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Saturday, 9 December 2017

World History: The Reformation

Martin Luther
Earlier this year the 500th anniversary of one of the most important events in European and religious history. The Protestant Reformation was not the first schism in the history of Christianity (when we looked at the Byzantine Empire we briefly looked at an earlier schism) but it greatly changed history. Most of Europe became divided between Catholics and Protestants in a schism which would shape European politics for centuries, and continues to influence European politics (and that of their former colonies). However, the Reformation is often portrayed in the media as one congruent movement led by Martin Luther but in reality it was a diverse movement where the Catholic church was also affected. Early modern historians have argued that this event helped influence the creation of the modern state with it influencing the divorcing of the state and religion (to an extent).

Earlier Attempts at Reformation
The Jan Hus Memorial in Prague
The Protestant Reformation was not the first schism in Christian history - the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Churches springs to mind - and it was not the only attempt to change the Western Church. We'll look at two attempts today. The first is a movement led by John Wyclif in late-fourteenth century England. Wyclif was a theological professor at the University of Oxford and he criticized papal authority, in particular rejecting the idea of transubstantiation - that the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ by a priest during the Eucharist. Wyclif's criticisms gained traction immediately with his followers being called Lollards; so popular was Lollardy was that it helped influence one of the key English texts of the Medieval period in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. One part of The Canterbury Tales even has the selling of indulgences portrayed negatively. In 1378 Wyclif's ideas were declared heretical and Lollards were either executed, converted back to Catholicism, or went underground. Patrick Collinson places the English Reformation as starting with Wyclif's ideas being declared heretical. The other important movement was under Jan Hus in Bohemia. Like Wyclif, Hus was a theologian in the employment of an university, Charles University in Prague, and targeted in particular indulgences. For those who do not know Catholicism believes in the idea of Purgatory; if not damned enough to be sent to Hell, or not pure enough to go to Heaven, a soul would be sent to Purgatory where they would eventually be sent to Heaven. An indulgence could be bought to reduce the time you, or a family member, spent in Purgatory. Hus believed indulgences were useless and corrupting. As indulgences could be sold for profit this is why he saw them as corrupting. Unlike Wyclif who kept preaching despite being granted safe-conduct by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Hus was tried, condemned, and executed as a heretic at the Council of Constance in 1415. The pope and emperor constantly fought Hus' followers until they decided that it was easier to grant recognition to the Hussite church in Bohemia and Moravia in the 1430s. If you go to Prague's very beautiful Old Town Square there is a large memorial to Hus built in 1915 on the anniversary of Hus' execution.

The Reformations
Throughout the World History series I've tried to avoid Great Man History but it's difficult when looking at the Reformation as it was influenced by individuals at times. There were many different Reformations and many of the Protestant denominations found their origins in the Reformation. As a result we'll look at three regions where the Reformation took route: Germany, Switzerland, and England.

Luther nailing his theses
With the German Reformation this was largely dominated by Martin Luther and Lutheranism. Like Wyclif and Hus Luther was a university theologian. Euan Cameron has described him as being 'a figurehead who showed unheard-of tenacity in a daunting situation.' Luther was originally from Saxony and was a law student at the University of Erfurt until he was caught in a thunderstorm in 1505. Apparently he yelled 'Help St. Anne! I'll become a monk!' and that is what he did enrolling in an Augustinian monastery where he was constant torment about his sinfulness and holiness. In 1512 he accepted a position to become a theologian at the University of Wittenberg. Luther was extremely angry about the situation of the Church; in particular focusing on Johann Tetzel who had become famous for selling indulgences to earn a profit. Apparently Tetzel said: 'As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs.' Also, there was an issue with Archbishop Albert of Mainz who was in charge of the church in Wittenberg. He wanted to become bishop of some more areas but needed a special dispensation from Pope Leo X so he would borrow from the wealthy Fuggers family to afford this. Meanwhile, Leo X was offering special indulgences in order to fund the construction of St. Peter's basilica. Albert would give some of the profit from indulgences, raised often by Tetzel, to Leo and use the rest to pay back the Fuggers. 

On October 31, 1517 Luther made his '95 theses,' called Disputation against Scholastic Theology, and sent them copies to his friends at Nuremberg and to the theologian Johann Maier of Eck of Ingolstadt, and quite possibly nailing them to the door of the Wittenberg church. Within two weeks they had been circulated around Leipzig, Magdeburg, Nuremberg, and Basle. He publicly denounced Albert and his ideas soon spread around via his writings, sermons, and university lectures. One of his followers was the professor of Latin and Greek at Wittenberg, Philip Melanchthon. Luther rejected many aspects of Catholicism believing that the pope and priests were unneeded, instead people could find faith through themselves; indulgences were wrong; rejected transubstantiation; by reading the Scripture one can find God; and believed that 'we are not made righteous by doing righteous deeds; but when we have been made righteous we effect righteous deeds.' On June 15, 1520 a papal bull, called the Exsurge Domine, condemned Luther and forty-one tenets ordering that if he did not recant he would be excommunicated. He refused. Then the newly elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who wanted rigid orthodoxy, summoned Luther to the Diet of Worms in 1521. Although it is debated if he actually said this Luther said, 'Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture and plain reason I cannot, and will not, recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.' Luther might have faced the same fate as Jan Hus if not for the fact that he had made the Elector of Saxony, Friedrich III, a follower. Freidrich secretly had Luther abducted near Altenstein on May 4 and placed under protective custody in the castle of Wartburg.

The Swiss Reformation can be exemplified in two figures: Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. Zwingli had attended the Universities of Vienna and Basel where he had become heavily involved in Renaissance humanism. Zwingli arrived in Zurich to be the city's 'people's priest' (Leut priester) in the city's main church, the Grossmunster. At the time the Swiss cantons were deeply involved in the mercenary trade which Zwingli was deeply critical of. In 1522 Zwingli came to prominence when he criticized fasting during Lent. He attacked indulgences; said that saints and religious images should not be venerated; was against clerical celibacy; said that Scripture was most important; and started translating the Bible into Swiss German. He went further than Luther calling for a more iconoclastic service wanting no liturgy, church decorations, or music other than the singing of psalms. A split between the 'Protestants' emerged as Luther and Zwingli disagreed vehemently over the Eucharist: supporters of Zwingli became known as Evangelicals and Luther's became known as Reformed
John Calvin
John Calvin was a French Protestant who fled from France to Geneva in 1533. Like Wyclif, Hus, Luther, and Zwingli he had a university education. Upon arriving in Geneva Calvin published Institutes of the Christian Religion which set out several key doctrines: God is infinite in power and sovereignty; humans are sinful and can only be saved by Christ; redemption and union with Christ are free gifts from God; and there is no free will, instead God has decided our fates in an idea named predestination. Despite having no free will Calvin argued that thrift, piety, hard work, and good moral conduct could serve as signs that one was among the 'elect' chosen for salvation. Geneva had recently expelled the bishops so had asked Calvin to set up new structures. He believed that the church and state should act together where church leaders should have ultimate authority. As a result the Consistory was formed made up of pastors and lay-elders (presbyters, which is why Calvinism is in areas called Presbyterians). The Consistory banned theater, drinking, gambling, and card games as well as punished religious dissenters (some of the worst anti-semitism during the Reformation was in Calvinist regions), adulterers, drunkenness, family fights, profanity, absence from church, gambling, premarital sex, and dancing. Calvinist thought spread into Germany, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Scotland and England. In Scotland Calvinism was introduced by John Knox as he had studied with Calvin in Geneva. Upon returning to Scotland he worked with the Scottish state to set up the Kirk of Scotland, and later Scottish settlers introduced Calvinism to Ireland.

A depiction of the dissolution of the monasteries
As mentioned earlier Patrick Collinson placed the English Reformation as beginning with Wyclif, and the writings of Luther made its way into the universities of England. Henry VIII and his lord chancellor, Thomas Wolsey, were very keen to suppress Lutheran and Protestant ideas. By 1527, Henry VIII had started to believe that God was displeased with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon as they had only produced one child, a daughter who would become Mary I. Henry started courting Anne Boleyn, a court lady-in-waiting, and asked Pope Clement VII for an annulment - not a divorce as it has been portrayed in British media. An annulment means that the marriage never happened. However, the army of Charles V were at Rome and he happened to be Catherine's nephew, so an annulment would make his cousin a bastard. Angry at the refusal Henry arrested Wolsey on the accusation of treason and appointed Thomas Cranmer instead as archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer divorced Henry and Catherine so Henry could marry Anne in 1533. Henry threatened to withhold taxes unless the pope accepted Cranmer, so the pope excommunicated Henry. Following this Henry's principal minister, Thomas Cromwell, started enforcing a new branch of Christianity, Anglicanism. Cromwell oversaw the closing of the monasteries, transferring their assets to Henry and his followers, and ensuring that office holders had to agree that Henry was the 'supreme head of the Church of England.' However, the English and Welsh citizens did not entirely take the Reformation lightly. In 1536 discontent over dissolving the monasteries combined with rising taxes led to a revolt by priests and nobles, beginning in north England, called the 'Pilgrimage of Grace.' As mentioned earlier although Anglicanism became the dominant Protestant sect in England many others emerged including Quakers, Anabaptists, and Calvinists, just to name three, arrived or emerged in England. Despite a brief return to Catholicism under Mary Protestantism remained dominant with Elizabeth I requiring officials, clergy, and nobles to swear allegiance to her as the 'supreme governor of the Church of England.' Part of this change in wording was due to Elizabeth believing that it would be improper for a woman to be a 'head' but also as a way to create a loophole to let Catholics swear allegiance to her. Only after the Glorious Revolution of 1688/9 was Protestantism properly secured in England.

How the Reformation Spread
A printing press
There are many reasons why the Reformation became so widespread so quickly. The main reason why is print. By 1450 Johannes Gutenberg created a new printing press which involved a mechanical movable type which allowed quick and mass printing. Few people were literate but information could easily be disseminated through public reading sessions or town criers. It is quite telling about European society at the time that the first mass printed book was the Bible, and has since been called the Gutenberg Bible. The Reformation heavily used printing to copy and distribute the writings of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other theologians. As mentioned earlier within two weeks of first releasing his theses Luther's words had been distributed to cities across Germany and by 1518 it had traveled across Europe. The strongest centers of Protestantism were always from cities with universities: Oxford, St Andrews, Nuremburg, Geneva etc. Most literate people would be located in universities and most universities were near, or in, cities. Mass publication with people to read and disseminate the ideas of the Reformation. It is noted that both Luther and Zwingli chose to translate the Bible from Latin to German; this allowed people to understand, or read, the Bible themselves without the need of a priest or bishop to do it for them. In 1549 in England the Book of Common Prayer was produced doing the same but in English. Mass printing allowed these translations to be widely distributed. 

Political authority helped as well. When Luther and others arrived on the scene papal authority was being challenged; the pope had sided with France during the War of the League of Cognac which had seen mutinous troops of Charles V sack Rome. How could the pope truly be the unchallenged voice of God if his power was being challenged? Areas where anti-Reformation rulers were in power could strangle Protestantism early on. Frederick III of Saxony protected Luther, the Protestant Swiss Cantons harbored Zwingli and Calvin, and the Scottish state actively used John Knox to install Calvinism. Meanwhile, the French state persecuted evangelicals resulting in a series of civil conflicts, and the Spanish Inquisition - set up 1478 to persecute Muslims, Jews, and conversos when it was feared that converted Muslims and Jews would reconvert - ruthlessly crushed Protestant thought early on. In the Netherlands, where Spanish rule was weaker and where trade with Protestant regions was larger, Calvinism soon became dominant. 

Propaganda Wars
A Catholic image of Luther being played by the Devil
As said earlier most people in Europe could not read so propaganda and art was issued by both Catholic and Protestant leaders. Again, using the Gutenberg printing press woodcuts, prints, and at times books were published to convert the masses. Although writing was often featured with these publications they were largely picture based using imagery which the public would recognize. For literate people pamphlets were produced; Luther himself printed 3,183 printings of which 2,645 were printed in German, not Latin. Even here Luther was printing for a more general audience rather than the Latin speaking elite, although Luther did loathe the masses. Catholic propagandists were not as initially successful as Protestants where the four most prolific ones produced 247 prints together. However, an interesting war of propaganda emerged where images of Luther being played like a trumpet by Satan were produced by Catholics, while Protestants had images presenting the pope as a demon.
The Pope portrayed as a demon in a Protestant image

The Catholic Reformation
Reading about the Reformation you might see the term 'Counter-Reformation' which was a term coined in the nineteenth century. Over the last sixty years 'Catholic Reformation' has been more widely used as Counter-Reformation implies that the Catholic Church only tried to counteract Protestants instead of reforming itself. Between 1545 and 1563 the Council of Trent, overseen by Pope Julius III and Pius IV, which vowed to limit the spread of Protestantism, reaffirm the power of the papacy, and reform Catholicism to remove corruption. New religious orders were also formed, of which the most famous was the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, founded by Ignatius Loyola in 1534. Writing in Spiritual Exercises he said that through a program of meditation and contemplation in order to develop spiritual discipline and to meld one's spirit with God. Loyola stressed individual will to lead to holiness and self-control. In 1540 Pope Paul III officially recognized the Jesuits which allowed them to open universities and schools where Loyola's Spiritual Exercises was taught over a four week period. They also sent missionaries out of Europe, Francis Xavier being one of the most famous ones, to Brazil, West Africa, India, China, Japan and Indonesia. The Kangxi emperor in China was particularly fond of the Jesuits for their astronomy skills.
Ignatius Loyola
One of the interesting aspects of the Catholic Reformation was the return of local level devotional life. In urban parishes, and some villages, confraternities of lay people were founded, often limited to men. These organised funerals, donations to charity, held feats and processions, and practiced flagellation. In Venice, 120 confraternities existed in 1500 which rose to 400 by 1700. Capuchin houses were also formed across Catholic, and some Protestant, provinces. In Ancona, Italy by 1596 there were 50 Capuchin houses with each housing 486 Capuchins.

Men, Women and Marriage
Marriage and the positions of men and women greatly shifted thanks to the Reformations. Protestants started preaching that marriage was the greatest role for someone in life instead of celibacy; in fact Luther married a former nun, Katharine von Bora, and Zwingli married a Zurich widow, Anna Reinhart. Marriage was seen as being reflected in spiritual equality of the husband and wife which has led some historians to argue that this ensured that women did gain greater roles. This was not entirely the case, and the 'equality' was not actually an equality which we might see it. It is important not to be anachronistic with this, what we might see as not being equal is not what a sixteenth century observer would see as equal. Women were advised to be cheerful in their housework as it showed a willingness to follow God's plan, and in return men had to be kind and considerate to their wives. However, men had to show authority over women, sometimes with physical coercion - an English marriage law said that a husband could beat his wife with a stick as long as it was thinner than his thumb. Protestants argued that marriage was made by God to remedy human weakness so bad marriages could reasonably be divorced to allow remarriage, and marital courts in Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland soon allowed divorce. It is important to note that divorce was very rare although it was more common than in Catholic, and Anglican, states. Thanks to the Council of Trent marriage records had to be held by priests in their parishes, and for a marriage to be legal it required witnesses, one of which had to be a parish priest.

One of the key parts of the Catholic Reformation was the role of women. The Protestant Reformation has seen as limiting the role of women: opportunities were limited with the closing of nunneries and wives being submissive was emphasized. The Jesuits actively involved women. In 1580 a Jesuit mission formed by Robert Parsons and Edmund Campion was set up in England which Catholic women attached themselves to as often the law overlooked them. However, the Jesuits themselves disapproved of women involving themselves; when Isabel Roser asked Paul III in 1581 for the permission to form a women's association it was rejected and Loyola was horrified about the idea of women being in regular contact with lay people. Angela Merici did receive permission to form the Company of St. Ursula which aimed to improve girls' education, but again many Ursulines were pressured to become cloistered nuns. This later shift is reflected in how many women were made saints. In the fifteenth century 27.7% of saints were women compared to 18.1% the next century.

Wars of Religion
I won't go into too much detail about the Wars of Religion as I intend to do a World History post just on them. In these wars a variety of factors came together and caused clashes between Protestants and Catholics. These wars started around 1524 and ended around 1651, but it is debatable if later wars were also Wars of Religion. One of these wars, the Second Kappel War, even cost the life of Zwingli. One such war, the German Peasants' War of 1524-6, started as an uprising about fishing in a forbidden stream which escalated in the largest mass rebellion in European history until the French Revolution. These peasants soon started using Lutheran doctrine to express some of their concerns, such as the community having the opportunity to elect or dismiss pastors to ensure the 'pure gospel' would be preached. Luther, however, did not support these revolts writing in Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants (1525) urged rulers 'as God's sword on earth to knock down, strangle, and stab the insurgents as one would a mad dog.' One recurring theme of these wars was the result: increased toleration for other religions. The treaties would offer toleration to certain Christian sects, antisemitism meant this was never expanded to Jews except in one case and often other Christian sects were ignored. For example, in 1555 the Peace of Augsburg allowed rulers in the Holy Roman Empire to be either Lutheran or Catholic, but it was not extended to Calvinists. Following the English Civil War Oliver Cromwell allowed Protestant sects to proliferate and he reversed Elizabeth I's ban on Jews, but he ruthlessly persecuted Catholics, especially in Ireland. Despite the clear limitations some historians have argued that the Wars of Religion were key in forming the present-day European state. For the most part today's states in Europe are secular and some have argued that the treaties allowing some religious toleration offered the first step towards this secularization.

The Reformation was one of the most influential events to shape European history, and it still affects the world today. We can see this on a small scale. Glasgow has a very divisive football culture with the two main teams being divided on sectarian lines, Rangers being Protestant and Celtic being Catholic. Meanwhile, the Protestant/Catholic divide has caused Ireland to remain divided to this day, and Northern Ireland's politics are clearly defined by religion. The Reformation shaped how people viewed the world and themselves for centuries, and the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries helped bring about some limited religious tolerance. However, all this was possible thanks to the spread of literature and images through the printing press. The ideas of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin spread across Europe, and later the Americas, thanks to the printing press so they did not remain regional movements as Wyclif or Hus were. In a world where ideas and information are easily disseminated through the internet we can see clear connections to the past.

Thank you for reading. Next time we will be looking at the Wars of Religion, how they affected Europe, and how a myriad of reasons led to them. The sources I have used are as follows:
-Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, (Cambridge, 2006)
-Euan Cameron, The European Reformation, (Oxford, 1991)
-Mark Greengrass, The European Reformation, c.1500-1618, (London, 1988)
-David Englander, Diana Norman, Rosemary O'Day, and W.R. Owens, (eds.), Culture and Belief in Europe 1450-1600: An Anthology Series, (Oxford, 1990)
-Bob Scribner, R. Porter, and M. Teich, (ed.), The Reformation in National Context, (Cambridge, 1994)
-John O'Malley, Trent: What Happened at the Council, (Cambridge, MA, 2013)

Thank you for reading. For other World History posts we have a list here. For other blog posts we have a Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Comics Explained: Thanos

Earlier this week the trailer for Avengers: Infinity War was released and one character is on everyone's lips: Thanos. Thanos has had a long history in Marvel and is one of the most powerful villains alongside figures such as Galactus. For this post we'll look at the real world origins of Thanos and go through some of the key stories which has shaped the character's history.

Real World Origins
Jim Starlin, Thanos' creator
Thanos was created by Jim Starlin for The Invincible Iron Man #55 in February 1973. Starlin originally thought up Thanos during a psychology class following him leaving the US military. He said:
I went to college between doing U.S. military service and getting work in comics, and there was a psych class and I came up with Thanos ... and Drax the Destroyer, but I'm not sure how he fit into it, just anger management probably. So I came up to Marvel and [editor] Roy [Thomas] asked if I wanted to do an issue of Iron Man. I felt that this may be my only chance ever to do a character, not having the confidence that my career was going to last anything longer than a few weeks. So they got jammed into it. Thanos was a much thinner character and Roy suggested beefing him up, so he's beefed up quite a bit from his original sketches ... and later on I liked beefing him up so much that he continued to grow in size.
He has also commented why Roy Thomas wanted Thanos to be beefed up. Starlin was a fan of Jack Kirby's New Gods over at DC and really liked the design of Metron. Thanos was drawn and conceptualized to be like Metron: he would be superintelligent, sit in a chair, be thin, and be omnipotent. While Thanos would have these design traits Thomas said 'Beef him up! If you're going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one!' Thus, Thanos had the design which we know today. Although appearing in The Invincible Iron Man #55 it was not a proper appearance; he only appeared in a flashback. In this story two aliens, named the Blood Brothers, captured Iron Man, send him to Thanos' desert base on Earth, and later teamed up with Drax the Destroyer (who also made his debut) to destroy the base. 
Invincible Iron Man #55
Just a month later Thanos made his first physical appearance in Marvel in Captain Marvel #25-33 by Starlin and writer Mike Friedrich. In this series of comics Captain Mar-Vell faced his own friends who turned out to be Skrulls. However, the Skrulls turn out to be working for the mysterious 'Masterlord' who turned out to be Thanos. 

Thanos' origins has been explored throughout his publication history, but most of what we know is found in 2013's Thanos Rising. Thanos came from Saturn's moon of Titan, and Titans are a member of the race known as Eternals. Thanos, however, is the Titan equivalent to Earth's mutants as he had the 'Deviant Syndrome' which made his skin a different color, act like hide, and made him abnormally strong. His mother even tried to kill him as an infant out of disgust showing how intense the stigma against 'Deviants' was. In contrast his brother Eros did not have the Deviant Syndrome. While Eros was carefree, womanizing, fun-loving Thanos was quiet, morose, and nihilistic. Through social exclusion Thanos could only play with Eros as a child and his one attempt at making friends ended in tragedy when they were killed in a cave-in for which he was blamed. Thanos started delving into dark arts and nihilism which brought him into contact with Mistress Death. Death is embodied in a female form, most often skeletal, and Thanos fell in love with her. Experiencing love for the first time Thanos wished to prove himself worthy to Death so augmented himself in order to seize political power and bring destruction. 

Thanos created an armada bringing death and destruction to the universe in order to woo Death. He performed some of the most unspeakable crimes on the worlds which he destroyed, including rape. Some of the people he raped were made pregnant by Thanos and years later he sought out his children to murder them, something which became part of the plot for Infinity. In Captain Marvel #29 it is revealed that Thanos returned to Titan and ravaged the moon killing 100 Eternals, including his mother. In order to enhance his powers he sought out a Cosmic Cube, called the Tesseract in the Marvel movies. Unlike the movies, there are multiple Cosmic Cubes and exist independently from the Infinity Stones. As a Cosmic Cube existed on Earth this is why Thanos came into contact with the Avengers.

Infinity Saga
Infinity Gauntlet
Thanos had been killed during the events of Avengers Annual #7 in 1977 but was resurrected in 1990's Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #34. In this story Silver Surfer encounters the spirit of Thanos whom Death plans to resurrect to 'correct an imbalance in the multiverse.' Thanos takes up Death's request and in order to correct this 'imbalance' he must wipe out half of all life in the universe. To achieve this goal he sought out the Infinity Gems (please see here to see their power). This is the plot to The Thanos Quest where he scours the universe searching for the Infinity Gems in order to become Death's equal. However, at the end he is angered to find that with the Gems he is not actually Death's equal, he is in fact her superior. With his quest successful this brings us to 1991's The Infinity Gauntlet. Upon immediately placing the Gems in his tailor made Infinity Gauntlet with a snap of his fingers Thanos wipes out half of all life in the universe. This even includes the Fantastic Four, most of the X-Men and Daredevil. He causes disasters on Earth as well including having the USA's West coast and Japan fall into the sea. When the heroes go to fight Thanos he fully utilizes the immense power of the Infinity Gems used in conjunction. He made a partner named Terraxia to make Death jealous who decapitates Iron Man and beats Spider-Man to death. Thanos himself backhands Captain America snapping his neck; disembowels Vision; disintegrates Quasar; turns Nova into Lego; suffocates She-Hulk, Namor and Cyclops in various ways; implodes Cloak; and turns Thor into glass.
Thanos turns Wolverine's bones to rubber
Eventually the Cosmic Entities including Galactus and the embodiment of the universe itself, Eternity, all come together to take down Thanos, only to be turned to stone. With Eternity destroyed the universe required a new embodiment and as the most powerful figure Thanos takes this role. However, to do so he left his physical body behind with the Infinity Gauntlet. Nebula, who you may recognize from Guardians of the Galaxy, takes hold of the Gauntlet and reverses all of Thanos' actions. The story ends with Thanos deciding to become a peaceful farmer as Adam Warlock claims the Gauntlet for himself. In the sequel, Infinity War, Thanos plays a smaller role (despite the title of the upcoming movie). Adam uses the Gems to purge the good and evil out of him to become a totally logical being in order to use the Gauntlet wisely. However, doing this enables his evil side to become personified accidentally in the form of the Magus who obtains Cosmic Cubes to create doppelgangers of various characters, including Thanos. This brings Thanos out of his farm life and into the fight. Finally, there is the Infinity Crusade where Adam's good half, called the Goddess, decides to attack Thanos after using Cosmic Cubes to create her own superhero army. 

Annhilation and After
One of the last major stories which we're going to focus on is Annihilation. In this story the leader of the Negative Zone, (an antimatter universe), called Annihilus invaded the mainstream universe. Thanos decided to ally with Annihilus wishing to see how the universe would be changed by such a radical shift. Thanos would capture Galactus whom Annihilus would use to power his Annihilation Wave (Annihilus' army). However, Thanos found out that Annihilus never wished to conquer the universe: he merely wished to destroy all life in the Negative Zone and the mainstream universe. He decided to release Galactus but many opposed this - after all Galactus does consume planets for energy. As a result Drax the Destroyer was forced to punch through his chest ripping out his heart. Finally Thanos was dead.
Drax kills Thanos
However, Thanos would later be resurrected in 2010's The Thanos Imperative. Thanos was resurrected by Death for an unknown reason until another universe invades the mainstream universe. We find out that Thanos has become the avatar of Death while the one leading the invasion is the avatar of Life, Captain Mar-Vell. In this universe death has been vanquished and now life has become rampant like a cancer, hence its name of the Cancerverse. Mar-Vell now wanted to spread life throughout all realities. Thanos pretended to surrender to Mar-Vell only to run him through with a sword which summons Death. However, Thanos became enraged when Death spurned his advances. The Cancerverse started collapsing now that Death had returned so Star Lord and Nova remained in the Cancerverse to trap Thanos. Later the three would return to the mainstream universe through various means. Since then Thanos has been a semi-recurrent antagonist with him briefly courting Hela, the Nordic goddess of Death.

Reading List
For anyone wanting to read some key Thanos related stories here's a brief list:
-The Invincible Iron Man #55
-Captain Marvel #25-33
-The Death of Captain Marvel
-Avengers Annual #7
-Silver Surfer Vol. 3 #34
-The Thanos Quest
-Infinity Gauntlet
-Infinity War
-Infinity Crusade
-Deadpool vs. Thanos
-The Thanos Imperative

Thank you for reading. For future blog posts we have a Facebook or you can catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby. Feel free to leave a comment and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Who is Robert Mugabe?

Robert Mugabe
One of the news stories to dominate the recent headlines is the coup in Zimbabwe which has forced the resignation of Robert Mugabe who has been in power since 1980. Mugabe's rule has been accompanied by ethnic violence, human rights abuses, censorship of opposition, and economic turmoil, but people have been wondering why this coup went through legal procedures to depose Mugabe. In fact the only reason why this coup has seemed to happen is that he made his wife, Grace Mugabe, vice-president. Even the opposition leaders have commended Mugabe, and across Africa he is still widely respected. Mugabe is both hated and loved. Today we'll look at Robert Mugabe's life to understand why this is.

Birth and Background
Mugabe in 1976 with his first wife, Sally
Robert Mugabe was born to a poor Shona family on 21 February, 1924 who were living in the northeast of Salisbury (the modern capital of Harare) in the British colony of Rhodesia. In 1890, just a year after a Royal Charter was granted, the Pioneer Column occupied Mashonaland raising the Union flag in what would become Salisbury. The colony of Rhodesia was dominated by a white settler class and formed a colonial system of rule not dissimilar from that of what would become South Africa to the south. Racial discrimination meant that many rural Africans were landless or tenant farmers while in urban areas they were forced into poor, overcrowded housing. Thanks to discrimination many could not go into higher education; in Northern Rhodesia (modern Zambia) only 35 Africans had gained higher education by 1959. Mugabe was lucky enough to go into education although his family life was telling for the situation for Africans in Rhodesian society. Two of his brothers died - one of diarrhea and one of eating poisoned maize - around 1934. He managed to go to Kutama College in order to become a teacher, partially funded by Jesuit missionary Father Jerome O'Hea from which he graduated in 1944. In college he was a loner, often described as 'a bit of a cold fish' and after graduation he never stayed long at one school. In 1949 he won a scholarship to Fort Hare University in South Africa which was the same university in which Nelson Mandela attended.

When Mugabe was in college and university Africa, and the world, was in change. The Second World War had brought many Africans into the political fold of their imperial overlords, and when that was limited after the war they became involved in independence movements. Meanwhile in India, Mahatma Gandhi's independence movement had helped break British rule (alongside the millions which took part in the movement) and would inspire colonized peoples worldwide. The victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany had also brought Marxism into discussions across the world. Gandhi and Marx both helped shape Mugabe's views. In Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah's CPP (Convention People's Party) won independence in 1957 and in the same year a Rhodesian branch of the African National Conference (ANC) was founded. The ANC wanted to reform land allocation, abolish discriminatory laws, and extend the franchise (out of 52,000 people eligible to vote only 560 were African). In 1958 Mugabe moved to Ghana, while also doing a second degree, where he met his first wife Sally Hayfron. According to Mugabe it was while he was in Ghana that he became a Marxist.

Revolutionary Years
Joshua Nkomo
Mugabe wasn't the only leading nationalist in Zimbabwe/Rhodesia. Former leader of the ANC, Joshua Nkomo, formed the more racial National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960 when the ANC was banned. Co-founder (who was also a friend of Mugabe) Leopold Takawira said 'We are no longer asking Europeans to rule us well...We now want to rule ourselves.' Takawire convinced Mugabe to remain in Rhodesia who became heavily involved in the nationalist movement. By the early 1960s as nationalist movements had either won independence or were winning independence Britain had started to offer independence, but on their own terms. In 1961 Britain's Commonwealth Secretary Duncan Sandys organised a meeting in Salisbury to draft a constitution for Rhodesia, and he invited Nkomo to represent the NDP. Many whites opposed this as it seemed to be giving the African majority more power. However, Britain planned for the white population to keep their power by only giving some token representation to the far larger African population. Perplexingly the NDP agreed to a compromise which gave Africans 15 out of 65 parliamentary seats. Riots broke out over the agreement so the NDP was banned. In 1961 the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) was formed under Nkomo and in 1963 the rival Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) was founded which Mugabe joined causing gang warfare to break out between the two. Meanwhile, the more radical right-wing Rhodesian Front came to power in 1962, and in 1965 to forestall Britain granting African rule the prime minister, Ian Smith, declared a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

In 1963 Mugabe was imprisoned and while imprisoned his three-year old son would pass away of cerebral malaria; Eddison Zvobga, a senior Zanu figure, reported that 'He was in tears...he just sat in the corner quietly. I watched him sob.' Smith himself personally saw to it that Mugabe was denied compassionate leave to bury his son. Until his release in 1974 Mugabe retreated into himself acquiring four further degrees. Outside of prison, Zanu's leader, Ndabaningi Sithole, faced a vote of no confidence, and Mugabe was made his replacement. A guerrilla war was being waged in the country with both key parties having their own armed group: Zanu had the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) backed by China while Zapu had the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra) backed by the USSR. As this was happening South Africa, fearful of African guerrilla activists spilling over the border, started putting pressure on Smith, while Rhodesia's independent neighbors were putting further pressure to have the 'Prison Graduates' released. However, in April 1974 a coup in Portugal led to the independence of Mozambique and the coming to power of the Marxist-Leninist Frelimo removing one of Rhodesia's key allies. After 11 years in prison Mugabe was released and immersed himself personally in the guerrilla war, although he focused mostly on propaganda and left warfare to Josiah Tongogara.
Ian Smith
The guerrilla war was extremely bloody. Guerrilla groups killed white farmers while Rhodesian security forces often killed African civilians. In 1974 16 European civilians were killed to 118 African civilians - meanwhile 345 guerrillas were killed to 96 security forces. Before 1972 David Caute claimed that 'not a single white person died as a result of guerrilla action.' Operating from neighboring Mozambique Zanla troops poured into Rhodesia as Mugabe as he vowed to expel the 'blood-sucking exploiters' and 'sadistic killers' in order to establish a one-party Marxist state. By 1979 20,000 had been killed when a moderate African, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, was elected to replace Ian Smith forming Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. However, he was denounced by both Nkomo and Mugabe as being a puppet, which he was. Eventually, Zambia (where Zapu was based in) and Mozambique forced Nkomo and Mugabe to attend a conference in London in 1979 to organize a ceasefire and elections. Mugabe only agreed to sign when Samora Machel of Mozambique told him that unless he signed the agreement he could no longer use Mozambique as a base. Mugabe later said: As I signed the document, I was not a happy man at all. I felt we had been cheated to some extent, that we had agreed to a deal which would to some extent rob us of victory we hoped we would achieve in the field.' Machel further informed him: Don't play make-believe Marxist games when you get home. You will face ruin if you force the whites into precipitate flight.' Despite violence on all sides Zanu-PF (Zanu-Patriotic Front) won 62 percent of the national vote, most of which were in the Shona population.

When Mugabe appeared on television he seemed to be the opposite of his guerrilla self; Ian Smith even found him 'sober and responsible.' Mugabe himself said:
 The wrongs of the past must now stand forgiven and forgotten. If ever we look to the past, let us do so for the lesson the past has taught us, namely that oppression and racism are inequalities that must never be a correct justification that because the whites oppressed us yesterday when they had power, the blacks must oppress them today because they have power. An evil remains an evil whether practised by white against black or black against white.
Hopes were high in 1980. Mugabe brought in Ndebele (who had largely voted for Zapu) into his government, and even kept Ken Flowers the Head of Intelligence, the man who had tried to assassinate him. £900 million was donated from abroad, boycotts were lifted, Africans no longer faced racial persecution from the security forces, and whites no longer face military call-up. For the first three years of recognized independence everyone benefited and Mugabe could easily have been seen as positively as Nelson Mandela is seen today. Primary school enrollment rose from 82,000 in 1976 to 2,216,878 in 1985, and secondary school enrollment from 66,000 to 482,000 in the same period. By 1988 the WHO and UNICEF praised Mugabe for providing safe drinking water to over 84 percent of the population. Workers' rights improved, a minimum wage was introduced and labor discrimination based on race was illegalized. Shona and Ndebele were both made national languages, as well as English, and many minority languages including Chewa, Venda, Tonga, Nambya, Kalanga, and Shangani were officially recognized. He even earned the nickname 'Good Old Bob.' This shows that Mugabe saw great improvements to Zimbabwe but the big question is, what went wrong?
British prime ministers, starting with Margaret Thatcher, would often pay Zimbabwe when Mugabe redistributed white land.

End of the Honeymoon
There are several reasons why the honeymoon period came to a crashing halt. The legacies of colonial rule in the form of the Lancaster House constitution meant that very few black families were resettled onto white land, and many areas of resettled land was not suitable for farming. Although 416,000 people were resettled on 6.5 million acres this was not nearly close enough to deal with the issue. Job creation stalled: although 10,000 were made a year this was not enough. Most importantly many former soldiers lacked work and this became a major criticism towards Mugabe as he was seen as abandoning people who fought for both Mugabe and Zimbabwe. It did not take long for Mugabe to abandon socialism and unlike others like him he did not even pay lip-service too socialism. As corruption started to skyrocket, (one of his proteges Phillip Chiyangwa said 'I am rich because I belong to Zanu-PF. If you want to be rich you must join Zanu-PF.'), inflation soared. Human rights started as exemplified by the Gukurahundi.
Members of Mugabe's 5 Brigade
Gukurahundi is a Shona word for 'the rains which blows away the chaff.' Mugabe would boast of another degree, 'a degree in violence,' and during the Gukurahundi from 1982 to 1987 he exercised this degree. Unlike Mandela Mugabe was never a devotee to democracy, and, as according to James Muzondidya, political issues which could have been sorted with diplomacy was sorted with violence. Soon after becoming president he had his own personal force, called 5 Brigade, trained in North Korea so in the future, if the need arose, he could deal with opponents. One of Mugabe's closest advisers was an Ndebele politician called Enos Nkala who loathed Joshua Nkomo and Zapu calling Nkomo the 'self-appointed Ndebele king.' Zapu opposition towards Zanu-PF infuriated Mugabe and in 1982 claimed that Zapu had arms caches and was preparing a coup. Calling Nkomo a 'cobra in the house' he said 'The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head.' Former Zipra soldiers were arrested and Zapu assets were seized in Matabeleland which allowed South Africa to send soldiers 'to keep the bot boiling.' Mugabe accused Zapu of conspiring with South Africa so sent in 5 Brigade. What followed was a series of ethnic based violence in Matabeleland. Already facing a drought relief supplies were cut off as 5 Brigade attacked Zapu supporters. As most supporters happened to be Ndebele this turned into ethnic violence where Ndebele were forced to speak Shona, women were raped, an indoctrination policy was introduced, and villagers were forced to sing Shona songs praising the murders as they danced on mass graves. A report named Breaking the Silence was released after the Gukurahundi found that over 20,000 civilians were murdered during this period. During the guerrilla war Zanu-PF had tried to implement women's rights but during the Gukurahundi, and after, feminist groups were silenced. In December 1987 the Gukurahundi came to an end when Nkomo signed the Unity Accord with Mugabe merging Zanu and Zapu together. On 30 December 1987 Mugabe made himself president which put him charge of the armed forces, allowed him to dissolve the parliament, gave him unlimited terms in office, and allowed him to declare martial law.

Since 1987
Since becoming president in 1987 the current image of Mugabe which we have in the North Atlantic world set in. Due to the amount of things to discuss I'm only going to focus on certain key events of Mugabe's presidency until 2017. It is quite telling that the US, UK and World Bank focused not on the Gukurahundi, which largely affected Ndebele but also affected some white farmers, to instead criticize Mugabe over the seizure of white land without payment in the early 1990s and again in the 2000s. However, this should not overlook the blatant cronyism. As mentioned earlier Mugabe abandoned socialism rather quickly, and in 1991 Zanu-PF dropped all references to socialism, never mind Marxism. In December 1996 a recurring theme in Zimbabwean politics happened. Popular war veteran Mukoma Musa passed away in relative poverty, and at his funeral Brigadier Gibson Mashingaidze criticized Zanu-PF for abandoning their ideals and that he himself had to contribute lots of money to Musa's funeral. 'Some people now have ten farms to their names and luxury yachts and have developed fat stomachs when ex-combatants like Comrade Musa lived in abject poverty. Is this the Zanu-PF I trusted with my life? Is this the same party which promised to care for us in our old age?' By 2000 unemployment had reached had risen by 50 percent, inflation had reached 60 percent, 70 percent of the population were in poverty, and 13 million were 10 percent poorer than they were in 1990.
Morgan Tsvangirai
In 1999 a primarily urban-based socialist party called the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) emerged under former Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC aimed to oppose the 2000 referendum which would have changed the constitution creating the position of prime minister, restricting the president to two terms of five years (Mugabe could hold power for a further ten years), and letting the government seize white farms without payment if Britain cease paying Zimbabwe. Despite a propaganda blitz 55 percent of the country rejected the constitution where the rural population largely abstained. Mugabe blamed the white population and had the army attack farmers and their employees. Throughout the 2000s Mugabe continued his presidency marred by press censorship, corruption and political repression. For example, as a way to punish the MDC and urban populaces Operation Murambatsvina sent soldiers into shantytowns and slums to 'remove criminal elements' where the UN estimated that 700,000 people lost their homes or sources of livelihood. Adding to issues is the immense amount of debt the North Atlantic and China hold over Zimbabwe not improving issues.

The Coup
Tanks in Harare during the coup
Since the mid-2000s Mugabe's rule has wavered. From 2009 Morgan Tsvangirai acted as prime minister until the position was abolished in 2013. On November 8, 2017 Mugabe dismissed his vice-president Emmerson Mnangwa to replace him with his wife, Grace Mugabe, as he showed 'traits of disloyalty.'  This was, and is, unfortunate for Mugabe as Mnangwa has ties to the chief of the army and is a war veteran. Veterans of the independence war are still extremely respected in Zimbabwe so replacing a veteran with his wife was clearly a step too far, as well as replacing an ally of the army. Many veterans continue to say that Mugabe betrayed the revolution. Then on 13 November army commander Constantino Chiwenga threaten to intervene, which happened. However, unlike most coups legal procedures were taken into account with both parties trying to impeach Mugabe until the voluntarily resigned - recently he has been given a $10 million payoff and immunity to his family.

Despite the political repression, economic turmoil, and mass sympathy protests during the coup Mugabe is still very much respected. The legacy of his fight for African liberation and attempts to help the non-white population before his rule became increasingly authoritarian. Opposition leaders during the coup have even praised him for his actions during the liberation war. The media in the North Atlantic world has been quick to paint Mugabe as a dictator, and it is quite accurate to do so, but it is also important to remember that he was not always seen that way. Not mentioned yet but Elizabeth II did knight Mugabe. Robert Mugabe can easily be described as a liberator turned dictator.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Profile: Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Al Jazeera
-Nick Dearden, The West owes Zimbabwe a Future, Al Jazeera
-David Blair, Degrees in Violence: Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe, (London: Continuum Books, 2003)
-Michael Auret, From Liberator to Dictator: An Insider's account of Robert Mugabe's descent into tyranny, (Clarement, South Africa: New Africa Books, 2009)
-Martin Meredith, The State of Africa: A History of the Continent since Independence, (London: Simon & Schuster, 2011)
-Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo (eds.), Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from The Pre-Colonial Period to 2008, (Johannesburg: Weaver Press, 2009)

Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts feel free to leave a comment. For future blog updates please see our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Comics Explained: Steppenwolf

The new edition to the DCEU, Justice League, has recently been released and with it we have a new villain not yet seen outside of comics or animation: Steppenwolf. He was originally going to be in the theatrical release of Batman v. Superman but his cameo was cut making Justice League his first actual appearance. However, when he was announced to be the primary antagonist of Justice League many people, including comic fans, responded with, Who is Steppenwolf? Steppenwolf has made very few appearances in comics, Rob of the YouTube channel Comics Explained estimates that he was in only 70 comics, so many wondered why he was chosen as the antagonist over Brainiac or Darkseid. Today we're going to look at just exactly who Steppenwolf is.

New Gods #7
New Gods #7
Steppenwolf first appeared in Jack Kirby's New Gods #7 in 1972. Kirby was half of the dreamteam which made Marvel the success that it was, but he felt he wasn't getting the recognition that he rightly deserved (people mostly credited Stan Lee over Kirby) so amicably left to work for DC. There he made the New Gods which are a very inventive series of comics. Originally, the New Gods lived on two worlds existing outside the Multiverse in what has been named Kirby's 'Fourth World': the idyllic New Genesis ruled by Highfather, and the dystopian Apokolips ruled by Darkseid. As they existed out of the Multiverse the only way they could be reached, or come to the DC Universe, by portals named Boom Tubes. When Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the Multiverse the Fourth World was moved to existing inside the DC Universe, but they existed in a galaxy cut off from the rest of the universe only accessible via Boom Tube. The one last thing we need to discuss is the Source Wall. This 'Wall' exists at the edge of the Multiverse and separates the Multiverse from the Source: a collection of all knowledge and power in the Multiverse. If someone fails to get across the Source Wall they become part of the Wall itself.

Now we turn to Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf was the commander of Apokolips' military while Apokolips was under the rule of his sister Heggra, someone who had been ruling Apokolips since her husband, Yuga Khan, was claimed by the Source Wall. Later, when Heggra's son Uxas, (Darkseid), killed her he began serving his nephew. Steppenwolf was the enforcer for Apokolips; when Heggra or Darkseid wanted something done he would do it. This brings us to his first appearance in New Gods #7. Darkseid wanted his mother dead, (after all she had his wife, the only person he ever loved, executed), and wanted war with Apokolips' eternal enemy, New Genesis. So he sent Steppenwolf to assassinate Avia, the wife of New Genesis' ruler Izaya. This resulted in a bloody war which devastated both worlds. During the war Darkseid poisoned Heggra and Izaya smashes Steppenwolf killing him yelling: You'll never kill anyone again, Steppenwolf!
Steppenwolf's Death
During the war Izaya learned of the Source and devoted himself to peace renaming himself Highfather. He made a peace agreement with Darkseid where his son would be raised by Darkseid, while he would raise Darkseid's son Orion. While the sons were on their new worlds the peace would stand, so Darkseid had a torturer daily abuse Highfather's son so he would be compelled to escape the planet and end the non-aggression pact. Darkseid then showed his power and resurrected Steppenwolf putting him back in charge of Apokolips' military. Until the DC Universe was rebooted in the New 52 he was a background character with the only noteworthy thing that he did was dying at the hands of the Terror Titans; an inverse group of the Teen Titans.

New 52
Steppenwolf was reintroduced following the New 52 in Justice League Vol.2 #6. Again, he is in charge of Darkseid's army, however, he plays a minor role with Darkseid being the main villain. As the New 52 brought back the Multiverse the Fourth World was moved again to being outside the Multiverse. One of the 52 new universes was Earth-2 and Darkseid declared war on this reality. He sent Steppenwolf with an army of Parademons to wipe out the main threats of this reality before he invaded, clearly learning from his failed attempt at invading the mainstream universe. Steppenwolf destroyed entire countries and even destroyed Amazon Island causing the Olympian Gods to pray for humanity to fight through this. Batman infiltrated towers controlling the Parademons while Superman and Wonder Woman directly fought them. However, Steppenwolf impales Wonder Woman on his sword killing her and Superman is killed when Parademons overrun him. 
Steppenwolf kills Wonder Woman
Finally, Batman sacrifices himself destroying the towers, and with it the Parademons. Steppenwolf then is trapped on Earth where for five years with the remnants of his army he tried to establish his own kingdom in order to later conquer the rest of the planet. Steppenwolf had been using a clone of Superman, called Brutaal, to fight for him and had been indoctrinating him to worship Darkseid. However, this worked too well so when Steppenwolf decided to conquer the Earth for himself, and not Darkseid, Brutaal killed him. Sometime later Steppenwolf was resurrected again by Darkseid appearing in Justice League Vol. 2 #42.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post. For future blog posts please see our Facebook or get me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

Friday, 10 November 2017

World History: The Little Ice Age

Peter Breughel the Elder's Hunters in the Snow
When we think about history we often forget about the climate and environment, but it has been incredibly influential in shaping human history. The last time we looked properly at the climate as a part of World History it was our very first post describing the evolution of humanity; there changing global climate caused grasslands to encroach on forests and forced our ancestors to walk upright, (please see here). Climate has never stopped affecting human history and today I want to focus specifically on a period of climate history named the Little Ice Age, something which lasted from the mid-fifteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. First coined by Francois E. Matthes in 1939 historians now have taken note of the significance of the Little Ice Age and its impact on our history.

How do we know it happened?
Changing Global Temperature
Quite often historians have been criticized for making statements with the idea 'we weren't there so we can't be certain.' Although at times this is a valid criticism but for the Little Ice Age we do have evidence that it took place. Climatologists and meteorologists have used ice-cores and dendrochronology (looking at tree rings) which show us that from around 1300 the world's climate got much colder, reaching a peak in the seventeenth century, and then getting warmer in the 1800s. Geoffrey Parker in his article Crisis and Catastrophe has shown through a series of graphs how fewer sunspots were seen, temperatures were lower, and increased volcanic activity happened during this time period. Not only that, we have cultural evidence that global temperatures dropped during this time period. Pictured at the top of this post if Peter Breughel the Elder's Hunters in the Snow painted in 1565 depicting hunters walking through thick snow as people ice skate on a frozen ponds. A painting by Abraham Hondius in 1676 depicted hunters chasing a fox on the frozen Thames, and until the mid-nineteenth century carnivals on the frozen Thames were a regular occurrence. We have written records also of severe climate and weather conditions. In 1641 Enomoto Yazaemon wrote that on New Year's Day 'ice lay in the fields one foot deep. From that time, I observed seven snowfalls until the spring.' Chronicler Benedikt Kuen in the 1680s wrote about the glacier Vernagtferner moving south from the Alps:
in 1600. so our ancestors tell us, the big glacier behind Rofen after it had come into the valley according to its habit, broke out on the feast of St James [25 July], did great damage to the fields in the Ezthal, spoilt the roads and streets and carried away all the bridges. In the parish of Langenfeld the water flooded the ground from Rethlstain to Lener Kohlstatt.
In the 1640s governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony noted in his journal: 
The frost was so great and continual this winter that all the Bay was frozen over, so much and so long, as the like, by the Indians' relation, had not been so these forty years ... To the southward also the frost was as great and the snow as deep, and at Virginia itself the great [Chesapeake] bay was much of it frozen over, and all of their great rivers.
Volcanic eruptions, independent of global climate, added to global cooling periodically. 1816 was described by contemporaries as 'The Year Without a Summer' following the eruption of Mt. Tambora the year prior. We can even use wine harvests to provide evidence for the Little Ice Age; before 1469 wine was actually cultivated in England which ended through colder temperatures.
A Thames Frost Fair
How It was Explained
Today we know that the adverse climate was due to the Little Ice Age, but we have the benefit of hindsight and decades of scientific research on climate. Contemporaries did not have that benefit so looked at ways which they understood the world to explain the floods, hail, and storms. We'll look at two areas of the world and how they understood the causes: Europe and China.

We'll discuss China first. Throughout World History when we've discussed China one phrase has repeatedly cropped up, 'the Mandate of Heaven.' For those who are new to the term the Mandate of Heaven was the idea that the ruling dynasty only ruled thanks to a mandate directly from Heaven. However, if the ruling dynasty was seen as being corrupt or decadent, abusing its citizens, or just generally inept it was believed that the mandate would leave the ruling dynasty. Any new dynasty which ousted the old one could now claim that they have the Mandate of Heaven. Since the fourteenth century the Ming had ruled China and by the seventeenth century Chinese society had changed. Years of relative peace and prosperity had caused a population boom in the countryside putting pressure on the land, a thriving domestic (and a smaller external) trade had caused merchants to become wealthier than farmers, and inflation was rapidly rising through the importation of silver from the Americas and Japan. The floods, hail, storms, and cooler temperatures brought on by the Little Ice Age led to crop failures compounding the issue, and nothing causes a revolt quicker than starving people. To contemporaries it was clear that the Mandate of Heaven had left the Ming and they pointed to the weather as a sign of it. The violent weather was seen as a sign that the Ming were no longer protected by Heaven, and that this was a sign that the Ming should be replaced. In 1644 the Ming were overthrown and their successors, the Shun, were overthrown shortly after by the new Qing Dynasty.
A depiction of a witch burning from England in the 1640s
Europe did not point to their rulers as the cause of bad weather, hail and red suns but instead turned to the Bible. Wolfgang Behringer has linked the Little Ice Age to the spike in witch hunts. From 1560 to 1600 somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people were accused of witchcraft where 40,000 to 60,000 were executed. Before Pope Innocence VIII released his papal bull Summis desiderantus affectibus on 5 December 1484 the Church did not link witchcraft to the weather, and Innocence only did this at the request of Dominican friar Heinrich Kramer. Often the sins of the populace were blamed for the weather but smaller political entities were more susceptible to the idea of witches. A very severe thunderstorm hit central Europe on 3 August 1562 during a time of meteorological events which people in the Barony of Illeraichen blamed on witches which forced Count Hans von Rechberg to imprison several women who confessed to witchcraft under torture. Between 1562 and 1565 in Wiesensteig there was an attempt to eradicate 'the evil' in society where 63 women were burnt as witches. A chronicler in the Franconian town of Zeil in 1626 wrote:
Everything froze, something which had not happened as long as one could remember, causing a big rise in prices. […] As a result, pleading and begging began among the rabble, who questioned why the authorities continued to tolerate the witches. […] Thus the prince-bishop punished these crimes
Accusations were heavily gendered. Between 75 and 85 per cent of those accused were women, but in Northern Europe more men were accused than women. However, there were pushbacks against the idea of witches causing the bad weather. As mentioned many in the Church blamed the sins of the people and at times ridiculed the idea of witches. The idea of familiars was mocked with some clergy commenting if Satan really wanted to cause damage; wouldn't he become a dragon instead of a cat? Humanists looked to secular reasons and centers of secularization like Nuremburg and the Swiss and Italian-republics, despite ruling lots of rural land, saw little to no witch burnings. Scholar Albrecht Durer produced woodcuts presenting the subject as a way for people to portray beautiful women naked. Across Europe reaction to the Little Ice Age varied.

The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century
Historians Eric Hobsbawm and Hugh Trevor-Roper argued in the 1950s that the 1600s saw a 'Crisis' where the world was plunged into increased violence. Hobsbawm, a primarily European historian, argued this crisis was part of Europe's transition from feudalism to capitalism, whereas Trevor-Roper linked this to a political crisis where the modern political state started to emerge. The 1600s were a violent time in history: over a million took part in revolts in China, peasant revolts swept over Switzerland and Germany, rebellions hit Russia in 1648 and 1649, a series of revolts in Brazil, the overthrow of the Kongo Kingdom, the brutal collapse of the Ming, the Mughal Civil War, a spike in the amount of people made slaves for the Atlantic Slave Trade, the Fronde in France, a succession war in the Ottoman Empire, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in the British Isles, and the Thirty Years' War are just some of the violence to strike the world. Geoffrey Parker reopened the debate but spoke of a global crisis, not just a European one. He went on to link this to the Little Ice Age. Although the Little Ice Age did not cause these conflicts and bouts of violence it helped contribute to them. Using the example of China the collapse of the Ming was down to poor harvests and other factors, and the Manchus who succeeded them, (excluding the brief Shun Dynasty), moved south to China as they believed that China would have better harvests than Manchuria. Parker himself can sum this idea best:
How, precisely, can historians link the harsh winters, cool summers, droughts, and floods of the 1640s […] with individual cases of state breakdown such as the revolts of Scotland, Ireland and England against Charles I, or the collapse of Ming rule in China? We must not paint bull’s-eyes around bullet holes and argue that since climatic aberrations seem to be the only factor capable of causing simultaneous upheavals around the globe, therefore those aberrations “must” have caused the upheavals.
Depiction of the Thirty Years' War
The Little Ice Age amplified causes for war and violence throughout the world. A two per cent drop in global temperatures can halve a rice harvest, which happened. This would help explain some of the origins of a revolt but not all of them. Despite rice or grain harvests becoming smaller taxes on land remained the same and often crops were sent to the cities instead of staying in the countryside. When more crops remained in the countryside riots broke out in cities as the price of food, like bread, rose. Furthermore, the various wars which swept the world added to these issues. Soldiers would pillage the countryside for food helping cause famines, and with less food your immune system is weaker so this helped spread disease. War, disease and famine during the Thirty Years' War caused a population decline of up to 40 per cent in the German states and in China the word binghuo (soldier calamity) was coined to describe the pillaging of the country by soldiers. 
Image of the Fronde
Before we conclude I just want to talk about the demographic shift thanks to the Little Ice Age. When people were tired of war, persecution and famine they moved. The 1600s saw the largest surge of colonists to the Americas and, unfortunately with it, slaves from Africa as well. A Chinese diaspora also began in the early 1600s with many settling in areas like Malaysia and the Philippines which would open up these areas for migration in the 1800s. At times when food was in short supply through bad harvests family sizes decreased and in some areas, like northern Europe, they largely remained small. We can see as well the difference in wealth as well. A general trend in Europe was that wealthy families, who could afford food, had larger families whereas less wealthy families had smaller families. There also began a trend of marrying later, and in Renaissance Europe quite often widows did not remarry. However, there were darker sides to this. In the 1680s the Qing passed a decree to prevent widow suicides indicating that it must have been an endemic problem and several European states, like France, passed strict laws against infanticide. Children who died under the age of five were sometimes checked to make sure they died naturally and were not murdered. 

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina
The Little Ice Age offers a prime example for us to learn from history. As I am writing we are faced with dramatic climate change caused by global warming. During the last hurricane season the United States was hit by several destructive hurricanes - Harvey, Irma and Maria to name just three - most likely as a result of climate change. Alongside these hurricanes we had intense wild fires in California and floods in Chad, India, Nepal and Nigeria. Geoffrey Parker put forward the Little Ice Age as one of the causes of the Crisis of the Seventeenth Century a few years after Hurricane Katrina and was deeply influenced by this. It is widely believed that the reason why the Little Ice Age ended was because of the Industrial Revolution which poured carbon dioxide in unprecedented numbers into the atmosphere causing global temperatures to rise. By looking at how the Little Ice Age affected communities of the past we can find ways to cope with the climate issues which we face today.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-Geoffrey Parker, 'Crisis and Catastrophe: The Global Crisis of the Seventeenth Century Reconsidered,' The American Historical Review, 113:4, (2008), pp. 1053-1079
-Wolfgang Behringer, 'Climate Change and Witch-Hunting: The Impact of the Little Ice Age on Mentalities,' Climate Change, 43:1, (1999), pp. 335-351
-Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850, (New York: Basic Books, 2000)
-Tom Bristow and Thomas H. Ford, (eds.), A Cultural History of Climate Change, (New York: Routledge, 2016)
-Wolfgang Behringer, A Cultural History of Climate, (London: Wiley, 2009)
-Jean M. Grove, The Little Ice Age, (London: Methuen, 1988)

Thank you for reading. Next time we'll be looking at one of the most significant events in European history which saw its 500th anniversary this October: the Reformation. For future blog updates we have a Facebook or you can get me on Twitter @LewisTwiby.

For other World History posts we have a collection of them here