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The Ilkhanate Had Only Two Goals: Conquest and Power

The Ilkhanate Had Only Two Goals: Conquest and Power

The Ilkhanate was one of the four khanates that emerged after the fragmentation of the Mongol Empire. This khanate was founded by Hulegu Khan, one of Genghis Khan’s grandsons, and lasted from the middle of the 13th century to the first half of the 14th century. The Ilkhanate was based in Persia, and its territory extended from Turkey in the west to the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent in the east. Like the other khanates, this one also had goals of conquest and power.

Early History of the Ilkhanate

The beginnings of the Ilkhanate may be traced back to Genghis Khan’s conquest of the Khwarazmian Empire, which lasted from 1219 to 1224. This marked the beginning of the Mongol’s invasion of the Islamic states in the Middle East. Following this campaign, the Mongols continued to expand their rule in this region. The task of establishing Mongol control in the Middle East had been given to the empire’s generals, and by the middle of the 13th century, large parts of Persia had fallen under the control of the Mongols.

In 1255/6, a fresh expedition was launched by the Mongols against the Middle East. Instead of placing the army under another general, the task was given to a member of the Mongol royal family. During this time, the Mongol Empire was ruled by the Toluid Dynasty. The Great Khan, Mongke Khan, was the eldest son of Tolui (the fourth son of Genghis Khan with his first wife, Borte), and the task of subduing the Islamic states “as far as the borders of Egypt” was given to his brother, Hulegu (Hulagu) Khan. This may be regarded as the birth of the Ilkhanate.

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Hulagu Khan, founder of the Ilkhanate, with his Christian wife Queen Doquz Khatun. ( Public Domain )

The Ilkhanate of Persia

Hulegu’s campaign had a number of objectives – the subjugation of the Lurs (a people in southern Iran), the elimination of the Hashshashins, and the submission or destruction of the Baghdad-based Abbasid Caliphate, the Ayyubid states in Syria, and the Bahri Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. It has been reckoned that two out of ten fighting men from the entire empire was given to Hulegu, which would have formed the largest army the Mongols ever assembled . The Lurs were easily defeated by Hulegu and the reputation of the Mongols so frightened the Hashshashins that they surrendered their reputedly impregnable fortress, Alamut, without a fight.

Hulegu’s next target was the Abbasid Caliphate, which he set out against in November 1257. The Mongols demanded the caliph to surrender. As he refused to do so, Hulegu besieged Baghdad , the Abbasid capital. The city fell in February 1258 and the Mongols massacred its inhabitants. The destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate by the Mongols has often been considered as one of the most disastrous episodes in the history of Islam. The Mongols, along with their Christian vassals in the region, then crushed the Ayyubids in Syria.

The siege of Alamût in 1256. ( Public Domain )

With the destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate and the Ayyubid Dynasty, the only remaining Islamic power in the Middle East was the Bahri Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. Before Hulegu could launch a campaign against them, however, he had to return to Karakorum, the Mongol capital . Mongke Khan had died in 1259 and Hulegu was summoned to take part in the selection of the new Great Khan.

The bulk of the Mongol army left with him and about 10,000 troops were left with general Kitbuqa in Syria, as an occupational force. The Mamluks took advantage of the situation and struck the Mongols after Hulegu left the Middle East. In 1260, the Mamluks fought and defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Ayn Jalut. This was an important turning point in history, as it marked the limits of Mongol expansion in the Middle East.

Hulagu and his army. ‘Jami' al-tawarikh’, Rashid al-Din. ( Public Domain )

The Ilkhanate VS the Golden Horde

After the selection of the new Great Khan, Hulegu returned to the Middle East, and was planning to attack the Mamluks, so as to avenge the defeat at Ayn Jalut. The Ilkhanate, however, faced an invasion from the Golden Horde in the Caucasus. This conflict was caused partially due to the fact that the leader of the Golden Horde, Berke, was a Muslim who intended to punish Hulegu for his destruction of the Abbasid Caliphate.

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As a result, the Ilkhanate was forced to abandon its campaign against the Mamluks in order to concentrate on the war against the Golden Horde. The break-up of the Mongol Empire resulted in more conflicts like this, and, as a consequence, the Ilkhanate was not able to expand further westwards.

A Timurid drawing of an Ilkhanid horse archer by Muhammad ibn Mahmudshah al-Khayyam Iran, early 15th century. ( Public Domain )

The Ilkhanate Religion Changes

Hulagu died in 1265, and was succeeded by his son, Abaqa Khan. Towards the end of the 13th century, the rulers of the Ilkhanate converted to Islam, though they fluctuated between the Sunni and Shia sects. Abu Sa'id Bahadur Khan, the last ruler of the Ilkhanate, died in 1335 without leaving an heir. As a result, the unity of the khanate was broken, and various princes ruled over its former territories until 1353.

Who Were the Mamluks?

The slave-warriors of medieval Islam overthrew their masters, defeated the Mongols and the Crusaders and established a dynasty that lasted 300 years.

The Tombs of the Mamluks, Cairo, Egypt, 1910s.

T he Mamluks ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 until 1517, when their dynasty was extinguished by the Ottomans. But Mamluks had first appeared in the Abbasid caliphate in the ninth century and even after their overthrow by the Ottomans they continued to form an important part of Egyptian Islamic society and existed as an influential group until the 19th century. They destroyed the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer, and saved Syria, Egypt and the holy places of Islam from the Mongols. They made Cairo the dominant city of the Islamic world in the later Middle Ages, and under these apparently unlettered soldier-statesmens’ rule, craftsmanship, architecture and scholarship flourished. Yet the dynasty remains virtually unknown to many in the West.

The dynasty had two phases. From 1250 to 1381 the Bahri clique produced the Mamluk Sultans from 1382 until 1517 the Burgi Mamluks were dominant. These groups were named after the principal regiments provided by the Mamluks for the last Ayyubid sultan as-Salih whom they served before overthrowing in 1250 the Bahirya or River Island regiment, based on a river island in the centre of Cairo and the Burgi or Tower regiment.

The word Mamluk means ‘owned’ and the Mamluks were not native to Egypt but were always slave soldiers, mainly Qipchak Turks from Central Asia. In principle (though not always in practice) a Mamluk could not pass his property or title to his son, indeed sons were in theory denied the opportunity to serve in Mamluk regiments, so the group had to be constantly replenished from outside sources. The Bahri Mamluks were mainly natives of southern Russia and the Burgi comprised chiefly of Circassians from the Caucasus. As steppe people, they had more in common with the Mongols than with the peoples of Syria and Egypt among whom they lived. And they kept their garrisons distinct, not mixing with the populace in the territories. The contemporary Arab historian Abu Shama noted after the Mamluk victory over the Mongols at Ayn Jalut in 1260 that, ‘the people of the steppe had been destroyed by the people of the steppe’.

Boys of about 13 would be captured from areas to the north of the Persian empire, and trained to become an elite force for the personal use of the sultan or higher lords. The Arabic word Ghulam (boy) was sometimes employed for the bodyguards they would become. The boys would be sent by the caliph or sultan to enforce his rule as far afield as Spain (Venice and Genoa were major players in their transportation despite Papal interdictions) and sold to the commanders of the Islamic governments of the region. Under their new masters they were manumitted, converted to Islam, and underwent intensive military training.

Islamic society, like that of medieval Christendom, took the form of a theoretical pyramid of fealty with the king or sultan at the top and numerous petty lords at its base with each lord above them holding rights of loyalty over them. In the military societies of the 13th century higher lords or amirs maintained a large number of Mamluks, and the sultan held the most. During the Mamluk Sultanate, succession and the power struggles to dispute succession were based chiefly on the size of a candidate’s powerbase, in terms of numbers of men in arms and client lords, that he could muster.

The Mamluks, who had been taken from their families in their youth and had no ties of kin in their new homelands, were personally dependent on their master. This gave the Mamluk state, divorced as it was from its parent society, a solidity that allowed it to survive the tensions of tribalism and personal ambition, through establishment of interdependency between the lower orders and sergeants and the higher lords.

And at the centre Mamluk politics were bloody and brutal. Mamluks were not supposed to be able to inherit wealth or power beyond their own generation but attempts to create lineage did occur and every succession was announced by internecine struggles. Purges of higher lords and rivals were common and sultans commonly used impalement and crucifixion to punish those suspected of acts of lèse majesté or intrigue.

In theory a Mamluk’s life prepared him for little else but war and loyalty to his lord. Great emphasis was placed upon the Furūsiyya – a word made up of the three elements: the ‘ulum (science), funun (arts) and adab (literature) – of cavalry skills. The Furūsiyya was not dissimilar to the chivalric code of the Christian knight insofar as it included a moral code embracing virtues such as courage, valour, magnanimity and generosity but it also addressed the management, training and care of the horses that carried the warrior into battle and provided him with leisure time sporting activities. It also included cavalry tactics, riding techniques, armour and mounted archery. Some texts even discussed military tactics: the formation of armies, the use of fire and smoke screens. Even the treatment of wounds was addressed.

The Mamluk dynasty carefully codified the Furūsiyya, and beautiful illustrated examples were produced. These books also carry the mark of the Mongol influence many pages are decorated with lotuses and phoenixes, motifs carried from China through the Pax Mongolica.

The Mamluks lived almost entirely within their garrisons, and their leisure activities show a striking correspondence to the much earlier comment of the military writer Vegetius that the Romans’ drills were bloodless battles and their battles were bloody drills. Polo was the chief among these for the Mamluks with its need for control of the horse, tight turns and bursts of speed, it mimicked the skills required on the battlefield. Mounted archery competitions, horseback acrobatics and mounted combat shows similar to European jousting often took place up to twice a week. The Mamluk sultan Baybars constructed a hippodrome in Cairo to stage these games and polo matches.

The Mamluks’ opportunity to overthrow their masters came at the end of the 1240s, a time when the Kurdish Ayyubid dynasty, set up by Saladin in the 1170s, had reached a modus vivendi with the Crusader states skirmishing, rather than outright war, was the order of the day in Syria and the Holy Land. However, events in the east were beginning to impact on the region. The Mongols on the eastern steppes were attacking western Chinese tribes and advancing into southern Russia, pushing other peoples west. In 1244, with the tacit support of the Ayyubids in Cairo, Jerusalem fell to a wandering band of Khwarezmians, an eastern Persian group who were themselves fleeing the Mongol destruction of their fledgling empire. One of their first acts was to destroy the tombs of the Latin kings of Jerusalem. In response, Louis IX of France called a crusade (the seventh) though neither the papacy nor any other major Christian monarch was stirred to action. Rather than directly attacking the Holy Land, Louis planned to wrest the rich lands of Egypt from Islam, hoping that control there would lead to the control of Syria.

Louis took Damietta in the Nile delta in June 1249 with an army of about 20,000 men. The Egyptian army withdrew further up the river. Louis started to march on Cairo in November and should have gained an advantage from the death of the last Ayyubid sultan, as-Salih. Despite chaos in Cairo during which the sultan’s widow, Shaggar ad Durr, took control – initially with Mamluk support – Louis and the Templars were roundly defeated by the Mamluk Bahirya commander Baybars at al-Mansourah (al-Mansur). Louis refused to fall back to Damietta and his troops starved, before a belated retreat during which he was captured in March 1250. He was ransomed in return for Damietta and 400,000 livres. Louis left for Acre where he attempted a long-distance negotiation with the Mongols (who he may have believed to be the forces of the mythical Christian king Prester John) to assist him against the Muslims.

As-Salih had done much to promote the power of the Mamluks during his reign, perhaps too much, and the Mamluks eventually forced Shaggar ad Durr to marry their commander Aybeg. Louis’ crusade therefore proved the catalyst for the Mamluks to finally dispense with their Ayyubid overlords. The Bahri Mamluk dynasty was set up in 1250, with Aybeg as its first, though not uncontested, sultan.

However, Aybeg was later murdered in his bath on his wife’s orders. More political murders followed including the beating to death of Shaggar ad Durr until Qutuz, the vice-regent, brought the factions bloodily under his control.

In February 1258 the Mongol armies of Hulegu, grandson of Chinggis Khan and the brother of Kublai, later the Great Khan and Emperor of China, took Baghdad. The Mongols undertook a wholesale massacre: at least 250,000 were killed, but the intercession of Hulegu’s wife spared the Nestorian Christians. Mongol troopers kicked al-Musta’sim, the last Abbasid caliph and spiritual leader of Islam, to death after having rolled him in a carpet – the Mongols did not wish to spill royal blood directly. Aleppo fell almost as bloodily soon after, and it was widely reported, though perhaps untrue, that the Mongols used cats with burning tails sent running into the city to end the siege by fire.

Damascus quickly capitulated, but one of those who escaped the Mongols was the Mamluk general Baybars (1223-77), who had been instrumental in the defeat of Louis in 1249. He fled back to Cairo.

The Mongols completed their conquest of Syria by the near-annihilation of the Assassin sects and by over-running the kingdoms of Anatolia. Only Egypt, a few isolated cities in Syria and the Arabian Peninsula were left to Islam in its historic heartland. The Mamluk sultanate, in power for less than a decade, had shown few signs of enduring. It was led by sultan Qutuz, who had seized power in November 1259 and was still consolidating his authority.

Hulegu sent envoys to Qutuz in Cairo demanding his surrender. Qutuz killed the envoys and placed their heads on the gates of the city, considering treaty with the Mongols to be impossible and that exile into the ‘bloodthirsty desert’ was equivalent to death. Qutuz mobilized and was joined by Baybars.

At this point news arrived that the Mongol Great Khan Mongke had died, and Hulegu returned to Karakorum to support his branch of the family’s claim on power. The remaining Mongol army in Syria was still formidable, numbering about 20,000 men under Hulegu’s lieutenant, Kit Buqa. The Mamluk and Mongol armies encamped in Palestine in July 1260, and met at Ayn Jalut on 8 September.

Initially, the Mamluks encountered a detached division of Mongols and drove them to the banks of the Orontes River. Kit Buqa was then drawn into a full engagement Qutuz met the first onslaught with a small detachment of Mamluks he feigned retreat and led the Mongol army into an ambush that was sprung from three sides. The battle lasted from dawn till midday. The Mamluks employed fire to trap Mongols who were either trying to hide or flee the field Kit Buqa was taken alive and summarily executed by Qutuz. According to the Jama al-Tawarikh (a 14th century Persian history) he swore his death would be revenged by Hulegu and that the gates of Egypt would shake with the thunder of Mongol cavalry horses.

As the Mamluks returned to Cairo, Baybars murdered Qutuz and seized the sultanate himself. This event set the pattern of succession in the Mamluk Empire: only a handful of sultans ever died of natural causes and of these, one died from pneumonia brought on by permanently wearing armour to ward off assassination attempts. The average reign of the sultans was a mere seven years. Despite this the dynasty proved to be one of the most stable political entities of the medieval Middle East. After the Ottomans had hanged the last Mamluk sultan in 1517, the loss of the Mamluks was universally lamented in Egypt, and many minor Mamluk functionaries remained to manage the Turks’ new province.

Baybars I proved thorough and ruthless, and a gifted exponent of realpolitik. Even though he was to follow his victory over the Mongols with an assault on the remaining Crusader cities in Syria, he maintained friendly relations with Norman Sicily and even though he attempted to destroy what remained of Assassin power in Syria, he employed what was left of them to carry out political murders among both his domestic rivals and enemy leaders. Indeed the future king Edward I of England was fortunate to survive a Baybars’ sponsored Assassin attempt on his life in Acre in 1271 during the Eighth Crusade. For some years Baybars kept a member of the Abbasid family as a puppet caliph to engender legitimacy for the Mamluk dynasty – until the unfortunate man was packed off to North Africa and never heard of again. Baybars is said to have died in 1277 from drinking a cup of poisoned wine intended for a guest the story is probably apocryphal but it fits well with the nature of his life.

It has been suggested that the Mongols, the invincible force of the time, were outclassed by the Mamluks on the battlefield the Mongols were lightly armoured horse-archers riding small steppe ponies and carrying little but ‘home-made’ weapons for close combat, whereas the heavily armoured Mamluks, on larger Arab-bred horses, could match them in their mounted archery and then close and kill with the lance, club and sword. It has also been argued that the Mongols were lacking in organizational training whereas the Mamluks spent their lives in training. According to this view, the Mongols were most effective only in terms of their mobility and their rate of fire. The Mongols’ use of ‘heavy’ arrows, allied with the waves of galloping cohorts each of which would fire four or five arrows into the enemy, would exhaust the opposition. Indeed, this together with outflanking manoeuvres, appears to have been the pattern of Mongol attacks. Each Mongol trooper had several fresh mounts ready to ensure the momentum of the attack was not lost.

The Mamluks could match the Mongols’ archery assault with their crafted bows and armour and, though they had just one horse each, they could use the larger size of these mounts to deliver a charge like that of Norman knights but with the addition of mobile archery and a ‘Parthian shot’ if required during withdrawal. The timing of the charge was all. The Mamluks were able to destroy the Mongol army at Ayn Jalut – and again at the second battle of Homs in 1281 – by a series of attacks their command and control mechanisms must have been impressive.

The Mamluks themselves formed only the core of Syrian and Egyptian armies. Shortly after Ayn Jalut, the Mongols were defeated again at Homs in 1260 by an army combining Ayyubid levies and Mamluks. Islamic success against the Mongols was founded on the military abilities of the Mamluks, but it was Mamluk statecraft that ultimately defeated the invaders. As well as rapidly clearing Syria of Mongols, they began a process of fortification and improved communications and diplomacy with the Islamic princes of the region, thus consolidating Egyptian power in Syria. The protection of Syria was central to the Mamluk claim to be the defenders of Islam. Egypt’s resources were devoted to building and training the army for Syria, which was always mobilized at the slightest provocation from the Mongols.

Communications within the Mamluk state were also well-organized. Harbours were improved and a four-day postal service established between Cairo and Damascus. Baybars opened up trade with the Spanish kingdom of Aragon and maintained friendly relations with the Italian maritime states. He also sent emissaries to the Golden Horde, the Mongol khanate of Russia with which Hulegu’s Ilkhanate was involved in a protracted struggle. This helped to maintain the flow of slaves from the Black Sea region for the maintenance of the Mamluk system and also built up pressure on the Ilkhanate. Baybars also sent raiding parties into Mongol areas of Armenia, the southern Taurus Mountains and the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum. His priority, though, was to defend Syria and hold Egypt. When he attempted to operate in Anatolia in 1277 and to stir up a Turcoman revolt against the Mongols in this area, he quickly found his resources insufficient for such enterprises.

Baybar’s assaults on Lesser Armenia and the threat of a concerted and simultaneous Mamluk and Golden Horde attack on the Ilkhanate meant that the Mongols felt a need to hem in the Mamluks and if possible bring Northern Syria into their sphere of influence. The spreading of the Muslim faith among the Golden Horde would also have alarmed the Ilkhans, who themselves did not begin converting until late in the 14th century. The Ilkhans’ subject population was overwhelmingly Muslim, and the Mamluks, with their Egyptian-based caliphate, had effectively become the leaders of the Muslim world. In retaliation, the Ilkhanate made agreements with Constantinople, perhaps fearing that Byzantium, too, might engage with the Golden Horde or the Mamluks if the Mongols attacked Greek possessions.

As well as holding the Mongols at bay, Baybars destroyed the Christian lands of Outremer. In 1263 he captured Nazareth and destroyed the environs of Acre. In 1265 he captured Caesarea and Haifa. He then took the fortified town of Arsuf from the Knight Hospitallers and occupied the Christian town of Athlit. Safed was taken from the Knight Templars in 1266. He slaughtered the Christians if they resisted, and had a particular enmity for the military orders: the Templars and Hospitallers received no quarter. Qalawun, his general and a later sultan, led an army into Armenia in 1266. Sis, the capital, fell in September 1266. With the fall of Armenia the Crusader city of Antioch, first captured by Bohemond in 1098, was isolated. Baybars commenced its siege on 14 May 1268 and the city fell four days later. All the inhabitants who were not killed were enslaved.

Acre was attacked again in 1267 but withstood the assault. Jaffa fell in March 1268 and Beaufort the following month. In 1271 Baybars took the White Castle and Krak des Chevaliers from the Templars and Hospitallers after a month-long siege, and added to its already awesome fortifications. The Christians had shown that such powerful fortresses could break up insurgencies, make up for a paucity of forces and threaten communication lines, and the Mamluks followed the same policy.

Baybars may have feared an alliance between the Mongols and Christian powers. The Mongols certainly tried to achieve this and in 1271 Edward Plantagenet, during the Eighth Crusade, was able to convince them to send a sizeable force into Syria to reduce the Mamluk pressure on the remaining Crusader cities. But after the failure of the Crusade the last cities soon fell: Tripoli was taken by the army of Sultan Qalawun, Baybar’s successor, in 1289 and the Crusader settlement of Acre fell in 1291. This effectively made the Syrian coast an impossible beachhead for Christians there would be no more Crusader attempts to regain the Holy Land or Syria.

The Mamluk dynasty was now secure, and it lasted until the 16th century. Power struggles prevented continuity at the centre, and even after the Circassian Burji Mamluks seized power from the Bahri Mamluks in the mid-14th century, factionalism and insecurity continued unabated. The Mamluks managed successfully to re-establish their Syrian powerbases following Timur’s brief but hugely destructive invasion in the early 1400s but the dynasty had been left weakened by the Black Death which had made repeated onslaughts through the Middle East from the mid-14th century and it soon lost the valuable trade revenues of Syria after the Portuguese opened up Europe’s ocean trade and the route to India in the late 15th century. In the end it took two only two brief battles for the Ottoman Sultan Selim I to decimate the last Mamluk army to take the field just outside Cairo near the Pyramids in 1517. The Ottoman army used firearms and artillery, but the Mamluks rode out to meet them with bow, lance and sword. History had caught up with them.

Selim I continued to employ a Mamluk as viceroy, however, and recruitment of Circassians as ‘tax farmers’ continued until the new age arrived in Egypt with Napoleon’s army in 1798. Indeed faction building and Mamluk infighting were still characteristic of Egyptian politics in the early 19th century.

Although warfare was the primary concern of these slave soldiers, their contribution to Islamic art and architecture was immense. Many of the sultans were remarkable builders, a fine example being Qalawun’s mausoleum complex in Cairo, which includes a mosque, a religious school and hospital. The dynasty’s achievements in the arts of the book, especially of the Qur’an, are also very fine. The importance of fighting and training meant that the art of the armourer was highly prized Mamluk armour was decorated and intricate, helmets, leggings, spurs and shields often carried inscriptions such as:

Father of the poor and miserable, killer of the unbelievers and the polytheists, reviver of justice among all.

An offshoot of this artifice was high quality metalwork, such as candlesticks, lamps, ewers and basins, highly decorated with musicians and dancers, warriors and images of the hunt. Intricate decoration of Mamluk glassware can also be seen in mosque lamps, many carrying the Qu’ranic inscription,

The lamp enclosed in glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star

– a suitable testament to a dynasty that prevailed against the most powerful empire of the medieval age.

This article originally appeared in the March 2006 issue of History Today with the title 'The Mamluks'.

Early life

Charles was the son of Philip I the Handsome, king of Castile, and Joan the Mad. His paternal grandparents were the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I and Mary, duchess of Burgundy, and his maternal grandparents were Isabella I and Ferdinand II, the Roman Catholic king and queen of Spain. After his father’s death in 1506, Charles was raised by his paternal aunt Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands. His spiritual guide was the theologian Adrian of Utrecht (later Pope Adrian VI), a member of the devotio moderna, a religious and educational reform movement promoting literacy among the masses.

In 1515 Charles came of age as duke of Burgundy and assumed rule over the Netherlands. His scope of activities soon widened. On January 23, 1516, Ferdinand II died. As a result, the problem of the succession in Spain became acute, since by the terms of Ferdinand’s will, Charles was to govern in Aragon and Castile together with his mother (who, however, suffered from a nervous illness and never reigned). Furthermore, the will provided that Francisco, Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros, who was the archbishop of Toledo and one of Ferdinand and Isabella’s most-influential advisers, should direct the administration in Castile. The Spanish opponents of Ferdinand who had fled to Brussels succeeded in having the will set aside, however, and on March 14, 1516, Charles was proclaimed king in Brussels as Charles I of Aragon and Castile.

In September 1517 he arrived in Spain, a country with whose customs he was unfamiliar and whose language he was as yet barely able to speak. There he instituted, under Burgundian influence, a government that was little better than foreign rule. When his election as king of Germany in 1519 (succeeding his grandfather Emperor Maximilian I) recalled him to that country after some two and one-half years in Spain, Charles left behind him a dissatisfied and restless people. Adrian, whom he had installed as regent, was not strong enough to suppress the revolt of the Castilian cities ( comuneros) that broke out at that point. Making the most of their candidate’s German parentage and buying up German electoral votes (mostly with money supplied by the powerful Fugger banking family), Charles’s adherents had meanwhile pushed through his election as emperor over his powerful rival, Francis I of France.

The Ilkhanate Had Only Two Goals: Conquest and Power - History

Six countries: Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, and the United States, had colonies in Southeast Asia.

The Portuguese had the least impact on Southeast Asia. They captured Malacca in 1511, holding it until the Dutch seized it in 1641. Otherwise, they maintained only a small piece of territory on the island of Timor, southeast of Bali.

Spain ruled the Philippines from its conquest of Cebu in 1565 and Manila in 1571 until its defeat in the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The Netherlands
Dutch colonialism falls into two periods. the first, that of the V.O.C., or Dutch East India Company, lasted from 1605 to 1799. The V.O.C. had little interest in territorial administration its primary concern was to maximize profits through trading monopolies.

When the V.O.C. collapsed in 1799, the Dutch government took control of its assets in 1825, after the Napoleonic Wars, and began to bring the Indonesian archipelago under its administrative authority. This process was completed during the 1930s.

At the end of the Second World War, the Dutch had hoped to retain the Netherlands East Indies as a colony, but the Indonesians opposed the return of the Dutch, setting up a republic in 1945. In 1949, after four years of fighting, the Indonesians gained their independence with the assistance of the United Nations which served as a mediator between the Indonesians and the Dutch.

Great Britain
The British conquered Burma, fighting three Anglo-Burmese Wars in 1824-26, 1852, and 1885-86. Unlike other colonies which maintained their ethnic identity, Burma was a province of British India. The Burmese, therefore, had two sets of rulers, the British at the top with the Indians in the middle. In 1935 the British agreed to separate Burma from India, putting this agreement into effect in 1937. Burma was able to negotiate its independence from Great Britain in 1948.

Penang (acquired in 1786), Singapore (founded by Raffles in 1819), and Malacca (Melaka, acquired in 1824), were governed by Britain as the Straits Settlements. The Straits Settlements served as a base for British expansion into the Malay Peninsula between 1874 and 1914. When the Malay States entered into negotiations for their independence--achieved in 1957--Penang and Malacca became part of Malaysia as did Singapore in 1963. However, Singapore was asked to withdraw from the federation in1965. Singapore has been an independent city state since that date. Sarawak and Sabah which joined Malaysia in 1963 continue to remain members of the federation.

France moved into Vietnam in 1858, capturing Saigon in 1859. Using the south, then called Cochin China, as a base the French moved west and north completing the conquest of Indochina by 1907. (Indochina--the five territories under French authority: Cochin China, Annam, Tongking, Laos, and Cambodia.) The French also wanted to retain their colony after the Second World War. The Vietnamese rejected French rule, and after defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu, obtained their independence at the Geneva Conference in 1954.

The United States
The United States moved into the Philippines as a result of the peace settlement with Spain in 1898. The Filipinos were granted a Commonwealth (internal autonomy) government in 1935, and their independence in 1946.

Thailand continued to be independent. It was the only Southeast Asian state to remain independent during the colonial period.

The impact of colonial rule was different for each region of Southeast Asia.

Key questions for the study of colonialism in Southeast Asia:

To what extent did the colonial authority support the rule of law--applied equally to both Europeans and Southeast Asians?

To what extent did the colonial authority provide for civil liberties: fair trial freedom of assembly free speech free press etc.?

To what extent did the colonial authority make modern education available to Southeast Asians? Did it permit foreign study? Was education available to people from all social classes?

To what extent did the colonial authority allow Southeast Asians to engage in modern economic activities, to form their own businesses, to participate in foreign trade?

Was there a problem of corruption in the colonial government?

Liberal colonial governments. The two liberal colonial governments were Great Britain and the United States.

These two governments maintained a good record with respect to the rule of law, civil liberties, political participation, open education, and economic opportunity. Both were willing to allow their colonies to become independent and had begun to prepare them for future independence before the Second World War began.

Repressive colonial governments. The Spanish, Dutch, and French had a very different attitude toward their colonies.

They generally placed the European in a superior legal position, and limited civil liberties. Political activities were discouraged. Access to modern education was restricted in numbers and to certain social groups. Censorship was common. Southeast Asians were not encouraged to engage in modern economic activities. And there were major problems of corruption in the Spanish and French colonial governments.

Nationalism--organized political movements which had as their goal the restoration of their country's independence. More moderate nationalist movements appeared in those countries with liberal colonial governments while more radical nationalist movements developed in countries with repressive colonial governments.

Nationalism in Southeast Asia developed from three sources: 1, indigenous religions 2, western education and 3, contact with social radicals such as socialists and communists.

Indigenous Religions
In Burma the earliest nationalist movement was led by Buddhists who established the Young Man's Buddhist Association in 1906. They wanted to revitalize Buddhism in Burma, reducing Western influence.

In Indonesia, Muslims were the first to organize a nationalist political party, Sarekat Islam (1912). Sarekat Islam sought to bring all Indonesian Muslims together under its banner of reformist Muslim ideas. It was the first mass political party to appear in Southeast Asia.

Western Education
In Burma the new Western educated elite worked with Buddhist monks and with other Burmese. In 1935 students at the University of Rangoon formed the Dobayma Asiyone, the "We Burman" society. The members of the Dobayma Asiyone called themselves "Thakins" (Master). Many Thakins, Aung San, U Nu, and Ne Win, would become political leaders in independent Burma.

In the Philippines the Western educated leaders first fought against Spain, but later worked with the United States.

In Malaya, educated Malays were brought into the civil service. Throughout the colonial period, they worked closely with their British rulers.

In Indonesia a small group of Indonesians, educated in Dutch schools, formed the P.N.I., the Indonesian Nationalist party, in 1927. The party was forced underground by the Dutch and its leaders exiled.

In Indochina, nationalist activity was confined to Vietnam. Many Western educated Vietnamese were encouraged to identify with the French. Others formed small, generally moderate, political groups, but these organizations were never allowed to become important.

Social Radicals
The communists in Burma tended to be badly split. They have had little impact on Burmese society.

The P.K.I., the Indonesian Communist Party, was founded in 1920. Its major impact came after independence, in the 1950s and early 1960s. It was destroyed by the Indonesian army in 1965.

Despite French repression, the Vietnamese communists became the leading nationalists, taking control of the nationalist movement in the 1930s.

Nationalism was a successful activity in Southeast Asia. All of the countries in the region were independent by 1965, and, in most cases, nationalist leaders were the first of the region's independent heads of state.

The French in Vietnam
The French were never able to come to a compromise with Vietnamese nationalism. Their rule was unusually repressive. Political parties, even moderate ones, would be broken up and their leaders jailed. Experiments with local advisory councils would be canceled. Any protests met with prompt response and was often accompanied by the removal of Vietnamese from government positions and a reduction in educational opportunities.

Over time, Vietnamese political parties moved left. The moderates were driven out by the French.

The left was able to survive because it was able to move underground and because its leaders could escape across the border to China. At times the leaders of the left were imprisoned by the Chinese, at other times they received Chinese support.

During the Second World War Japan was able to occupy Indochina through a treaty with the pro-German Vichy government in France. France was allowed to continue to administer the country and to prohibit natonalist activity.

Vietnamese nationalists sought refuge in China. At first the Chinese ignored the Vietnamese communists. But their need for intelligence about Japanese activities in Vietnam led the Chinese to release Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap from jail. They set up an intelligence network in Vietnam behind Japanese lines. The two men returned to Vietnam as intelligence agents for the Allies (China and the United States).

In 1945 events moved quickly. Two major Vietnam wars had their origin in this period.

March 9, 1945. Japan mounted a coup against the French. The Japanese encouraged the Emperor Bao Dai to organize a government under Japanese sponsorship.

August 14, 1945. Japan surrendered to the Allies in Tokyo. Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap moved to take control over Hanoi and Hue. A United Front government was set up in Saigon.

August 25, 1945. The Emperor Bao Dai abdicated to Ho. Ho Chi Minh then formed a provisional government with himself as its president.

September 2, 1945. Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam independent.

September 12, 1945. British troops arrived in Saigon to receive the surrender of the Japanese and to find out what was happening in Vietnam.

September 22, 1945. The British freed the French troops who had been imprisoned by the Japanese.

September 24-25, 1945. The Vietnamese turned against the French and began to fight.

In accord with the agreements drawn up by the Allies, China was to occupy the northern half of Vietnam and to receive the surrender of the Japanese. The Chinese occupied the north from mid-September 1945 to March 1946. The Chinese sought to use the occupation to gain concessions from the French. They did not interfere with Ho Chi Minh's efforts to set up a government in the north.

Negotiations broke down between Ho and the French over the return of the French to Hanoi. French troops moved into Hanoi in December 1946 as the war spread throughout Vietnam.

In 1949 the Chinese Communist Party won the civil war in China. The United States, fearing communist expansion, increased its assistance to France. The Vietnamese communists were now in a position to obtain aid from both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China.

In March 1954 the French lost the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in northwestern Vietnam. They finally agreed to negotiate with the communists.

At the Geneva Conference in 1954, Vietnam, and the two other countries of Indochina gained their independence. A military truce line was set up at the 17th parallel in preparation for elections for the reunification of Vietnam.

South Vietnam, with the backing of the United States, refused to allow the elections to take place. After a few years of relative peace and reconstruction, the communists decided to renew military activities with the goal of unifying the country.

A.M. Jones. Africa and Indonesia. Leiden, 1964. A study of the influence of Malayo-Polynesian culture on that of Madagascar and Africa

James Hornell. Water Transport. Cambridge, 1946. The development of the outrigger canoe along with other types of boats is discussed.

David Lewis. We, the Navigators. Honolulu, 1972. The techniques of natural navigation as used by the Polynesians are tested on a Pacific voyage.


The Field Museum of Natural History, Exhibit on Traveling the Southern Seas

National Geographic. This magazine has published several articles on the traditional navigational practices of the Pacific peoples.

Public Television Stations. The PBS likes to support independent documentaries and in the past has shown a number of programs on pre-modern navigation and oceanic voyages.

What were the goals of the Axis powers and the Soviet Union during World War Two?

The AXIS powers (Germany, Japan, & Italy) and the Soviet Union goals shifted throughout. The strategic goals of these 4 countries changed substantially over the course of the conflict. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the USSR's primary was simply survival. But as the war went on fortunes changed - so did their goals. Often these differences were heavily affected by events on the battlefield or shifting political realities. Still, many of the initial goals of the war were driven directly by angst over the Treaty of Versailles and efforts to dramatically reshape the world map.

The most belligerent powers, including Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union, often had the most radical and far-reaching plans. These nations each had different grievances due to the path of colonialism and the First World War. Each used the fears and weaknesses of the other powers of Europe and Asia in order to take advantage for their own purposes. Germany sought domination of the European continent and large areas for settlement in Eurasia. Japan sought the removal of colonial powers and the establishment of an alliance of East Asian powers under its umbrella. Italy looked to re-establish the Roman Empire while Russia sought to reverse the humiliation of the end of the First World War and foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War of 1917-1920. The end of the conflict saw a dramatic reshaping of the continent, with many of the initial goals and grievances that started the conflict become irrelevant in the face of the massive conflict.


Perhaps no power's war goals have been so thoroughly researched than that of Germany. Before his National Socialist Party came to power in 1933, Adolf Hitler wrote his political manifesto, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which became a bestseller in the 1920s and 1930s. Hitler laid out a revised 19th Century idea of Lebensraum, or "living space." Germany's population was the second-largest in Europe and expanding. The Nazis sought to expand into Eastern Europe to create a series of colonies around a Greater Germany. National Socialist racial ideology believed that the Slavic, Roma, and Jewish populations of Eastern Europe were all inferior to the fair skinned Aryan Germanic races. Many of these racist policies were combined with Germany's belligerent stance and blaming the country's Jewish population for the loss of World War I, the infamous "stab in the back" theory.

Germany sought to reverse the terms of Versailles. Many, including the annexation of Austria and remilitarization were accomplished at the start of the war in September 1939. Hitler demanded that France be humiliated due to its role in the First World War. When France surrendered to Germany Hitler forced the French delegation to sign the peace terms in the same railway car that Germany signed the armistice in 1918. Germany also extended its domination into Scandinavia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Many of the Eastern European states were forced into satellite status around Germany. Resources of the continent, including allied states, neutral countries, and occupied territory were all funneled towards Germany's war effort. However, up until late in the war the National Socialist regime would attempt to restrict rationing, remembering the heavy toll on the civilian population in World War I. Late in the conflict the German government instituted a total war stance bringing the entire population and industry into desperate measures to win the war. [1]

The National Socialist Party had a clear racial component to many of its goals before and during the war. As the conflict started against Russia in June 1941, the picture became more convoluted. The invasion of Russia with its large Jewish population led directly to the Holocaust. Furthermore, millions of prisoners or war and other Slavs were worked to death in German camps. While some in Eastern Europe welcomed German forces due to Stalin's oppression, their initial warm feelings were not reciprocated. Germany actively sought to exterminate or resettle the population of the Soviet Union and Poland to be replaced with German settlers. Millions of civilians and prisoners became slave labor for the National Socialist regime. These German states would revolve around an enlarged Germany and largely based around agriculture. Some portions of the Soviet Union would become German resorts or key military bases, including the Crimean Peninsula. Towards the end of the war Germany hoped that the Western Allies could be convinced to work with Germany against the advancing Soviet armies. These hopes were all in vain as the Allies all demanded an unconditional surrender with no separate peace.


The rise of the Fascist Party under Benito Mussolini saw Italy attempt to become a major player in world geopolitics. Italy had been on the winning Allied side in the Great War but believed that it had been unfairly treated in the aftermath. The Peace of Versailles gave Italy small portions that it had been promised in secret talks with France and Britain during the war. Italy had also taken grave casualties during the war and its military had one of the worst reputations of the major powers. Mussolini attempted to build a modern, mobile military but instead Italy's army, navy, and air force all earned a poor reputation during the next war. However, Italy's political ambitions remained large as Mussolini attempted to remain on good terms with both Germany and the western allies. The Fascists also attempted to create a new Roman Empire across the Mediterranean, seizing Ethiopia in 1935-1936 and Albania in 1939.

Italy's goals shifted as it aligned closely to Germany in the late 1930s. Italy backed Germany in a series of Eastern European crises in 1938 and 1939 but did not immediately join in the conflict. It was not until France was on the brink of collapse in June 1940 that Italy entered conflict with the Allies. President Roosevelt called Mussolini's calculated maneuver a "stab in the back." Still, Italy's goals were larger than its capabilities. Italy sought to regain territories given to France in the 1850s in exchange for help with Italian unification. Even with France on the verge of total defeat, Italian troops fighting the French along their shared mountainous border suffered a series of defeat. Italy gained just tiny portions of French territory before the armistice of June 22nd. When Italy asked for its full sought territory from Germany, it was stiffly rebuffed.

Italy also sought to increase its profile in Africa by seizing French and British colonies in the Horn of Africa in the chaos of 1940. However, the Allies swiftly retook this territory, as well as Ethiopia and Eritrea from Italy. Italian efforts to push to the Suez Canal in Egypt from the Italian colony Libya were largely repelled by British forces. Italy desired a string of colonies along the Adriatic coast in Yugoslavia and to take former French colonies in North Africa. It was in this vein, jealous of Hitler's successes in Poland and France, that Mussolini ordered the invasion of Greece in October 1940. This invasion backfired spectacularly with Greece launching a counter-offensive and occupying a large segment of Albania. Germany had to bail out Italian forces in April 1941. In a show of exasperation, Italian troops were forbidden by the Germans from occupying Athens. In an effort to placate Germany, Mussolini directed 300,000 Italian troops to the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, where their forces fared poorly. [2]


Like Italy, Japan had been a member of the victorious Allied Powers in the First World War. Unlike Italy, Japan faced relatively few casualties and seized a series of former German colonies However, deepening economic crises caused by the Great Depression and increasing military control of the country left Japan increasingly militaristic and belligerent. Japan had been an aggressive imperial power well before World War I, winning victories against China and Russia in the 1890s and 1910s, respectively, as well as occupying Taiwan in 1895 Korea in 1910. This continued as Japan sought increasing influence in an increasingly fractious China. Japan established a puppet regime in resource-rich Manchuria in 1932 and fought a particularly bloody war with China starting in 1937. Japan also fought and lost a series of border skirmishes with the Soviet Union that ended in August 1939.

Japan had several key war aims once the Second World War began. Its troops were largely mired in various fronts in China as Europe descended into chaos. The fall of France and the Netherlands coupled with Britain's isolation offered Japan a new opportunity. Japan was able to align itself with independent Siam after a brief invasion while also coercing Vichy France into giving up its colony in Indochina. The Netherlands' colonies, the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia), were oil-rich, desperately needed for the war effort. Japan hoped to organize the nations of East Asia, including a potential ally in a liberated India, into the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere under Japanese domination. Japan's far reaching imperial plans put it in direct conflict with the other major Pacific powers, the United States and Britain, which Japan would attack in December 1941. While Japan was able to win a series of rapid victories across Asia in the early part of the war, the rapid mobilization of the United States and the country's massive resources proved to be far too much for Japan to handle. Japan faced a series of defeats across the Pacific before the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. [3]

Soviet Union

The Soviet Union entered the World War II era shackled to its past. Not only had the country suffered millions of casualties from the Great War and Russian Civil War, up until Stalin's Five Year Plans it had been substantially behind the Western powers economically-- Stalin had said that Russia was 100 years behind industrially. It had also faced humiliation in the aftermath of the First World War, having given up much of Russia's former territories in Eastern Europe. The Allied Powers had also intervened on behalf of White forces in the Russian Civil War. Russia joined the League of Nations and attempted a rapprochement with the Western powers cut short by Germany's expansionism. Instead, in August 1939 Soviet dictator Josef Stalin signed a pact with Germany.

Stalin's goals in the early days of World War II were similar to those at the end: to build a buffer for the Soviet Union. In late 1939 and 1940 Stalin invaded or seized part or all of all of Russia's European neighbors, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, seeking to regain territory lost in World War I. Stalin paid a heavy price for this deal, allowing Hitler further influence in Eastern Europe and sending Germany important resources including grain and oil. Germany's invasion of June 22, 1941 proved to be a turning point for Stalin, breaking the fragile peace in Eastern Europe and placing even more distrust in Stalin. As the Soviets turned the tide against Germany in 1943 Stalin utilized this experience to force Communism across Eastern Europe, at any cost.

As Soviet soldiers poured into Eastern Europe in 1944 and 1945 the Soviets established a series of puppet regime while eliminating the leaders of non-Communist factions. In 1945, Soviet troops occupied almost all of Eastern Europe and Stalin consolidated this position to create a series of buffer states that would become the Warsaw Pact after the war. Stalin sought to completely demilitarize and deindustrialize Germany to prevent another invasion. The Allies rejected this idea, Stalin also engineered a massive resettlement of millions of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and other parts of Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union had suffered massively from the conflict, with much of the country's industry destroyed and approximately 20 million killed in the war. The massive toll on Russia helped shape the country's demands at the war's close. Stalin also armed and funded Communist groups across Europe and Asia, becoming indirectly involved in civil wars in Greece and China. The Western Allies exited the Second World War with a large and deepening distrust of Stalin, who at the time commanded the largest army in the world. [4]

Seneca Falls Convention Organizers

The five women who organized the Seneca Falls Convention were also active in the abolitionist movement, which called for an end to slavery and racial discrimination. They included:

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leading women’s rights advocate who was a driving organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention. Stanton first became invested in women’s rights after talking to her father, a law professor, and his students. She studied at Troy Female Seminary and worked on women’s property rights reform in the early 1840s. , a Quaker preacher from Philadelphia, who was known for her anti-slavery, women’s rights and religious reform activism.
  • Mary M𠆜lintock, the daughter of Quaker anti-slavery, temperance and women’s rights activists. In 1833, M𠆜lintock and Mott organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. At the Seneca Falls Convention, M𠆜lintock was appointed secretary.
  • Martha Coffin Wright, Lucretia Mott’s sister. In addition being a lifelong proponent of women’s rights, she was an abolitionist who ran a station on the Underground Railroad from her Auburn, New York, home.
  • Jane Hunt, another Quaker activist, was a member of M𠆜lintock’s extended family through marriage.

Stanton and Mott first met in London in 1840, where they were attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention with their husbands. When the convention excluded women delegates solely based on their sex, the pair resolved to hold a women’s rights convention.

Did you know? Susan B. Anthony did not attend the Seneca Falls Convention. She would meet Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851 and spend the next fifty years fighting for women’s rights alongside her, including co-founding the American Equal Rights Association.

Back in the United States, women’s rights reformers had already begun contending for women’s rights to speak out on moral and political issues beginning in the 1830s. Around the same time in New York, where Stanton lived, legal reformers had been discussing equality and challenging state laws prohibiting married women from owning property. By 1848, equal rights for women was a divisive issue.

In July of 1848, Stanton, frustrated with her role staying at home raising kids, convinced Mott, Wright and M𠆜lintock to help organize the Seneca Falls Convention and write its main manifesto, the Declaration of Sentiments.

Together, the five women drafted a notice to announce 𠇊 Convention to discuss the social, civic and religious condition and rights of Woman” around Hunt’s tea table.

Leading up to World War II

The devastation of the Great War (as World War I was known at the time) had greatly destabilized Europe, and in many respects World War II grew out of issues left unresolved by that earlier conflict. In particular, political and economic instability in Germany, and lingering resentment over the harsh terms imposed by the Versailles Treaty, fueled the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and National Socialist German Workers’ Party, abbreviated as NSDAP in German and the Nazi Party in English..

Did you know? As early as 1923, in his memoir and propaganda tract "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle), Adolf Hitler had predicted a general European war that would result in "the extermination of the Jewish race in Germany."

After becoming਌hancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler swiftly consolidated power, anointing himself Führer (supreme leader) in 1934. Obsessed with the idea of the superiority of the “pure” German race, which he called 𠇊ryan,” Hitler believed that war was the only way to gain the necessary “Lebensraum,” or living space, for the German race to expand. In the mid-1930s, he secretly began the rearmament of Germany, a violation of the Versailles Treaty. After signing alliances with Italy and Japan against the Soviet Union, Hitler sent troops to occupy Austria in 1938 and the following year annexed Czechoslovakia. Hitler’s open aggression went unchecked, as the United States and Soviet Union were concentrated on internal politics at the time, and neither France nor Britain (the two other nations most devastated by the Great War) were eager for confrontation.

The Ilkhanate Had Only Two Goals: Conquest and Power - History

The World at War: 1931-1945

While the United States was still struggling to emerge from the Great Depression at the end of the 1930s, and would do so partly because of the war, Japan had emerged from its own period of depression, which had begun in 1926, by the mid-1930s. Many of the young soldiers mobilized into the Japanese army by the early 1930s came from the rural areas, where the effects of the depression were devastating and poverty was widespread. Their commitment to the military effort to expand Japanese territory to achieve economic security can be understood partly in these terms. The depression ended in the mid-1930s in Japan partly because of government deficits used to expand greatly both heavy industry and the military.

Internationally, this was a time when "free trade" was in disrepute. The great powers not only jealously protected their special economic rights within their colonies and spheres of influence, but sought to bolster their sagging economies through high tariffs, dumping of goods, and other trade manipulation. The Japanese, with few natural resources, sought to copy this pattern. They used cutthroat trade practices to sell textiles and other light industrial goods in the East Asian and U.S. markets, severely undercutting British and European manufacturers. They also developed sources of raw materials and heavy industry in the colonies they established in Korea, Taiwan and Manchuria. Japan used high tariffs to limit imports of American and European industrial products.

The Japanese military faced a particular tactical problem in that certain critical raw materials — especially oil and rubber — were not available within the Japanese sphere of influence. Instead, Japan received most of its oil from the United States and rubber from British Malaya, the very two Western nations trying to restrict Japan's expansion. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's embargo of oil exports to Japan pressured the Japanese navy, which had stocks for only about six months of operations.

The Japanese army, for its part, was originally concerned with fighting the Soviet Union, because of the army's preoccupation with Manchuria and China. The Japanese army governed Manchuria indirectly through the "puppet" state of Manchukuo and developed heavy industry there under its favorite agencies, disliking and distrusting the zaibatsu (large Japanese corporations). But the Soviet army's resistance to Japanese attacks was sufficient to discourage northern expansion.

Meanwhile in 1937, the intensification of Chinese resistance to the pressure of the Japanese military drew Japan into a draining war in the vast reaches of China proper, and in 1940 into operations in French Indochina, far to the south. Thus, when the navy pressed for a "southern" strategy of attacking Dutch Indonesia to get its oil and British Malaya to control its rubber, the army agreed.

While it seems that economic factors were important in Japanese expansion in East Asia, it would be too much to say that colonialism, trade protection, and the American embargo compelled Japan to take this course. Domestic politics, ideology and racism also played a role.

The political structure of Japan at this time was inherited from the Meiji era and was increasingly dominated by the military. During the Meiji period, the government was controlled by a small ruling group of elder statesmen who had overthrown the shogun and established the new centralized Japanese state. These men used their position to coordinate the bureaucracy, the military, the parliament, the Imperial Household, and other branches of government. Following their deaths in the early 1920s, no single governmental institution was able to establish full control, until the 1931 Manchurian Incident, when Japan took control of Manchuria. This began a process in which the military behaved autonomously on the Asian mainland and with increasing authority in politics at home.

From 1937 on, Japan was at war with China. By the time General Hideki Tôjô became prime minister and the war against the United States began in 1941, the nation was in a state of "total war" and the military and their supporters were able to force their policies on the government and the people. The wartime regime used existing government controls on public opinion, including schools and textbooks, the media, and the police, but Japan continued to have more of an authoritarian government than a totalitarian one like Hitler's Germany. In particular, the government was never able to gain real control of the economy and the great zaibatsu, which were more interested in the economic opportunities provided by the military's policies than in submitting loyally to a patriotic mission.

The emperor has been criticized for not taking a more forceful action to restrain his government, especially in light of his own known preference for peace, but Japanese emperors after the Meiji Restoration had "reigned but not ruled." One wonders if a more forceful emperor in fact could have controlled the army and navy at this late date. The doubts are strengthened in light of the difficulty the emperor had in forcing the military to accept surrender after the atomic bombings. The emperor's decision at that point to bring agreement among his advisers was an extraordinary event in Japanese history.

The emperor-based ideology of Japan during World War II was a relatively new creation, dating from the efforts of Meiji oligarchs to unite the nation in response to the Western challenge. Before the Meiji Restoration, the emperor wielded no political power and was viewed simply as a symbol of the Japanese culture. He was the head of the Shintô religion, Japan's native religion, which holds, among other beliefs, that the emperor is descended from gods who created Japan and is therefore semidivine. Westerners of that time knew him only as a shadowy figure somewhat like a pope.

The Meiji oligarchs brought the emperor and Shintô to national prominence, replacing Buddhism as the national religion, for political and ideological reasons — since Buddhism had originated in India and come to Japan via China. The people were not allowed to look at the emperor, or even to speak his name patriotism had been raised to the unassailable level of sacredness.

It is sometimes difficult to comprehend the extreme sacrifices the Japanese made in the name of the emperor. This can perhaps best be viewed, however, as extreme patriotism — Japanese were taught to give their lives, if necessary, for their emperor. But this was not entirely different from the Americans who gave their lives in the same war for their country and the "American" way. The kamikaze pilots, who were named for the "divine wind" (kami kaze) that destroyed the Mongol fleet in the thirteenth century and saved Japan from invasion, might be compared to the young Iranian soldiers fighting in suicide squadrons in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, or even to fanatical Shiites responsible for the truck bombing of the U.S. Lebanese embassy in 1983.

The Japanese were proud of their many accomplishments and resented racial slurs they met with in some Western nations. Their attempt to establish a statement of racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations was vetoed by the United States (because of opposition in California) and Great Britain (Australian resistance). The Japanese greatly resented this.

The Japanese military was convinced of the willingness of its people to go to any sacrifice for their nation, and it was contemptuous of the "softness" of the U.S. and European democracies, where loyalty and patriotism were tempered by the rights and well-being of the individual. The military's overconfidence in its own abilities and underestimation of the will of these other nations were thus rooted in its own misleading ethnic and racial stereotypes. While Asians, the Japanese saw themselves as less representatives of Asia than Asia's champion. They sought to liberate Asian colonies from the Westerners, whom they disdained. But although the Japanese were initially welcomed in some Asian colonies by the indigenous populations whom they "liberated" from European domination, the arrogance and racial prejudice displayed by the Japanese military governments in these nations created great resentment. This resentment is still evident in some Southeast Asian nations.

The World at War: Discussion Questions

  1. What was the economic situation in Japan around 1930? Why was this?
  2. Who dominated the government in Japan at this time? What was their ambition?
  3. Describe the international economic situation that fueled military conflict among nations. How did Japan fit into this situation?
  4. Who was General Hideki Tojo?
  5. Explain what an "ideology" is? What ideology was propagated by the Japanese leaders to unite the country behind the war? Explain what role belief in the emperor's special status played in the ideology. What role did racism play — the belief in the special qualities of Japanese and other Asian peoples?
  6. Give an example of a situation where the Japanese felt insulted by what they perceived as the racism of Western countries.

Japan and the United States at War: Pearl Harbor, December 1941

Today Japan and the United States are close allies. But between 1941 and 1945, they fought a bitter and bloody war, which many people remember well today. Why did they fight this war?

The answer on the American side is simple: the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Americans were angry at the Japanese for their invasions of first Manchuria (1931), then China (1937), and later French Indochina (1940). After the Japanese moved into Indochina, President Roosevelt ordered a trade embargo on American scrap steel and oil, on which the Japanese military depended. But the American people felt that Asia was far away, and a large majority of voters did not want to go to war to stop Japan. The surprise attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 changed this, outraging the whole U.S. nation and convincing it that it must stop the Japanese army and navy.

Why did Japan attack the United States? This is a more complicated question. Japan knew the United States was economically and military powerful, but it was not afraid of any American attack on its islands. Japan did worry however, that the Americans might help the Chinese resist the Japanese invasion of their country. When President Roosevelt stopped U.S. shipments of steel and oil the Japan, he was doing exactly this: the Japanese are dependent on other countries for raw materials, for they have almost none on their own islands. Without imports of steel and oil, the Japanese military could not fight for long. Without oil, the navy would not be able to move after it had exhausted its six-month reserve. Roosevelt hoped that this economic pressure would force Japan to end its military expansion in East Asia.

The Japanese military saw another solution to the problem: if it could quickly conquer the British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia and gain complete control of the oil, rubber, and other raw materials it needed, then it could defend its interests in China and Indochina against those Europeans who were now busy fighting a major war in Europe against the Germans and Italians. The only force that could stop the Japanese was the American Pacific fleet — which was conveniently gathered close to Japan at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Knowing that many Americans did not want to fight a war against Japan, the military thought that if it suddenly destroyed the U.S. fleet, America would simply give up and allow Japan to consolidate its grasp on East Asia.

Japan was not militarily or economically powerful enough to fight a long war against the United States, and the Japanese military knew this. Its attack on Pearl Harbor was a tremendous gamble — and though the short-run gamble was successful, the long-run gamble was lost because the Japanese were wrong about the American reaction.

But behind this mistake was another, earlier miscalculation. Ever since Commodore Perry's fleet opened Japan in 1853, in an era of great colonial expansion, the Japanese had watched the European powers dominate East Asia and establish colonies and trading privileges. China, Japan's neighbor, was carved up like a melon as Western powers established their spheres of influence on Chinese territory. After an amazingly short time, Japan was able to develop the economic and military strength to join this competition for dominance of the Asian mainland. Japan defeated China in 1895 and Russia in 1905, in battles over who should dominate Korea. Japan joined the allies against Germany in 1914-18 in a struggle to control a portion of China and then conquered Manchuria in 1931 in an effort to secure a land area rich in raw materials. The Japanese nation and its military, which controlled the government by the 1930s, felt that it then could, and should, control all of East Asia by military force.

French Invasion of Egypt, 1798-1801

Eighteenth century Egypt was officially part of the Ottoman Empire, having been conquered in 1517. Prior to that, she had been ruled by the Mamluks, a dynasty of slave warriors, who had themselves seized control in 1250. The Ottoman conquest had not seen the destruction of the Mamluks, who had retained control of large parts of the country within the new Ottoman system. By the start of the eighteenth century, the Mamluks had regained most of their former power.

The Mamluks were not a unified force. Different Mumluk households fought for control over Egypt, and even when the Qazdagli faction was victorious (by about 1765), the fighting did not stop. Finally, in 1775, the winner of a particularly bitter conflict died, and the Mamluks descended into chaos. The followers of the two factions split into two main factions, that themselves each had at least two leaders. By 1778 the faction that included Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey was victorious, at which point they then started fighting between themselves. Over the next few years they were constantly making and breaking peace agreements, before finally coming to a more permanent understanding in 1785. Unfortunately, by this time Murad Bey had so often threatened the foreign merchants upon whose taxes he depended, that after yet another attack on the merchants of Alexandria in1786, they appealed to Istanbul.

The government in Istanbul was already considering launching an expedition to regain control of what was one of their most valuable possessions. This expedition arrived in July 1786, but could only drive Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey from Cairo. They took refuge in Upper Egypt, their enemies were returned to power, while the Ottoman commander was recalled in 1787. For four years the two factions remained in balance &ndash Murad and Ibrahim dominated the south, while Isma‛il Bey ruled in Cairo. The status quo was ended dramatically in 1791 when the plaque swept through Cairo, killing Isma‛il and most of his supporters. Murad and Ibrahim returned to Cairo in August 1791 with the Sultan&rsquos pardon.

The last years of Mamluk rule were disastrous for Egypt. The constant infighting combined with the outrageous taxes, ruined Egypt&rsquos trade. One of the triggers of the French invasion was the virtual destruction of French trade with Egypt by the 1790s. Murad and Ibrahim resumed their destructive activities after their return, this time inflicting their greed on virtually the entire population. By the time the French arrived, prosperous towns such as Damietta and Rosetta had lost over half of their population, Cairo had shrunk by 40,000 people and even Alexandria was almost ruined. Murad and Ibrahim were more concerned with restoring their personal fortunes than with actually ruling Egypt.

French Intentions

The original French plan was undoubtedly to seize Egypt as a colony. The French expected the Egyptian population, suffering under the Mamluks, to welcome them as liberators, while the Ottomans would at least tolerate the French as the price for expelling their overly independent subjects. Egypt was to benefit from the developments made possible by the revolution, her government modernised, new institutions created and old ones cast aside, just as had happened in France.

The role of the Ottomans was always tricky. France had traditionally been allied with the Ottoman Empire, and at least for the moment there was no intention of disrupting this. The French plan relied heavily on the Ottomans staying at least neutral, counting on their hostility to the Mamluks (demonstrated in 1786) overweighing their anger at the French invasion of what was still officially an Ottoman province.

The role of Islam had been considered, if not very realistically. In Napoleon&rsquos first proclamation to the people of Egypt he claimed to &lsquoworship God more than the Mamluks do&rsquo and went to claim that the French &lsquoare also true Muslims&rsquo. Needless to say, this claim was not convincing, although religion was not to prove one of the most serious problems that eventually faced the French.

French ambitions went beyond Egypt herself. Napoleon&rsquos own personal ambition, needless to say, went even further. A side benefit was to be the seizure of Malta, still ruled by the Knights of St. John, by this point a rather faded force. Malta was to act as a French naval base. Beyond Egypt, the French hoped to challenge the British in India, where French influence had been ended during the Seven Years War. In order to achieve this, one of Napoleon&rsquos orders was to dig a canal through Suez, to allow French fleets into the Red Sea.

Napoleon himself appears to have gone beyond just the conquest of Egypt and India. During his Egyptian years, aged only twenty nine, he is on record as having said that Europe was too small for him, and that all greatness was achieved in the east (shades of Julius Caesar worrying that he had achieved nothing at the age that Alexander the Great had already conquered Persia). Having secured Egypt and expelled the British from India, he would rouse the Greeks, destroy the Ottoman Empire, capture Constantinople and attack Europe from the rear. Grand plans, although as events to show, French arms were certainly capable of defeating much larger Ottoman forces.

French Preparations

The French army was large, although perhaps not large enough to attempt the permanent occupation of Egypt on its own. The original plan included provision for reinforcements to be sent, assuming that France would retain her freedom to act in Mediterranean. Napoleon&rsquos expedition included 30,000 infantry, 2,800 cavalry, 60 field guns, 40 siege guns and two companies of sappers and miners. This was enough for the initial conquest, but as will be seen it was severely stretched to provide both a garrison for Egypt and a field army. The officers that accompanied the army were an impressive group. As well as Napoleon, the army included Berthier, Murat, Marmont, Davout, Kléber, Reynier, Junot and Alexandre Dumas, the father of the famous novelist. To transport an army this size to Egypt required a massive fleet. Nearly 300 transport ships were accompanied by 13 ships of the line and seven frigates.

One famous and unusual aspect of the expedition is that it was accompanied by a group of 167 savants, who were to form the nucleus of a new Acadamy Egypt. The work carried out by this academic expedition probably had the most long term impact, at least in Europe. Amongst its achievements was the discovery of the Rosetta stone, from which followed the deciphering of hieroglyphics and the rediscovery of ancient Egyptian history.

The Egyptian expedition was prepared at great speed and in impressive secrecy. It was proposed early in 1798, approved on 12 April, and departed from Toulon on 20 May after only ten weeks of preparation. The level of secrecy was equally impressive. News of their real destination only arrived in Britain with the French newspapers on 12 July. Even Nelson, cruising in the Mediterranean, took months to catch up with the French fleet.

The Sea Voyage and Malta

Napoleon sailed from Toulon on 20 May. The French expedition used several ports as well as Toulon, including Marseilles, Genoa, Civitavecchia and the ports of Corsica, making the level of secrecy even more impressive. The soldiers themselves were not informed of their destination until they were at sea.

Malta was reached on 9 June. By tradition, neutral states only allowed two ships from any belligerent fleet to use their harbours at any one time. Napoleon sent a messenger to Grand Master de Hompesch, the head of the Knights of St John, demanding that his fleet be allowed to enter harbour at Valletta to replenish their supplies. De Hompesch briefly demonstrated some backbone, insisting on the two ship limit. Napoleon replied that he would take what was need by force, at which point De Hopmesch lost his backbone, retreating to his palace.

The order that he presided over, the Knights of St John, had a long history of successful resistance against attack, but the order was a shadow of its former self. A group of French knights were acting as third column within the order, undermining its resistance by refusing to fight their countrymen. Even so, the remaining knights may have been about to offer resistance when the native Maltese broke into revolt. Faced with enemies within and without, the Knights of St John surrendered on 12 June, only three days after the French had arrived.

Napoleon spent a week on Malta, where he demonstrated both sides of his character. The positive side can be seen in the series of reforms he initiated. All religious orders on the Island, including the Knights of St John, were abolished. The tax system was reformed and the university and hospitals modernised. On the other hand, Malta was to spend the next two years under French military rule, while when Napoleon sailed he took most of the treasures of the Knights with him, including their library. This mix of reform, military rule and plunder was to be typical of Napoleon (and had already been seen in Italy).

The next leg of the voyage saw a close encounter with Nelson&rsquos fleet. On the night of 22-23 June, French officers heard signals guns from the British fleet. Napoleon refused to believe that any significant British fleet could possibly be in the Mediterranean, no alarm was called and the fleets passed in the night. Finally, on the morning of 1 July, just after Nelson had sailed north in frustration, the French fleet reached the Egyptian coast.

Napoleon Lands

Time was now running tight. Nelson was now known to be in the area, and the Nile flood was due in August. Napoleon started his campaign with a calculated gamble. While some of his commanders suggested the French fleet sailed on to the Rosetta mouth of the Nile, Napoleon decided to land 5,000 men close to Alexandria, capture the port and land the rest of his force there. Against more determined opponents or better defences this would have been a risky option, but the defences of Alexandria were decrepit and the garrison small. On 2 July, Alexandria was in French hands, and Napoleon was able to land the rest of his force.

The Mamluks were confident that they could repel this foreign invasion. This was largely due to their ignorance of the military potential of the French army that had landed on their shores (other better informed commanders had already made the same mistake about Napoleon). It was also due to their confidence in their own military abilities. Murad Bey&rsquos first reaction to the French invasion was to take a force of his best cavalry to repel the invaders. This force was defeated at Shubrakhit (13 July 1798) after Napoleon formed his infantry into squares.

The march to Cairo was grueling even with effective Mamluk resistance. Egypt was at its driest, just before the Nile flood. Bedouin raids cut off French stragglers, and under many under commanders the French army could have disintegrated in the heat.

The apparent success of the first phase of Napoleon&rsquos plan was assured by the French victory at the battle of the Pyramids (21 July 1798). Fought within sight of the Pyramids, on the opposite bank of the Nile from Cairo, the battle saw the Mamluk cavalry dash itself against French infantry squares and come off second best. Only thirty Frenchmen were killed and another 300 wounded. Mamluk losses are harder to estimate, but may have been as high as 3,000.

The aftermath of the battle saw Napoleon in command of Cairo and with it most of Lower Egypt. For a brief moment everything was going to plan. Before Napoleon could really settle down to enjoy the fruits of his conquest, news reached him from the coast. On 1 August Admiral Nelson had finally found the French fleet, at anchor in Aboukir Bay, and destroyed it.

Nelson and the Nile

Nelson&rsquos chase had begun badly. On 20 May his flagship, HMS Vanguard had been dismasted in a storm, and nearly ran aground. Nelson&rsquos determination played a crucial part in saving the ship, but the captains of his frigates were convinced that Nelson would be forced to return to Gibraltar to make repairs, and so they had returned there themselves, leaving Nelson without frigates until after the battle of the Nile.

Losing his frigates critically weakened Nelson&rsquos fleet. The frigates were the eyes of the fleet, able to out-sail the main ships of the line, increasing the area of visibility &ndash the frigates could sail at the limits of visibility from the main fleet, more than doubling the amount of sea visible at any one time. Without them, Nelson could only see as far as the view from the highest mast in the fleet. With no idea of the French destination, Nelson was effectively hoping to chance upon their fleet during his travels. When one considers how hard his job was, it is perhaps creditable that he came as close as he did.

As was discussed above, the two fleets appear to have come within earshot of each other on the night of 22-23 June, when Nelson&rsquos faster fleet overtook the slow French transports. On 29 June, Nelson reached Alexandria, where he found no news of the French. His worry now was that the French had actually been heading somewhere further west, where they were now free to act without British interference. Accordingly, he sailed on, hoping to find the French wherever they had actually gone. He had missed Napoleon by at most two days, but it was to take over a month before he returned to Alexandria and finally found the French fleet.

In the meantime, Nelson&rsquos fleet searched the eastern Mediterranean, sailing along the south coast of Crete and back to Syracuse (19 July). By this point, Napoleon was already approaching Cairo. At Syracuse it became clear that the French were indeed somewhere to the east. Nelson started east again, this time heading for Greece. Finally, on 29 July, Nelson finally received reliable news of the French, and was able to put on full sail and head for Alexandria for the second time.

This time he was not disappointed. On 1 August the British fleet reached Alexandria, where they found the French transports. They also found news of the French warships, probably when their sails were spotted from the masthead of one of Nelson&rsquos warships. Their location and numbers were confirmed by signals from private ships in Alexandria.

During the long search, Nelson and his captains had discussed every possible French deployment, and Nelson had expounded his plans for dealing with each of them. Thus when the first British ships rounded the head of Aboukir Point and first saw how the French were moored, they immediately knew that they had to attack the French van and centre, ignoring the French rear. Captain Foley in HMS Goliath saw that he could actually sail between the French ships and the coastline, and led part of the British fleet into that gap. The front and centre of the French fleet was now sandwiched between two lines of British ships. The French rear never came into action. The battle of the Nile was one of the most crushing naval victories ever seen. No British ships were lost, while only two of the thirteen French ships of the line escaped. Napoleon was now cut off from France.

After the Nile

The destruction of his fleet dramatically restricted Napoleon&rsquos options. No reinforcements could be expected while the British controlled the Mediterranean, and without reinforcements the grander French plans to the east had to be abandoned. Nelson was well aware of this, and one of his first actions after the battle was to make sure the news was sent to India. With the threat to India gone, much of the strategic sense was gone from the Egyptian venture. Napoleon told his generals that they would have to found an empire, but in reality his expedition, launched with such great expectations, was now something of a sideshow.

Despite their defeat at the battle of the Pyramids, the Mamluks had not been destroyed. Ibrahim Bey had escaped to Palestine, while a larger force under Murad Bey retreated to Upper Egypt. Depending on your point of view, for the next ten months this force either managed to evade a French force under General Desaix, keeping it pinned down in Upper Egypt, or alternatively General Desaix managed to keep a much larger Mumluk army on the run for ten months, preventing it from threatening the French occupation of Lower Egypt. The first view is rather more convincing. The French were forced to split their forces to combat Murad, much of Upper Egypt remained outside their effective control, and the grain supply to Lower Egypt was disrupted. Eventually, in the spring of 1800 the French had to officially acknowledge Murad&rsquos control of Upper Egypt.

October 1798 saw the first of several outbreaks of violence in Cairo. These first riots were put down rapidly but violently. Some 3,000 Egyptians were killed after two days of street fighting. The French lost 300 dead, ten times their losses at the battle of the Pyramids. It was clear that holding Egypt was going to be rather harder than conquering it had been. With reinforcements denied them by the destruction of their fleet, the French could not afford to lose men in such numbers.

Any real chance that the Ottoman Empire would accept the French conquest ended after Nelson destroyed the French fleet at the battle of the Nile (1 August). British diplomacy at Istanbul was now able to steer the Empire towards outright opposition, and on 9 September 1798 the Ottoman Empire declared war on France (early in 1799 Russia joined with Britain and Turkey, forming the Second Coalition. Napoleon now had to face the real danger of invasion by land and by sea. Two Ottoman armies were to be involved in the invasion. The army of Damascus was to advance through Syria and Palestine and attack Egypt across the Sinai. Another army, to be formed on Rhodes, would, with protection from the Royal Navy, land near the Nile. The French would be surrounded and outnumbered.

Napoleon&rsquos response was to launch a pre-emptive attack into Palestine and Syria. He gathered a field army 13,000 strong, and on 6 February 1799 began his march east. This was not to be one of Napoleon&rsquos lightning marches, illuminated with victories. The Ottoman garrison at al-&lsquoArish resisted for eleven days, a rather better performance than the 3,000 strong garrison of Jaffa, who only held out from 3 March to 7 March. Their surrender was followed by one of the more shameful incidents of the war. On the grounds that some of the garrison of Jaffa had been released on parole having given their word not to fight against the French, and also that the French had neither the food or the spare men to guard the prisoners, Napoleon had the 3,000 prisoners executed. This undoubted atrocity appears to have had the effect of increasing the willingness of the Ottoman garrisons to resist the French as long as possible.

This was soon to be demonstrated at Acre. Once a powerfully defended Crusader stronghold, the defences of Acre had generally been neglected for many years, and appeared to be in no shape to resist a determined siege. Acre was defended by the bulk of the Ottoman garrison of the area, supported by a small British naval squadron commanded by Sir Sydney Smith. When Smith had first had Acre inspected, the report he received suggested that the town was almost indefensible by land. With British help, and that of Captain Phélippeaux, a French royalist, the defences were put back into some sort of order. The defenders were greatly helped by Napoleon&rsquos decision to send his siege train to Acre by sea. The guns were promptly captured, and in an ironic twist used to defend the city. Smith himself reached Acre on 15 March 1799, three days before Napoleon arrived to begin the siege. The combined British and Ottoman garrison resisted nine determined French assaults, helped by the weakness of the French artillery.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman army of Damascus was approaching. This was another large army, possibly 25,000 strong. Napoleon had heard of its approach and sent Kléber with a force 2,000 strong to scout it out. Kléber succeeded almost too well. The battle of Mt. Tabor (16 April) saw his 2,000 men resist repeated cavalry attacks by forming infantry squares, until eventually Napoleon arrived from Acre with a relieving force and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Ottoman army.

To a certain extent, the victory at Mt. Tabor meant that Napoleon&rsquos expedition into Palestine and Syria had achieved its main aim, but he could not claim it as total success unless he could capture Acre. Time was now starting to run out. Plague had broken out in the French army, reducing its strength, while the Ottoman army of Cyprus was known to be closing in. By the start of May, the remaining French artillery had arrived by the overland route. Finally, by 4 May, they had finally managed to create a breach in the walls, and were preparing for what Napoleon hoped would be the final assault. By this point, Napoleon was reacting to events. The date of the assault was decided by the appearance of the ships carrying the Ottoman army from Cyprus on 7 May. Napoleon was forced to launch a desperate assault. This succeeding in capturing part of the wall and the north-east tower of Acre, but British forces from Smith&rsquos fleet were able to hold the French until the Ottoman reinforcements were able to land and repulse them. Two more French assaults, on 8 May and 10 May, were repelled by the reinforced garrison. Finally, on 20 May Napoleon was forced to abandon the siege.

Napoleon Leaves

Napoleon is sometimes considered to have deserted the army in Egypt. This is not entirely true, although the furtive manner of his departure does encourage such suspicions.

The French Directorate had decided that they needed Napoleon back in France. They had sent the letter with Admiral Bruix, who in March 1799 was able to evade the British blockade of Brest with the aim of relieving the troops trapped in Egypt. Bruix had managed to enter the Mediterranean, where he outnumbered any force that the British could have raised to oppose him. However, he failed to take advantage of the opportunity, and after causing the British a great deal of concern eventually returned to Brest having accomplished very little else.

However, he had made some attempts to get Napoleon&rsquos new orders through to Egypt, and they had been captured by the British. Ironically, it would soon seem to be to their advantage that Napoleon received his orders.

Sir Sydney Smith, having successfully defended Acre, now had a Turkish army of probably 15,000 men (estimates of the size of this army vary) willing to follow his suggestions. Accompanied by British, Russian and Turkish ships (one partial outcome of the battle of the Nile was that both Turkey and Russian had come into the war against France, although neither stayed in for long at this point), on 14 July this force landed at Aboukir Bay and captured the French fort at the tip of the western arm of the bay.

This was their last success. General Marmont, the French commander at Alexandria, sent news to Napoleon, now back in Cairo. Napoleon gathered together a force of 10,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry, and headed for Alexandria. To his relief, Mustapha Pasha, the Turkish general, had remained at Aboukir. As much as half of his army was out of action due to illness, and he clearly felt it could not risk taking on the French in the field.

This allowed Napoleon to win his last victory in Egypt, at the first battle of Aboukir (25 July 1799). Despite some hard fighting, the French victory was complete. Somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 Turks were killed during or immediately after the battle, when many drowned attempting to escape, while Mustapha Pasha was captured. The French position in Egypt was safe, at least for the moment.

In contrast, Napoleon was soon gone. During the post-battle negotiations over the exchange of prisoners, Smith made sure that Napoleon&rsquos new orders finally got through. When one considers that with months of his return, Napoleon had seized power, this doesn&rsquot look like such a good move, but Smith&rsquos hope was that he could capture Napoleon when he attempted to return to France. This was a perfectly reasonable gamble to take, but it failed. Napoleon briefly returned to Cairo, before heading to the Nile delta on what he claimed was a tour of inspection.

Once there, Napoleon boarded the frigate Le Muiron, the flagship of Admiral Ganteaume. Le Muiron was new, well designed, and fast, and could probably have eluded any of Smith&rsquos ships, but there were no encounters. The nearest Napoleon came to a British fleet was a distant site of Lord Keith&rsquos fleet off the coast of Provence, and on 9 October Napoleon landed in France. Just over a month later, he seized power.

After Napoleon

The rest of the French occupation is often ignored, but the French remained in Egypt for another two years. Their problem now was to decide what their aim was. Their original plans were now in tatters. The Egyptian population had not welcomed them as liberators. Any prospect of restoring an ancient Suez Canal had had to be dismissed after an inspection of the area. There was not longer any realistic hope of undermining British rule in India.

Napoleon&rsquos immediate successor was General Kléber. His first priority was to arrange for a French evacuation. The military situation in Europe was sufficiently worrying for the French government to want to get as many troops home as possible. In September 1799 he opened negotiations with the Ottoman Empire. His initial terms were somewhat ambitious &ndash in return for evacuating Egypt, he demanded the end of the Second Coalition, the return of the Ionian Islands, and the end of Ottoman involvement in the siege of Malta.

Circumstances started to turn against the French. The Ottoman army seized the Egyptian border post at al-&lsquoArish on 29 December, while the French army became increasingly mutinous. On 24 January 1800 Kléber agreed to the Convention of al-&lsquoArish. In return for the French evacuation of Egypt, the Ottomans agreed to the safe return of their troops to France and to pay for the redeployment, but remained in occupation of the Ionian Islands and part of the coalition.

This treaty was not to last. The British were not happy with the idea of an experienced French army returning to Europe, although the government eventually agreed to confirm the convention. By the time they had made this decision, the slow speed of communications meant that their discussions had no meaning. In early March Admiral Lord Keith, the British commander in chief in the Mediterranean informed the French that he did not accept the terms of the convention. Up till then, the French had been obeying the terms of the agreement, and had withdrawn to Cairo, while an Ottoman army of 40,000 was waiting outside the city.

Kléber was able to restore the situation with another crushing military victory. On 20 March he launched a surprise dawn attack on the Ottoman army at Heliopolis (north east of Cairo). During a day long battle, his force of 10,000 men devastated the Ottoman army. His problems were still not over. Another more serious revolt had broken out in the Nile Delta and Cairo, and so Kléber had to settle down to another reconquest of Egypt. This culminated in a siege of Cairo that finished with an assault on the city on 21 April 1800. In the aftermath of the rebellion, he was forced to come to a formal agreement with Murad Bey, recognising the Mamluk rule of Upper Egypt. What Kléber would have done next will never be known. On 14 June 1800 he was assassinated, and succeeded by General Menou.

Menou stayed in charge for the remaining fourteen months of the French occupation. He was not interesting in evacuation, and in any case Napoleon had restored the military situation in Europe. Menou was interesting in establishing a permanent French presence in Egypt. He had converted to Islam and married an Egyptian. His rule saw the most wide ranging tax reforms as well as a consistent policy of seeking support amongst the local elites.

The French occupation was finally ended by a British invasion. At the end of 1799, the Second Coalition started to break up. Russia left the coalition, and became increasingly anti-British. Austria was looking increasingly vulnerable after defeats in June 1800 (although she remained a combatant until February 1801). In August, the French offered Britain a naval armistice. Perhaps surprisingly, this was actually considered. Some British politicians advocated putting all of her efforts into propping up Britain&rsquos allies in Europe. In the end, it was decided to concentrate on Britain&rsquos own global interests.

There was only one active British army in the field at this point. A force 20,000 strong, commanded by Lord Abercromby, had been ordered to the Mediterranean in May 1800. In September 1800, this force had captured Valetta, ending the French occupation of Malta. An attempt to seize Cadiz had failed. Finally, in October 1800 it was decided to use this army to expel the French from Egypt.

It was to be part of a three pronged assault. The British, supported by a smaller Ottoman army, would land on the Egyptian coast. A second, larger, Ottoman army, in the end commanded by the Grand Vizier, would invade through Palestine, while a third British force, made up of troops from India reinforced from Britain would land on the Red Sea coast and march down the Nile to Cairo.

Abercromby&rsquos force arrived first. Aboukir Bay saw its third battle in three years (Second battle of Aboukir, 8 March 1801). Perhaps as many as 4,000 French troops lined the sand dunes of Aboukir, where they faced a determined assault commanded by Sir John Moore, which succeeded in establishing a beachhead. After a second clash at Mandora (13 March), the key battle of the campaign came on 21 March (battle of Alexandria, fought on the ancient site of Canopus). Here, the British troops showed that they could resist large French forces, proving that the apparently irresistible French columns could be defeated. The main British loss was Abercromby, fatally wounded during the battle.

The net was now closing in around the French in Egypt. General Menou was now trapped in Alexandria. At the end of April the main British army, combined with the main Ottoman army, advanced on Cairo. They reached the city on 21 June, and after a short siege the French garrison of 13,000 troops surrendered on 27 June. The second British force had landed on the Red Sea coast early in June, and began its crossing of the desert on 19 June. Although this force played no direct part in the fighting, it probably persuaded France&rsquos new Mamluk allies not to take part in the fighting.

The Cairo garrison was shipped out of Egypt on 30 July. General Hutchinson, who had replaced Abercromby, was now able to concentrate on Menou, still isolated in Alexandria. Resistance here was more determined, lasting from 9 August until the final surrender on 30 August. Two weeks later, Menou&rsquos force embarked for France. The occupation of Egypt was over.

Ironically, the war itself was also winding towards a temporary halt (the peace of Amiens). With Austria out of the war in February 1801, negotiations between Britain and France soon followed. On 1 October 1801 the two sides signed the Peace of London (which was to lead to the Peace of Amiens). As part of the peace, the French agreed to evacuate Egypt and restore it to the Ottomans. Ironically, this agreement was made after the French had already been expelled, but before the news of their defeat.

Egypt after the French

This first period of British occupation was short lived, ending early in 1803. There was no intention to stay in Egypt at this period. The Peace of Amiens was never entirely stable, and the main British preoccupation in Egypt was to make sure that the French could not repeat their conquests.

The main role the British were to play over the next two years was to protect the remaining Mamluks from Ottoman revenge. The British were not convinced that the Ottomans had the military potential to resist the French, and despite the poor Mamluk record considered them to be the better bet. In the meantime, the Ottomans were determined to remove the Mamluk threat forever.

In reality, the Mamluks played a significant role in their own downfall. Critically weakened by the losses they had suffered under the French, their only hope was to unite against the other forces fighting for control of the country. This they failed to do, and their inability to unite saw them finally lose all power in Egypt.

The eventual winner in what was effectively a civil war was Muhammed &lsquoAli. He was an Ottoman military commander, who had been present at the first battle of Aboukir in 1799. After the French left, he was sent to Egypt as second in command of an Albanian contingent sent to support some of the most professional Ottoman troops. The Albanians had a reputation for wildness, which they were soon to live up to. In 1803 they mutinied, forcing out the Ottoman governor of Egypt. Their commanding officer was then assassinated, leaving Muhammed &lsquoAli in charge. He combined with some of the Mamluks to capture the Ottoman governor, before using Mamluk divisions to defeat his temporary allies. By 1805 he was in effect command of Egypt, and his position was recognised by the Sultan in Istanbul. For the next forty years, Muhammed &lsquoAli ruled Egypt almost as an independent state, although he never sought full independence. That was left for his descendants, who ruled Egypt (or at least held the throne) until 1952.

General Sir Ralph Abercromby and the French Revolutionary Wars, 1792-1801, Carole Divall. A biography of one of the more competent British generals of the Revolutionary Wars, killed at the height of his success during the expulsion of the French from Egypt. Inevitably most of his experiences during the Revolutionary War came during the unsuccessful campaigns in northern Europe, but he managed to emerge from these campaigns with his reputation largely intact, and won fame with his death during a successful campaign. An interesting study of a less familiar part of the British struggle against revolutionary France (Read Full Review)

Colonial Vietnam

The French now moved to impose a Western-style administration on their colonial territories and to open them to economic exploitation. Under Gov.-Gen. Paul Doumer, who arrived in 1897, French rule was imposed directly at all levels of administration, leaving the Vietnamese bureaucracy without any real power. Even Vietnamese emperors were deposed at will and replaced by others willing to serve the French. All important positions within the bureaucracy were staffed with officials imported from France even in the 1930s, after several periods of reforms and concessions to local nationalist sentiment, Vietnamese officials were employed only in minor positions and at very low salaries, and the country was still administered along the lines laid down by Doumer.

Doumer’s economic and social policies also determined, for the entire period of French rule, the development of French Indochina, as the colony became known in the 20th century. The railroads, highways, harbours, bridges, canals, and other public works built by the French were almost all started under Doumer, whose aim was a rapid and systematic exploitation of Indochina’s potential wealth for the benefit of France Vietnam was to become a source of raw materials and a market for tariff-protected goods produced by French industries. The exploitation of natural resources for direct export was the chief purpose of all French investments, with rice, coal, rare minerals, and later also rubber as the main products. Doumer and his successors up to the eve of World War II were not interested in promoting industry there, the development of which was limited to the production of goods for immediate local consumption. Among these enterprises—located chiefly in Saigon, Hanoi, and Haiphong (the outport for Hanoi)—were breweries, distilleries, small sugar refineries, rice and paper mills, and glass and cement factories. The greatest industrial establishment was a textile factory at Nam Dinh, which employed more than 5,000 workers. The total number of workers employed by all industries and mines in Vietnam was some 100,000 in 1930. Because the aim of all investments was not the systematic economic development of the colony but the attainment of immediate high returns for investors, only a small fraction of the profits was reinvested.

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Watch the video: THE SECRET HISTORY OF MONGOL. PART 2 (January 2022).