You will answer three essay questions on this final examination. For each question, pleaseprovide a short outline and a short essay, both of which should refer to the evidence from yourstudy for the course. For each question, I provide one or more quotations. You should commenton the quotations I provide and on any other visual or textual evidence you feel is relevant.
I. Read the following and then discuss the question(s) below:“Barbarism (is) whatever differs from our own customs”
(Michel de Montaigne, “On Cannibals”, 1580)
‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.Some view our sable race with scornful eye,”Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain,May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.
(Phillis Wheatley, 1773)
“To break through the notion of Indians and Africans being kneaded like dough according to the whims ofthe invading European societies, we must abandon the notion of “primitive” and “civilized” people. Thereis still some utility in pointing out differences in technological achievement – the Europeans’ ability tonavigate across the Atlantic and their ability to process iron and thereby to manufacture guns, for example.But if we take these achievements as constituting the marks of a “superior” culture coming into contactwith an “inferior” one, we unconsciously step into a mental trap in which Europeans are the active agentsof history and the African and Indian peoples are the passive victims. Africans, Indians, and Europeans allhad developed societies that functioned successfully in their respective environments. None thought ofthemselves as inferior people. “Savages we call them,” wrote Benjamin Franklin more than two centuriesago, “because their Manners differ from ours, which we think the Perfection of Civility; they think thesame of theirs.” (Gary B. Nash, Red, White and Black, 1974)
Why and how did the institution of slavery grow during the period of the Enlightenment inEurope and the United States? Did the Enlightenment begin the process by which slavery waseventually abolished? Did the view of Africa and of Africans change as a result of the rise ofAtlantic slavery? How did Africans perceive Europe and Europeans during the 17th and 18thcenturies? And what role did Africans have in increasing or decreasing the role of slave tradingwithin their own societies?
II. A common precept of contemporary writers and historians is the notion that the “clash ofcivilizations” between Islam and the West is due to the “fact” that the West lived through aperiod of Enlightenment and modernity and the Islamic world did not. Yet even if true, such
differences are not sufficient to negate the history of enlightenments that occurred historicallyin the early history of Islam and in the Ottoman and Islamic empires. It was the early OttomanEmpire that provided examples of tolerance and the acceptance of religious diversity that werefar in advance of the toleration provided within Europe itself.
Comment on this topic in relation to the quotations provided below.
“Living in a frontier society and mixing freely with Christians, the Ottomans applied principles of Islam
with the greatest liberality and tolerance.” (Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire, 1974)
“Like every other civilization known to human history, the Muslim world in its heyday saw itself as thecenter of truth and enlightenment, surrounded by infidel barbarians whom it would in due course enlightenand civilize.” (Bernard Lewis, “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” The Atlantic Monthly, 1990)
“Far from being an arbiter between civilizations…Huntington is a partisan, an advocate of one so-calledcivilization over all others. Like Lewis, Huntington defines Islamic civilization reductively, as if whatmatters most about it is its supposed anti-Westernism. For his part Lewis tries to give a set of reasons forhis definition – that Islam never modernized, that it never separated between Church and State, that it hasbeen incapable of understanding other civilizations – but Huntington does not bother with them. For himIslam, Confucianism, and the other five or six civilizations (Hindu, Japanese, Slavic-Orthodox, LatinAmerican, and African) that still exist are separate from one another, and consequently potentially in aconflict, which he wants to manage, not resolve. He writes as a crisis manager, not as a student ofcivilization, nor as a reconciler between them.” (Edward Said, “The Clash of Definitions,”)
“We in the West are heir to an ancient but still robust tradition of obsession with the sexuality of Islamicsociety…. Preoccupied with its own forms of monarchical absolutism, Europe elaborated a myth of orientaltyranny and located its essence in the sultan’s harem.” (Leslie Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women andSovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, 1993)
III. Read the quotation from Jonathan Spence’s book about the K’ang-Hsi Emperor in 18thcentury China, and then answer the question that follows.
“Too many people claim to know things when, in fact, they know nothing about them. Since mychildhood I have always tried to find things out for myself and not to pretend to have knowledge when Iwas ignorant. Whenever I met older people I would ask them about the experiences they had had, andremember what they said. Keep an open mind and you’ll learn things; you will miss other people’s goodqualities if you just concentrate on your own abilities. It’s my nature to enjoy asking questions, and thecrudest or simplest people have something of value to say, something one can check through to thesource and remember.” (Jonathan Spence, Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K’ang-Hsi, 1974)
A period of uncertainty and conflict in 17th century China was gradually resolved with thetransfer of power during the Qing dynasty. Jonathan Spence, in The Search for Modern China,writes about this period of change, from Ming to Qing, as the rise of a “modern” China. Is therea comparison to be made here with the rise of a modern Europe? Was only Europe enlightened,or did China experience another in a long series of its own enlightenments in the context of the
arts and intellectual life? And in comparison to the Scientific Revolution in Europe, did notChina experience its own periods of scientific achievement, with inventions such as printing,paper, the compass, and gunpowder? As to philosophy and spiritual and intellectual life,ancient Chinese traditions of Confucianism and Taoism had persevered far longer than hadEuropean systems of belief. In his book The Emperor of China, Spence presents the EmperorK’ang-Hsi as an enlightened ruler, fully cognizant of the best way to rule China and to preserveChinese knowledge and traditions. This may not have been sufficient to please the Mingloyalists, who continued to resist or to express dissent in the 17th century, but by the 18thcentury, it was clear that the process of acceptance was complete and the Qing dynasty wouldremain in power.
In the Letter of the Qianlong Emperor to King George III, the Chinese ruler clearly feelsthat China compared to England is more civilized, more independent, and more sophisticated inits long-held Confucian practices and traditional beliefs:
“Ever since the beginning of history, sage Emperors and wise rulers have bestowed on China a moralsystem and inculcated a code, which from time immemorial has been religiously observed by themyriads of my subjects. There has been no hankering after heterodox doctrines.” (Letter of the QianlongEmperor to King George III, 1793)
From the Emperor’s perspective China, the Middle Kingdom is at the center of the world and isself-sufficient; King George’s England is a small island located at the ends of the earth. Discussthe Qing Dynasty in China in respect to notions of enlightenment and of modernity.
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