned her own living my making and selling embroideries. Indeed, this was the one form of employment that was deemed honourable for (noble) women to undertake.”
p. 322 The battle of Garni “the latest invaders, the Khwarazmians, appeared in the Caucasus in 1225 at Garni. This site, in cetral Armenia, possesses the eastern-most building of the Graeco-Roman world. … a peristyle temple probably erected in the 1st century AD… still standing in the 13th century.. the shadow that Ivane drew up his forces to face the Khwarazmian army in 1225. .. Jalal al-Din captured Akhlat in April 1230 p. 327 “he entered the palace where he passed the night in the company of the daughter of Ivane”… “rape was a common tactic of war … but it was much rarer to employ it against female members of the elite … rape simultaneously humiliated the Georgians, the Armenians and the Uyyabids .. Tamta’s treatment was subsequently legalised by marriage, giving Tamta her third (and in this case bigamous) husband. The marriage only lasted four months we must assume she stayed behind in Akhlat.”

p. 340 al-AShraf … having restored Tamta to Akhlat her left the city and rode on to Sinjar and then back to Damascus. He was never to return to Akhlat. .. Tamta’s capture by the Mongols in 1236 shows that she cannot have travelled with al-AShraf … in 1232 Akhlat was firmly brough back into the Turkic world of Anatolia, after the 30 year interlufe of Ayyubid rule. .. it was possible for Tamta to shift allegiance without losing power.”

p. 347 “as the crow flies it is more than 4,800 km from Akhlat toi Kakakorum; on the ground, whether travelling on foot or on horseback, it is considerably longer. This was the journey that Tamta made twice, as she travelled to and from the capital of the Great Khan. She was probably away from Akhlat for between five and nine years.”

p. 369 “The decision of the Mongols to return Tamta to Akhlat suggests that they believed she still represented the Ayyubid government in Akhlat, even though no Ayyubid had been in control of the city for more than a decade. However, the fact that Queen Rusudan requested her return indicates that even after her years in capitivity Tamta still possessed a complex, multi-faceted identity which enabled her to retain a value and relevance among the different groups across the region … to the Armenians and others in Akhlat she was still regarded as their ruler, although she now had to meediate between them and her Mongol overlords, rather than the Turkic and Arabic powers that had previously been in power. It was convenient for all sides to believe that Tamta had inherited rule of the city and its surroundings from her husband.

p. 380 The cultural traditions of the Mongol world accorded women much higher status and independent power than they received among the people they conquered to the west. The women who married into the family of Genghis Khan and his relatives possessed considerable rights. Each organised her own ordo (court) Wwith multiple tents, carried on up to 200 carts ,… they had independent wealth, could own property and conduct trade, all of which could be passed on to other women on their deaths; they could command armies and even fight; and they determined the faith and education of their children. [[Culture and Conquest of Mongol Eurasia, TT Allsen.]]

Books Feminism History Politics Women's history

Notes from The Kingdom of Women: Life, Love and Death in China’s Hidden Mountains by Choo Waihong

p. 120 The very existence of a woman-centric society in a sea of patriarchy that has inundated the whole world … calls into question the inevitability of human society involving as the male-dominant archetype. The Kingdom of Women has shown that it is possible to have an alternative model … forging a better environment in which a woman can e nurtured and fostered to reach her full potential as a complete, confident person ready to contribute as meaningfully as a man to society … the Mosuo model that puts the female at its centre without downgrading the male to purgatory appears to be a much better option. In a mad moment … I had a vision that I must have been a Mosou woman in a past life. How else could I make sense of the feeling of connectedness I feel in the midst of my Mosuo friends, never again having to fight against covert male chauvunusm in my previous law firms in Singapore or be as aggressive as the next man in an all-male network of lawyers in Los Angeles.”

p. 121. “Gumi … her direct maternal ancestor is Malaxshimi, whose clan is found today in the southern parts of Asia and on the islands of the Pacific as well as in Mongolia, Korea, India and Pakistan.”

p. “I became curious to find out where Zhaxi’s ancestors [a particularly prominent, popular, six-foot man] came from … his genes revealed that he was descended from the paternal clan ancestor of Sigurd, the dragon-slayer of Norse mythology. Here was a he-man from Lugu Lake who could trace his ancestry to the Vikings of Norway .. it might suggest why Zhaxi and his Musou brothers look so different from the Chinese and other ethnic minority groups in this part of the world.”

p. 147 “An axia pair may decide to go on meeting on a regular basis that progresses over time into a stable relationship, and this is when their affair is more open, with the ‘walking’ man not hiding his presence in front of the woman’s family … the male axia comes and goes openly, though still only at night “

p. 149 “the ‘nuclear’ family is a separate unit consisting of the grandmother and her children and all her matrilineal descendants’”

Books History Politics

Notes from Britain’s Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation by Brendan Sims

p. 4 “England acquired her French empire by dynastic happenstance, and her kings expanded it for reasons of ambition, but its retention soon acquired a strategic rationale. In the pre-modern age, sail was the fastest form of travel, making northern France and Flanders much closer to London than to northern England. The Channel was not a barrier but a conduit across the ‘Narrow Sea’. … Proximity was good for trade, but bad for security. There was no way the infant navy could be sure of intercepting an invasion force once it had embarked. … Whoever had access to the sea in the Middle Ages – and for long after – could cross if they had the shops to do so. This meant that England would either have to attack an enemy fleet before it left harbour, as she did with great success at Bruges in 1213 and Sluys in 1340 or, better still, to control the far shores to prevent embarkation in the first place. Channel posts such as Dover and Calais were thus understood as strategically interdependent, both as bastions against Europe and as sally ports into the continent.”
p.52-55 “The British elite knew about Europe, and knew more as the 18th century progressed. A considerable number had fought there during the war of Grand Alliance against Louis XIV, and were to do so again in the 1740s and 1750s. Some of them studied there, including William Pitt the Elder, who spent time at the University of Utrecht. Many more went on the Grand Tour. British statesmen frequently accompanied the king to Hanover … in the parliamentary sphere, … embarrassing gaffe or manifest geographical ignorance were rare, at least before 1760. … Two of the most prominent experts of the time, Luke Schaub and Francois Saint-Saphorin, were foreign born and routinely reported to London in French from their diplomatic posts….the world 18th-century British statesman inhabited – certainly before 1760 – was still a firmly Eurocentric one… of course, there were tose who attacked the British strategic consensus on Europe and espoused a naval and insular destiny in its stead … exploded with renewed force in the 1730s in a popular and parliamentary clamour for a maritime war against Spain… former secretary of state and arch-Tory Bolingbroke in his trace The Idea of A Patriot King, 1738 …”Great Britain is an island’. She should avoid continental wars and devote ‘a continual attention to improve her natural, that is her maritime strength… like other amphibious animals, we must come occasionally on shore: but the water is more properly our element, and in it, like them, as we find our greatest security, so we exert our greatest force’… All the same, the prevailing elite sense was that Britain was an integral part of Europe … partly a question of economic interest, as trade with Europe far exceeded that with any other part of the world. In November 1755, the Lord Chancellor the Earl of Hardwicke observed that ‘No man of sense or integrity will say that you can quite separate yourselves from the continent.” .. the Earl of Sunderland [1716] the “old Tory notion that England can subsist by itself whaever becomes of the rest of Europe was “justly exploded ever since the revolution [of 1688].”

p. 57 “Britain had not merely a calling to maintain the balance, it also had a clear interest in doing so. It was only the European balance that stoof between Britain and the threat of ‘universal monarchy’, which would not only destroy British commerce but would bring in its train the return of the Stuarts and the subversion of the Revolution Settlement of 1688.
p. 67 Central to the culture of intervention … was a realization that British power was limited and that British interests could be achieved only in cooperation with other states. There was a resulting reliance on diplomacy and European alliances, often backed up with Britain’s formidable fiscal power in the shape of subsidies. It was for this reason that the former arch-universalist William Pitt announced in late 1759 that he had “unlearned his juvenile errors, and thought no longer that England could do it all by herself”.

p. 105 The primacy of Europe in British stategy throughout most of the Napoleonic period was to be demonstrated again and again. Whever the opportunity presented itself, Britain engaged the French on land: in 1799 in Holland; in north Germany in 1805-6; in Walcharen in 1809; in the Peninsula after 1808; and, of course, in the Low Countries in 1815…Only two major operations were mounted against colonial targets: those to the Cape of Good Hope in 1805 and South America in 1806-7; the latter, it should be added, was simply an opportunistic exploitation of an unauthorized initiative by Sir Home Popham which ended in tears…. London saw colonial possession as pawns with which to re-establish the European balance of power. For example, the Cape of Good Hope was, temporarily, restored to the Dutch in 1802”.

p. 134 (1880s) “the Maquis of Salisbury … was in fact deeply critical of the ‘sterile’ and ‘dangerous’ policy of isolation. Salisbury was entirely clear that Britain’s destny la on the continent. ‘We are part of the community of Europe,’ Salisbury remarked,’ ‘and we must do our duty as such.’