Charles DarwinYouthful Darwin by Beardgabriel-von-max-affen


Charles Robert Darwin FRS (1809-1882) – Naturalist and evolutionary biologist.

‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,’ published in 1859, can be viewed as one of the most significant scientific texts ever written. In it, Darwin asserted that all the different varieties of life on earth had evolved from a common ancestry that had lived millions of years ago and that furthermore, in the struggle for life, only the fittest creatures survived, whilst others had succumbed and had become extinct.

Darwin’s conclusions were based on extensive research that he had carried out between 1831 and 1836, when he had accompanied Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who, as Captain of HMS Beagle, had been despatched to undertake a detailed hydrographic study of the South American coastline. An additional purpose of the voyage had been to gather information on the geological features of erratic glacial rocks in that part of the world, at the request of the eminent Victorian geologist, Sir Charles Lyell. Lyell’s book, ‘Principles of Geology,’ which Darwin took with him on HMS Beagle, had been very influential in shaping Darwin’s appreciation of the significance that very small changes, occurring over extremely long time periods extending over millions of years, had exerted upon not only natural geological but also biological, processes, on the planet.

Despite undoubted antagonism from committed ‘creationists,’ ‘Origin of Species’ rapidly became a best-seller, and for its fifth edition, Darwin borrowed the phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’ from the philosopher, Herbert Spencer, and he added this to the title page of his book.

Publication of ‘Origin of Species’ introduced a radical new world-view into science. It did not, however, dispel ‘creationist’ thinking or beliefs. These have remained prominent, and even entrenched in certain elements of society, well into the 21st Century.

“Live your life so that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.”

Chief Tecumseh Tekamwthē (1768-1813), Shawnee leader.

Unlike the situation in Meso- and South America, when European explorers began to arrive in North America, no indigenous civilization had yet developed. The great expanse and wide range of environments that North America offered, meant that the native Indians lived as hunter-gatherers in scattered communities throughout the vast continent. There was a major difference between the aspirations of the French, English and Dutch explorers, whose primary interest was in making these newly discovered territories into their homes, and the Spanish, whose activities in Central and South America were mainly directed to extracting the wealth of these regions in order to take the treasure back to Spain. The Spanish also, via their priests, sought actively to replace the population’s pagan religion by Christianity.



The decimation of North American Indian communities can be attributed to a number of causes. Initially, disease played a major role as the local populations succumbed to pathogens introduced by Europeans to which the Indian communities had little or no immunity. Subsequently, recurrent warring between the tribes and settlers resulted in countless deaths. The issue of land ownership inevitably led to conflicts in which the Indian communities were the inevitable losers. Tribal lands were whittled away by the growing demands of increasing numbers of European settlers and their American successors.

The situation rapidly escalated once the American colonists won their War of Independence against the British crown in 1787. By the early nineteen hundreds, millions of acres of former Indian hunting grounds had passed into American hands.

The fundamental resistance by the Indian communities to the sale of their hunting grounds arose from a deeply held view was that land was a communal space in the custodial charge of man, not to be subject to sale.

Chief Tecumseh, who with his brother, the Shawnee Prophet, attempted to stop the advance of settlements in the Old Northwest. On the night when Chief Tecumseh was born, there was an incredible meteor shower. The elders in the tribe took this to be an omen and pronounced that this baby would go on to be a great leader, which he did. Chief Tecumseh would always be introduced at tribal councils as “Born under the sign of the Shooting Star.”

1812 CometChief Tecumseh believed that Indians must return to a state of purity, that they must forget intertribal rivalries and confederate, and that individual tribes must not sell land that all Indians held in common. He also gave this version of the Golden Rule: “Trouble no one about his religion … respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours…

Chief Tecumseh is honoured in Canada as a hero, who played a major role in Canada’s successful repulsion of an American invasion in the War of 1812 which, among other things, eventually led to Canada’s nationhood in 1867 with the British North America Act.

The last native American tribal community to be decimated and displaced were the Plains Indians, who occupied the vast region lying between the Mississipi and the Rocky Mountains. The westward extension of the railroads, the slaughter of the buffalo herds that had provided a livelihood for the native Indians for centuries, added to the discovery of gold in California in 1848, put the final seal on the fate of what remained of native American existence after close on 400 years of persecution.

“We owe respect to the living; to the dead we owe only truth – Voltaire.”

SLAVERYSlavery arose as an accompaniment to the emergence of human civilization. In the primitive society of the hunter-gatherer, there was no need for slaves, as people were more or less self-sufficient. There was nothing to be gained by, nor was there a requirement for, owning another human being.

Once people started to live in larger communities and settlements, the situation changed. There was a growing need for cheap labour. Inter-tribal conflict at a local level and larger-scale warfare followed by territorial conquests involving competing empires or dynasties, became frequent, and it became common practice to make slaves of defeated inhabitants of conquered lands. These conquests helped to expand the work force. If they were deemed unfit for this purpose, prisoners would be killed.

This became the most common practice in the majority of ancient civilizations. Others methods of acquiring slaves included piracy at sea, where the victims could be offered for sale at trading ports; other options included the imposition of a sentence of slavery on a convicted criminal, or the the loss of liberty associated with inability to repay a serious debt.

Already within the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi of c.1800, BCE, a distinction was made between ‘free’ men and slaves, and temporary ‘debt bondage’ was a recognized phenomenon. There are references to slavery throughout the biblical Old and New Testaments, indicating that slavery was an accepted part of everyday life at the time. There are also major inconsistencies. Thus, although obedience was expected of the slave, and kindness on the part of the master, as reflected in Deuteronomy, 23, 15/16: ‘Slaves who have escaped to you from their owners, shall not be given back to them. They shall remain with you in your midst. You shall not oppress them.’ But then in an earlier Chapter, 20, 10/20, instructions are given in the case of capture of a city from any of the enemy peoples, such as the Hittites, Amonites, etc., where the victors are advised to:’utterly destroy them,’ and ‘save alive nothing that breathes.’

Arab-Islamic Slavery 'Slave porterage in East Africa.'

Overall, the basic tenets of biblical guidance emphasised that persons captured as slaves in war, pass into the ownership of their captors and remain so. This was the view that was endorsed by the Christian Catholic Church right through to the 19th Century CE.

Slavery was also an accepted part of life at the time of Muhhamad in the 7th Century, CE, and the subsequent Muslim tradition that followed was to encourage continuation of the way of life of the Prophet, who was himself a slave trader who captured slaves in battle. However, the Qu’ran makes a point in respect of female slaves, that they should be well-treated.

In Buddhism, slaves known as Dasa, could be bought, sold or mortgaged, like any other property. Nevertheless, Buddhism castigates the buying and selling of human beings as a wrong means of earning a livelihood. However in reality, slavery continued to be widespread in Buddhist countries for centuries, until it was abolished by colonial powers during the course of abolitionist policies established in the 19th century.

In Greece, the majority of slaves were the equivalent of domestic servants, and in some instances, their status was more that of a serf than that of a slave. The mediaeval view of the serf was that it represented a type of bondage between the ‘lord of the manor’ and his lowly servant, which carried certain safeguards, protections and even privileges. On the other hand, for example, slaves could be employed as miners, many of whom were driven to death by the brutality of treatment from their owners.

In imperial Rome, there was a wide variation in the way slaves were treated. Some were forced to engage in combat as gladiators, whilst others reached privileged status by becoming administrative staff serving the Emperor.

The Muslim practice of employing slaves in the army had the unusual outcome in the case of the slave leaders of the Mamluks in Egypt, who deposed their local Sultan and seized power in the 13th Century CE, to form a dynasty that lasted for several hundred years.


In Europe, a major development in the evolution of slavery came about in the 15th Century, when the Portugese opened up West Africa to the Atlantic. In this way, a direct link was created between the coast of Guinea and the sugar cane, cotton and tobacco plantations of America and Brazil. Slaves had already been traded in Africa via the salt mines of the Sahara, but now captured Africans began to be shipped in large numbers across the Atlantic.

In 1452, a papal Bull was issued by Pope Nicholas V, called Dum Diversas, which granted the King of Portugal, Alfonso V, the right to reduce any “saracens, pagans and non-believers to hereditary slavery.” The Portugese and also the Dutch were very active also in importing slaves from their respective Far Eastern possessions to Europe and South Africa.

Other mediaeval European slave traders included the Vikings who called their slaves ‘thralls,’ and the Spaniards who participated in shipping slaves to the New World. However, Spain was one of the first European countries to abolish slavery when, in 1542, the Spanish crown issued an edict declaring that slavery was unjust and was therefore outlawed.

Ships emanating from ports in Britain developed a close working relationship with Portugese West Africa, participating in what was to become known as ‘the triangular trade.’ Commercial goods were delivered to and exchanged from West Africa, whilst the same ships were used to transport masses of slaves under most apalling conditions to the West Indies and Brazil. Many thousands would perish before reaching their destination.

In central Asia, the spread of the great Mongol and Timurid empires, was to bring in its wake, large numbers of captives who were taken into slavery, in addition to the mass killing of so many of the inhabitants of the conquered territories.

However in the midst of this evil trade and widespread carnage, as the 17th Century drew to a close, there arose in both England and the United States, two minority Christian groups, from the Mennonite and Quaker sects, who came together in generating a powerful anti-slavery lobby.
Members of these groups found that they shared a common view in their Christian faith, which was incompatible with the injustices of slavery. Despite their small numbers, these activists were able to muster significant influence and moral authority to challenge the indifference that was being shown by both Church and State to the awful plight of slaves, first in Britain and then in America.

The English poet, William Cowper (1731-1800) wrote:

'Men from England bought and sold me
Paid my price in paltry gold
But, though slave they have enrolled me
Minds are never to be sold.

(from 'The Negro's Complaint, 1786).
The Yorkshire politician, William Wilberforce led the vote in the British parliament in 1807, which made the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire (The Slave Trade Act). This was followed in 1833 by the Slavery Abolition Act, following which, supporting signatories were obtained from over fifty African rulers. Six years later, the human rights organization called Anti-Slavery International was founded in Britain by the Quaker, Joseph Sturge.
In the late 18th Century, the French Revolution's  'Declaration of the Rights of Man,' inspired the native population of Haiti, a French colony in the Caribbean, to mount a revolution, which resulted not only in ending slavery, but also in the loss of French control of the colony. Thus a republic ruled by free black people, the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, was established in 1804.

Meanwhile, in North America, by the 1850's, the slave population, estimated at about four million in size, included all the black people living in the South. These amounted to about one third of the population as compared with only about 1% in the North. The newly established American Republican Party was dedicated to stopping the expansion of slavery, which it viewed as a backward system that threatened democracy and stood in the way of modernizing the United States economy.

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In 1860, the Republicans gained control by winning the Presidential campaign with the election of Abraham Lincoln. A year later, civil war broke out between the confederate states in the South, who wanted to maintain slavery, and the Northern states – the Union. In 1863, President Lincoln issued an Executive Order – the Emancipation Proclamation, that overnight changed the legal status of millions of slaves within the Confederacy and liberated all designated slaves.

Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. Unfortunately, by 1900, nearly all the political power of black people that had been achieved during the Lincoln Reconstruction period following the end of the civil war, was lost, as was the right to vote. Furthermore, black people were subject to racial segregation in the North of the United States until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of the following year.


Other key events in the 20th Century, that helped to write the final chapter in the history of human slavery gained momentum after the end of WW1, when in 1926, the League of Nations issued a global ban on slavery. This initiative was further extended in 1966 by publication of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a Treaty that has been subsequently ratified in late 2003 by 104 nations.
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Despite these impressive achievements, illegal forced labour and human trafficking continue to be significant problems in the 21st Century. Sadly, they involve considerable numbers of women and children.

“Disorder, horror, fear, and mutiny Shall here inhabit, and this land be call’d The Field of Golgotha and dead men’s skulls. O, if you raise this house against this house, It will the woefullest division prove That ever fell upon this cursed earth.” Shakespeare, Richard II.



When the Ottoman Empire entered WWI on the side of Germany and Austria/ Hungary in October 1914, the British War Cabinet of Prime Minister, Herbert H. Asquith, began to consider a plan put forward by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. The plan centred on the idea of mounting an attack at a point distant from the stalemate of trench warfare and carnage that had developed in Northern France – the so-called ‘western front.’ The chosen location was the 38 mile-long Dardanelles straits, which link the Mediterranean with the Sea of Marmara and Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, whilst at the same time opening trade access to the Black Sea and the southern part of the Russian Empire.By securing the Gallipoli peninsula, which forms the northern bank of the Dardanelles, it was felt that Constantinople could be threatened directly, and that as a result, an armistice agreement would be arrived at swiftly with the Ottomans.


Initially, the Dardanelles plan was envisaged as a purely naval operation aimed at securing the Gallipoli peninsula, but it was soon decided that a land campaign would be needed as well. For this purpose, the War Minister at the time, Lord Kitchener, ordered that contingents of relatively inexperienced soldiers from Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC – the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) should join in the campaign.

1915- Anzac Cove, 'a shell-torn strip of beach' GallipoliUndoubtedly, when viewed with hindsight, a major weakness in the Gallipoli operation, lay in the failure of the planners to consider fully the terrain of the region they were intending to capture, or the level and capabilities of the Ottoman defences, before commiting more than a half million allied troops to the campaign.The Dardanelles straits with their natural northern protection offered by the Gallipoli peninsula, are characterized by very steep ridges and tall cliffs, which housed well-positioned fortresses from which the Ottoman defenders could command complete control of the shipping lanes and potential landing sites below.The inadequate planning of the invasion and failure by the British War Cabinet planners to take on board the serious disadvantages imposed by the natural geography of the region, meant that from the outset in April 1915, in the wake of a failed naval assault of two months earlier, the attempted landings by the Allies became a bloodbath of slaughter. Very quickly, the Gallipoli campaign deteriorated into a tough and protracted battle of attrition, which was re-enacting the vicious and drawn-out trench war experience of northern France that the planners had originally wished to avoid repeating.

gallipoliOnly after about a further nine months, in December 1915, the decision to evacuate was finally taken by the newly appointed Allied Commander in Chief, Sir Charles Monro. By then, over 250, 000 British, French and ANZAC troops had been killed. The ill-fated Gallipoli campaign had thus been a pointless and tragic failure and had not had any significant impact on shortening WW1.

Winston Churchill was made the scapegoat and was demoted. When he subsequently became Britain’s Prime Minister in 1940, as the country was at war once again, he stated: ‘All my past life has been a preparation for this hour and for this trial’. The previous experience he was referring to, would undoubtedly have included the failed Gallipoli campaign of WWI.



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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, and then again from 1951 to 1955, gave voice, with extraordinary foresight, to the events that were evolving in pre-war Europe, already in the nineteen-thirties. He intuitively recognized the vicious and destructive nature of Adolph Hitler, who had become Fuhrer and Chancellor of Germany. Churchill led Britain and her Commonwealth Allies in their fight against the Third Reich in WW2.



“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red” William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

Mao Ze-Dong (1893-1976) – China portrait from the late fiftiesAdolph HitlerJozef Stalin (1878-1953) – USSR
Mao Ze-Dong (1893-1976) – China

Adolph Hitler (1889-1945) – Germany

Jozef Stalin (1878-1953) – USSR

History teaches us that humanity needs to protect itself from the dangers of narcissistic, sociopathic, leaders, who believe that that they have a supreme right to rule. We must learn from the lessons of the past, and try to identify such traits well before they unleash their depraved belief systems upon the world. The challenge is how to expose what lies behind the superficial mask, because these leaders, on the surface, are often skilled actors exuding an abundance of charm. In reality, they are masters of deception, cold, calculating, cruel, like the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Obrosov's Wartime Moscow 1941

“Man’s capacity for cruelty, savagery, and violence”

The twentieth century witnessed horrific atrocities that included: the mass slaughter of the First World War, Armenian genocide, the terror famine of the Ukraine, the Gulag, Nazi death camps, Vietnam, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Rwanda, Sudan, D.R. Congo, the collapse of Yugoslavia.
“Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long.” William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice.

‘Free to Cry’

A new day dawns with the crash of thunder beating in the distance like a drum… a dog is barking pulling at his master, tin helmet, rifle, happy, young. An engine roars, then it stops, then stutters, a coffee pot rattles on a stove… A captain swears as he cuts himself shaving, passing by the window… walk the ghosts

Into line they face the call of death… A smoke blows in their faces that is fueled by human flesh… they bow their heads in silence, bodies broken, hollow eyed… they offer no resistance, soon their shackles will be open… Free to Cry

A round pair of spectacles reflecting in the sunlight, pointing to a pile of leather shoes… a woman is shot as she climbs the mountain to a pair that are small, coloured blue

A large metal pipe from the bottom of a building, leading to a can of lethal gas… they lay there frozen with their mouths wide open, they never felt the water from the taps…

A young tree sways in this forest of madness. On its bark a carving to the world… I will soon be gone, I have seen great sorrow, never could I wish this on you now. We pay the price for the blood of strangers, no one comes to help us just to harm… but the world will hear what has happened in this darkness, and that we were more than numbers on an arm…

Into line they face the call of death… A smoke blows in their faces that is fueled by human flesh… they bow their heads in silence, bodies broken, hollow eyed… they offer no resistance, soon their shackles will be open… Free to Cry
‘This early poem by Breon Rydell has been made into a short film set to the accompanying music of the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs by the Polish composer, Henryk Grodecki. The poem was filmed originally at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, and was screened on January 2015 as part of a special ceremony held in Moscow at the Museum of Tolerance, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army.’

© 2015 Bréon Rydell

“I’m afraid. Of us.” William Golding, ‘Lord of the Flies.’
LORD OF THE FLIES rex featuresIs in his 1954 book, Golding expands on the destructive traits that are unleashed when a group of boys are stranded on an island, and fight for survival.

Biologists who have studied the aggressive behaviour of primates have demonstrated this to be an innate characteristic in chimpanzees. At the same time, it has been possible to demonstrate sensitive and compassionate behaviour in bonobo ape communities. These observations provide evidence that certain antecedents of morality may have already evolved in a Darwinian manner long before these qualities appeared in humans.


Socrates (c470-399 BCE) – philosopher

Plato (c427–348 BCE) – philosopher, mathematician

Aristotle (c384-322 BCE) – philosopher

The focus of classical Greek philosophers was upon the role of reason and observation in illuminating the true nature of the world around them. They used rational argument to address their views to others. This approach paved the way as a continuous thread through the works of the early Muslim philosophers to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and ultimately to the secular sciences of the modern era.

Socrates, who is viewed as one of the founding fathers of Western philosophy, rejected many of the speculations of his predecessors. He made the thoughts and opinions of the individual his focal point. His teaching method did not involve conveying knowledge but rather asking questions about people’s beliefs. He left no written work, what is known about him is what has filtered through the writing of some of his contemporaries and followers, such as Plato.

Plato wrote philosophical dialogues and as well as being a mathematician, founded the Academy, probably the world’s first University.

Aristotle made significant and lasting contributions to almost every aspect of human knowledge from logic through biology to ethics and aesthetics. His surviving writings have been incredibly influential. He was known in Muslim philosophy as ‘the First Teacher,’ and in the West, he was referred to as ‘The Philosopher.’
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“Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind; The thief doth fear each bush an officer.” Shakespeare, Henry VI.


Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps (1803 - 1860) The Witches in Macbeth France c.1841 - 1842 Painting Oil on canvas Image size: 29.4 x 40.4 cm Object size: 54 x 64.5 x 10.5 cm Signature: 'DECAMPSIn many societies, professional story-tellers began to make their appearance – often referred to as ‘troubadours’ or ‘minstrels.’ They travelled from place to place reciting their stories and singing their songs – leading to the widespread growth and development of the ‘folk-song’ as a further development of the ‘fairy-tale.’ Ultimately, with the further advances in civilization, the role of illiterate story-teller was superseded by the arrival of the printed word and the ability to record so much of accumulated historical folk-lore in a permanent format. It is of particular interest to note that the various ancestors consisting of deities, witches, plus an entire spectrum of creatures, ranging from dragons, birds, serpents to seals, that form the subject matter of superstitions and fairy tales associated with different communities scattered in various continents, all bear a remarkable similarity to one another. (more…)

A remarkable blossoming of creativity arose within Central Asia around 800 CE., and lasted for about three hundred years. Major contributions were made to mathematics, medicine and astronomy by several brilliant polymaths, whose legacies have had a lasting impact. The wide cultural achievements of this region transformed it into ‘the centre of the intellectual and commercial world, of that time.

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (780-850 CE) – mathematician, astronomer, geographer

Muhammad Zakariyā Rāzī(Al-Razi) (c854-932 CE) – chemistry, medicine, philosophy

Omar Khayyám (1048-1131 CE) – mathematician, astronomer, philosopher
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Ibn Rushd [Averroës] (1126-1198 CE) – polymath

Based in Cordova, Averroës was ideally placed to be a bridge between the two worlds of classical Greek philosophy and the innovative thinking that would become the hallmark of the European Enlightenment. Without doubt, he had a great impact on Europe’s brightest intellectuals. In some quarters he has been described as the ‘Founding Father of Secular Thought in Western Europe,’ and during his lifetime, he was known by the sobriquet, ‘The Commentator,’ for his detailed emendations of Aristotle’s works, which helped in no small measure to bring these to the attention of a wider public.

Averroës voiced modernist ideas way ahead of his time. He argued among other things for women’s rights and criticized his generation’s views on women as being oppressive and unjust. He maintained that women should be given access to knowledge so that they could contribute more fully to various facets of society, including its leadership.

His enlightened ideas and progressive thinking made him a revolutionary. By challenging the anti-philosophical and close-minded ideology that was rampant in 12th century society, he was accused of heresy by fundamentalists and sentenced to exile. His teachings were banned and his books burned. The same people who had been in awe of his work later reviled him. Despite these setbacks, his legacy has placed him, amongst the most influential thinkers of all time.

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions!” William Shakespeare, Hamlet.


Since its inception, violence has featured as an integral part of human society within the hunter-gatherer communities right through to modern times.

The significance of human aggression becomes especially clear as a recurrent historical phenomenon in the magnitude of its impact in different parts of the globe. The cost regarding the loss of human life is, in some cases, staggering.

R.J. Rummel has traced the origins of what he has described as the phenomenon of ‘democide’ – defined as the large-scale slaughter of human beings undertaken as part of an organized programme of destruction whose aim is to impose the will and control of one individual or a group of individuals upon another. The key requirement is the need to satisfy the power-thirsty appetite of a dominant force in society upon what is perceived to be a weaker element. Invariably, the motivating force is that of power, and one of the common methods employed is that of subjugation by conquest or war imposed by a ruling or privileged minority.




Examples include Genghis Khan and the establishment of the Great Mongol Empire of the 13th century. This Empire was about four times the size of the Empire established by Alexander the Great. Genghis Khan’s rule and that of the members of his family who succeeded him as ‘The Great Khan’ after his death in 1229 CE, stretched from the Caspian Sea to Beijing. It included Central Asia, the Khwarezmian Dynasty and a substantial part of North and West China. Where subjugation was rejected, devastation followed as major cities throughout this vast geographic region were conquered. In many cases, no living thing was spared. Where Mongol rule was accepted, and the ‘universal ruler’ was revered, an organized society emerged which introduced stability, and new legal codes were established. Thus, for example, Genghis Khan declared freedom of religion throughout the Mongol Empire. Religion was viewed as a personal conviction that was not subject to law or interference by officialdom. Selling of women into marriage was forbidden and in many instances, stealing could be considered a capital offense.



“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” Confucius.

Confucius Tang Dynasty

Significant stone age farming communities arose in China by about 7000 BCE, mainly in the Yellow River and Yangtze regions. By 3500 BCE, walled towns had emerged, and archaeological evidence has identified primitive Chinese characters inscribed on pottery of that period. Bronze Age civilization evolved from about 1800 BCE, by which time, literate China made its appearance with first of the historic dynasties – where lines of kings or emperors from a single family ruled and followed each other in succession from generation to generation.

The first Emperor to rule over an United China was Qin Shih Huang in 221 BCE, following which came the Han dynasty, which lasted for about 400 years. Because China remained a unified country throughout this period, modern-day Chinese still refer to themselves as the Han people. It was during the Han dynasty that the philosophy of Confucious (552-479 BCE) became the ruling ideology of China. However, despite the unification of this vast country under successions of dynasties, multi-ethnic unrest exploded at several critical points in Chinese history, with the loss of millions of lives.

In one such period spanning the second half of the 19th Century. A series of inter- ethnic insurgencies occurred in which the Muslim minority Hui Chinese in several provinces rebelled against the ruling Qing dynasty. The province of Yunnan was particularly involved in what is referred to as the Panthy rebellion. The underlying trigger was not based on religious differences between the Muslim Hui people and their fellow Han Chinese citizens, but more on prolonged ethnic and class tensions that had been smouldering over many years. Both these groups were distinct from people of Turkic stock, who were represented by a number of other distinct ethnic groups, such as the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kroyzs, Tatars and Uzbeks.

In Yunnan, the Hui Muslims wanted to set up a separate political entity or Caliphate, which was to be headed by a leader designated as the Sultan. The Quing government retaliated by directing a fierce campaign aimed at crushing the Hui rebellion. All those who refused to surrender were killed. An uprising in other provinces such as Shaanxi and Gansu met with a similar outcome. Many of the surviving Hui minority fled across the frontier to Burma or found their way to Russia.

Historical evidence indicates that the first American hunter-gatherers arrived from the Siberian steppes via the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska, around the end of the most recent ice age, about 14,500 years ago. With the retreat of the Northern region ice caps, people moved south to settle first along the Eastern Seaboard of the Continent.

By about 1200 BCE, the Olmec people living in the Central region of the Gulf of Mexico created the first distinct civilization in Central America at a time that coincides with the end of the Shang dynasty in China and the beginning of the Israelite conquest of Canaan.

The three major cultures of the pre-Columbian era of America were: a) Maya; b) Aztec and c) Inca

a) Maya – This was a city-state culture that thrived from 250-900 CE, and it extended through Central America to include areas such as Guatemala and Honduras. The Maya developed art, science and mathematics, plus also, hieroglyphic writing. However, for reasons that are unclear, their great stone cities were abandoned by 900 CE. Theories to account for the disappearance of the Maya include exhaustion of resources through overuse of land, over-population and prolonged drought.

b) Aztec – At its height, Aztec culture embraced 15 million people. It flourished in Central America from around 1250 to 1519 CE. Its capital was Tenochtitlan, built on a swampy island in the Valley of Mexico. By the time of arrival of the Spaniards, Aztec was the greatest power in the Americas with impressive achievements in sculpture, architecture and social reforms. Thus, for example, the Aztec were one of the first peoples in the world to establish a system of compulsory education for all children, irrespective of status or gender. The sun, moon and the planet, Venus, played an important role in their religion. Human sacrifice was practised at the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan.

c) Inca – This was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. It spanned an area that stretched over 2500 miles (approx 4,000km) north to south, incorporating within it the Andean cordillera, second highest mountain range to the Himalayas. The Inca capital was Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca culture represented essentially a totalitarian state that incorporated advanced technologies in many areas such as engineering, road building and agriculture. Despite its remarkable achievements, the Inca Empire was short-lived and only lasted about 100 years. At its peak, Incan society had more than 6 million citizens, and integration was aided considerably by the development of a universal language, Quechua.

The demise of both Aztec and Inca civilizations occurred in the 1500’s with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, who were ruthless in their destruction of the native peoples and their culture.
Tenochtitlan was destroyed in 1540 CE, and Mexico City built on top of the ruins. Cuzco was largely stripped of its many treasures with their precious metal decorations. One of the last remnants of Inca culture, which escaped destruction by the Spanish, the mountain citadel of Machu Picchu, was only discovered in 1911.

“Democracy; racial and sexual equality; individual liberty of lifestyle; full freedom of thought, expression, and the press; eradication of religious authority from the legislative process and education; and full separation of church and state.

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) Excommunicated 1656

The Renaissance and Enlightenment represent two distinct and remarkable periods of European history. Both brought about unprecedented changes in virtually every sphere of human endeavour. Both incorporated periods of intense and far-reaching discovery. The Renaissance or ‘re-birth,’ was particularly associated with advances in art, literature, architecture and astronomy. Its emphasis was on humanism – a system of thought which attached prime importance to the power and innate capabilities of the human rather than to divine or supernatural forces. Thus, the Renaissance was primarily concerned with various facets of human life and endeavour.

The Renaissance blossomed as a cultural phenomenon during the span of the 14th to mid-17th centuries. It started in Northern Italy, notably in Florence, and soon spread throughout Western Europe. It manifested itself as a process of rediscovery of the glorious well of knowledge that had been the hallmark of classical Greek/Roman culture. How this happened has been the subject of much debate. Three important factors have been identified: 1. Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453, there was a migration westwards of Byzantine scholars steeped in Greek learning and culture. They gravitated towards and settled in Northern Italy. 2. In Florence, in particular, artistic creativity was hugely encouraged and financially supported by the prominent Medici dynasty. 3. The discovery around this time of the Gutenberg printing press facilitated the rapid movement of ideas independent of national boundaries. Florence rapidly became an outstanding creative centre. Painting, sculpture and architecture flourished as never before. Innovations such the discovery of the technique of linear perspective allowed the expression of greater reality in painting.

Outstanding artists of this period were:

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) considered by many as the most gifted artist of all time – as well as being a prolific inventor who made major contributions to architecture and science.

Michelangelo (1475-1564) with his legacy of breathtaking art.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) the historian and humanist, created the new branch of knowledge called political science.
Michelangelo - Bacchus (painting)Michelangelo, ignudo 01Monk cropped pngpraying_hands_-_albrecht_durer


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