Article of the month: December
New Arkhandelsk, the capital of Russian Alaska (19th-century engraving; De Agostini Picture Library)
Near the end of the 15th century a remarkable new chapter in global history began. Several countries in Western Europe launched maritime expeditions of exploration, systematically sailing thousands of miles across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in search of new lands. Sailing the oceans was daring and difficult. And while it may be that other cultures - like the Chinese and the Polynesians - had previously sent out long-distance voyages to explore new areas, there is no evidence that this series of explorations began with the idea of bringing back more and more knowledge about the planet. The Europeans were interested in the size of the continents, their position on the globe, and their relationship to each other. The voyagers were also interested in the people who inhabited lands they did not know, and in the resources of those lands, resources that might be used in European markets. Global maritime exploration and the discovery of new lands and peoples lasted well into the 19th century. Perhaps the most remarkable new lands discovered were North and South America, which the Europeans called the "New World," for their existence had not yet been suspected in Europe. In time the Europeans would discover and map virtually all the land on the globe.
Explorers brought back observations about the continents and the people of distant lands, and information about goods that could be sold for profit by merchants and processed into products that improved the way of life in Europe. Making profit from newly acquired goods and preventing rival countries from gaining control of the supply sources of these goods became driving impulses for exploration. This drive toward making a profit soon drew a number of western European countries into competition. By the beginning of the 18th century, there were only a few regions of the globe they had not probed. One of these was the North Pacific Ocean.
Of the European countries, Russia was the first to explore in the North Pacific. The Russians had been exploring the Arctic, looking for new lands, since the tenth century. Under Ivan IV the Terrible (1547–1582) they began to explore east of the Ural Mountains into Siberia, to trade and to conquer the indigenous people there. By1647, they had crossed Siberia to Sea of Okhotsk, at the northwest edge of the North Pacific Ocean. The next year a Cossack (a special Russian military group who were fierce fighters and loyal to the Russian tsars) named Semen Dezhnev sailed along the Siberian coast and through Bering Strait to the mouth of the Anadyr River.
In 1725 the tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) commissioned Vitus Bering to sail east from the Kamchatka Peninsula. In 1727, Bering sailed north through Bering Strait to the Arctic ice pack and back to Kamchatka. Due to storms and fog in Bering Strait he did not see the North American mainland to the east. In the summer of 1732 a Cossack named Mikhail Gvozdev sailed from Kamchatka northward through the Bering Strait and found the Diomede Islands. They were met with a hail of arrows shot by Eskimos on the second island. The next day they anchored off the American coast at Cape Prince of Wales. Soon after Gvozdev sighted King Island where an Alaskan Native approached the ship in a kayak. Following that meeting Gvozdev returned to Kamchatka. His voyage represents the first Russian contact with the American mainland, and with Alaska Native people.
Published: October 12, 2017
There is no denying that the Christian movement began as a completely Jewish phenomenon and developed over the centuries into the Gentile religion of Christianity. This “parting of the ways” is a fascinating chapter in the history of religions, and scholars still debate when the separation occurred as well as the historical, religious and social conditions that contributed to it. I do not intend to revisit these particular issues in this study, even though my conclusions may have implications for these important questions. My sole aim is to examine the growth of the Christian movement in the first century, and to determine in ageneral way the numbers of Jews who converted to it. It will be argued that, despite the evidence of Acts to the contrary, the Christian movement made very little impression upon the Jewish people. Its Jewish membership probably never exceeded 1 000 at any point in the first century, and by the 50s the Jewish members were quite likely exceeded in number by their Gentile counterparts.
Published: September 28, 2017
Oceania is the site of many "lasts". It was the last area on Earth to be settled by humans, last to be discovered by Europeans, and last to be both colonized and decolonized.
Published: September 17, 2017
Legendary Pitcairn, last refuge of Bounty's mutinous crew, is the remotest populated place in the South Pacific. This tiny colony, founded in 1790 by nine fugitive Englishmen and nineteen Polynesians, is presently more than 200 years old. It's one of the ironies of history that Pitcairn, born out of treason to the British crown, was the first Pacific island to become a British colony (in 1838) and remains today the last remnant of that empire in the Pacific. All four Pitcairn Islands – Pitcairn, Henderson, Oeno and Ducie – together total 47.4 square kilometers, however they control an exclusive economic zone of 800,000 square kilometers – an important reason why Britain is in no hurry to leave.
Published: September 13, 2017
In 1796 began "the era of the war-lords", a chaotic period of power vacuum and wars among Ethiopian feudals, which lasted until 1855 when Tewodros II was crowned emperor. Tewodros tried to break tribal ties and discipline his army by paying them himself. He imported firearms and especially wanted artillery. He issued strict laws and executed bandits who refused to farm. He got his men to build roads by working along with them. Tewodros believed he had a religious mission and ordered Muslims to become Christian within a year, and he expelled Roman Catholics.
Published: September 8, 2017
Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the south voted for independence. The government of Sudan gave its blessing for an independent South Sudan, where the mainly Christian and Animist people had for decades been struggling against rule by the Muslim north. After the secession of the South, the Republic of Sudan became the third largest Arabic speaking country in region. Sudan is also a diverse country combining a variety of ethnicities and cultures. The country has attracted considerable media attention through time as a result of her dreadful series of civil wars.