Posted in World History

The Cold War

          The Cold War was a major event in the history of the world. It has been seen as a struggle for supremacy between two major ideologies of the 20th century—the communist Soviet Union and the capitalist United States of America. Even though this ideological hatred had been in existence since the beginning of the century, neither power had acted on it, until after the end of the Second World War in August 1945. The major drive for the Cold War had been the fear of nuclear domination.

          The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a cold war as “a condition of rivalry, mistrust, and often open hostility short of violence esp. between power groups”. The term “cold” has been used in the English language to describe a condition in which someone intentionally gives another an unsympathetic treatment, such as “cold shoulder”. In diplomacy and world politics, a cold war goes to a much higher level. In the second half of the 20th century, USA the capitalist nation and USSR the communist nation turned on one-another. They raced against one-another in power play, sending satellites and men to space, and even trying to win the other nations to their sides. Many events resulted in the consequence of this, including the deaths of several million innocent human beings. These included the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

          Here are some facts to understand the Cold War better:

  1. The famous Berlin Wall was a result of the Cold War. When the Second World War effectively ended in August 1945, Germany, one of its Axis participants, was invaded by the major Allied Powers; the Soviets had the Eastern Germany under their control, whereas the English, the French, and the Americans had control of West Germany. The powers on both sides eventually turned against one-another on ideological basis (the West was capitalist and the East was Communist), ultimately placing their own puppet governments in both the parties; West Germany was democratic and East Germany was dictatorial. The Berlin Wall was constructed by the Soviet Communists in Berlin, capital of united Germany. The citizens under the East German government were very dissatisfied and so, they left to start afresh in democratic West Germany. The construction of the Berlin Wall made sure that this came to an end. This caused British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, to remark that “an iron curtain has descended upon us”.

  1. The Korean War of 1951-53 was not really a war. It was merely a few months of tug-of-war kind of struggle between the North Koreans, backed by Communist China, and the South Koreans, backed by the Americans. The North invaded and occupied the South for a few weeks, before it would be overrun and the situation got reversed. A few weeks later, the situation tilted once more in favour of the North Koreans, and vice-versa. This lasted, till they both decided to come to an armistice in 1953, which effectively divided Korea along the 38th parallel, as we know it to-day. An armistice is not a peace settlement, merely the end of a physical war.

  1. The Americans entered into the Vietnamese War with the French only when they realised that the Vietnamese were inclining towards Communism. In fact, their leader, Ho Chi Min, was a Communist himself. Vietnam had been a country that had long followed Chinese cultural and political leanings since the ancient times and so, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that it was now becoming increasingly leftist (since China became Communist in 1949). When the French finally left Indo-China, the Americans swooped in to take over. The Americans and the Russians both went after the Asian, African, and Latin American countries and pressured them to follow one ideology—either capitalism or communism.

  1. Although the United Nations Organisation and the Non-Aligned Movement were meant to be neutral bodies and resist the onslaught of the ideological battle, they still couldn’t help leaning towards capitalism and communism, respectively. The UNO was heavily financed by the Americans, whereas the NAM countries, like India, Indonesia, and Argentina, often sought Soviet help. However, countries like Cuba and former Yugoslavia, though were Communist and sought Soviet help, managed to hold their own against its influence for a long time.

  1. Despite both of them having heavy Communist leanings, still China and Russia couldn’t stick together throughout the Cold War. Their relations of goodwill fell apart in the mid-1960s, when Stalin died and his successors weren’t as good as him. Chinese Premier Mao Tse-tung was not pleased by the Premiers who followed Josef Stalin, because of the less aggressive policies that they followed. Nikita Khruschev succeeded Premiership of the Soviet Union and began the process of “de-Stalinisation”. In fact, Mao didn’t consider them to be true Communists at all. Having said that, Mao himself cannot be considered to be a true communist.

          After discussing the five facts above, it becomes imperative to understand what capitalism and communism truly are. Capitalism is a right-wing ideology; its national trade is mainly controlled by private entities. It is both a political and an economic ideology. Communism is a form of left-wing government, which is more dictatorial and believes in the leadership of the proletariat over the bourgeois. It does not believe in private ownership and staunchly stresses on public ownership. This definition of Communism was provided by the first person to talk openly about left-wing politics—Karl Marx. But, Marx did one major mistake and that was not to think Communism through and through. In other words, he told us how the proletariat would defeat their bourgeois leaders and gain leadership themselves, but he forgot to tell us how he expected a communist government to be run after­ that. Hence, different leftist leaders who considered themselves to be Communist had different theories about this, which didn’t exactly match up. They didn’t make too much sense, either. Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky were such leaders in Russia and they all had three different theories; Mao had a different theory, which was loosely based on Stalin’s version of a communist government.

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Posted in Literature

A Brief History of English Literature

A Brief History of English Literature

 

          English literature is the study of literature written in the English language, irrespective of the origin of the work produced. The most notable English writers that we all know are William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, and Arthur Conan Doyle, among many others. To-day, English has become a universal language and there are many writers of the language in countries other than Britain.

           The origin of English literature goes as far back as 5th-7th centuries CE. It was at this time that the Anglo-Saxon settlers brought the English language to the British Isles, from a region now known to be western Germany. The English language is a West Germanic language that originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects. This displaced the Celtic language, which had been prevalent here till then. “Beowulf”, an earliest form of literature, was considered to have been a national epic of the Anglo-Saxons and one of its most striking features is the use of alliteration. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400 CE) was honoured with being the Father of the English language. He is considered to be the first poet; he lived during the British Middle Ages. He is known for his work, “The Canterbury Tales”, an epic tale of a storytelling contest.

A page from “The Canterbury Tales” by Chaucer. Image from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

         William Shakespeare was the next greatest man to have dominated the world of English literature during the Elizabethan Age. He was the master of drama and tragic tales, which suited the Queen so well that she even knighted him. In the Victorian Age, novelists such as Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Emily Bronte, and Oscar Wilde were household names. Their writings portrayed the breakdown of characters, morally and ethically, in the British society. A notable example would be Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”.

          At the end of the 19th century, a modernist movement began in all creative arts, which had influenced internationally during much of the 20th century. It represented the breaking away of the established rules, traditions, and conventions, and provided a fresh way of looking at a person’s position and role in the universe. It was particularly concerned with language and how to use it and writing itself.

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Posted in Roman History

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire

          The Byzantine Empire was a very important part of world history, and yet, there is not much discussion about it, even among historians to-day. Hence, this article is going to talk about it and to highlight its importance. The story of the Byzantine Empire started with Rome, like most of Europe to-day.

          The Roman Civilisation was a republic, until the rule of Julius Caesar. After his death, things gradually changed and his nephew, Augustus Caesar, proclaimed himself the Emperor of Rome in the year 31BCE. Since then, Rome was ruled by monarchs and so, this phase, from 31BCE to 476CE, is referred by historians as the Roman Empire. By the third century, the empire had become so vast, that in 284CE, Emperor Diocletian divided it into two halves – the east and the west – both governed by a tetrarchy (in Latin “rule of four”). Each tetrarchy was under an emperor. Therefore, the Roman Empire ended up having two emperors.

          This division created by Diocletian eventually led to what is known to-day as “the Great Schism”, in the year 1054CE. This was when things between the two factions of the empire heated up very drastically. The main reason for the split was religious. The Western Roman Empire was primarily Orthodox Christian, whereas the Eastern Roman Empire was predominantly Catholic Christian. The Catholics decided that they didn’t want to listen to the Pope of Rome and so, in the eleventh century, they broke away.

Emperor Constantine

          Since then, the Eastern Roman Empire has come to maintain itself as a separate entity from the Western Romans, though it still considered itself Roman and hailed the purple flag of Rome. Emperor Constantine was its first ruler after the schism and he was the one who shifted its capital from Rome to Byzantine, which he renamed as Constantinople. To-day, we know Constantinople as Istanbul. In the year 476CE, Rome fell, thus ending the reign of the Western Roman Empire. It was taken over and divided by the various Germanic tribes of Europe. Emperor Justinian (ruled 527-565CE) was another great ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. By the time he claimed the throne, the empire was plunged into chaos. There were revolts from their own subjects, who had formed into separate factions and began fighting against one-another. Justinian, encouraged extensively by his wife, Empress Theodora, put them down ruthlessly. Empress Theodora was supposed to have given this motivational speech to him and his ministers, when they had decided to leave all the chaos and flee Constantinople. Perhaps the adage “behind every successful man is a woman” emerged from here?

Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora

          It was Justinian who had gone ahead and regained most of the remains of the Western Roman Empire, but it all crumbled again by the end of his rule. The rule of the Eastern Roman Empire finally ended with the fall of Constantinople in the year 1453CE, caused by the mighty Ottomans of Turkey.

          Now that we have a rough idea of the birth and death of the Byzantine Empire, let us try and understand how it was different from the Western Roman Empire. We shall be dealing with a little each of the social, cultural, political, as well as economic aspects of the both of them.

          The Eastern Roman Empire is referred to as the Byzantine Empire by historians to-day, in order to make a distinction between the two. The following was how it was different from its mother empire:

  1. Political- The tetrarchy system was converted into the theme system, which was the primitive feudal system.
  2. Capital- Constantinople.
  3. Language- Latin was replaced by Greek.
  4. Religion- Catholicism.
  5. Law- Justinian had compiled a set of laws, deriving from the Roman Law, later called “Justinian’s Code”.

These were the major differences between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. The culture of the Byzantine Empire more or less remained the same—such as, chariot-racing and celebrating imperial birthdays.


All the pictures have been taken from Google Images. They are not mine. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Parchments of the Times Past: All You Want to Know About YOUR Past!

Hello! I’m Avalon Greene from “EvolutionaryHues” and “Ava’s Quill and Parchment”.

This is officially my third blog, “Parchments of the Times Past”. It’s a thematic blog – all about History, if you didn’t already understand from the title.

In this blog, I shall be posting my small research articles about events in History, right from the ones you’ve heard a lot about to ones you never had. If that interests you, you could stay behind, click on that tiny yet significant follow button below, and start learning History as I know it. Who knows, maybe it’ll help you in that pop-quiz your teacher/professor might suddenly spring on you?

I promise you’ll have a lot of fun here at Parchments of the Times Past. I shall have some fun and interesting content to come out with every week and you can tell me whether it’s factually right or wrong.

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Thank you all and have a nice day! Let’s meet in my very first article on Parchments of the Times Past!

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