Monthly Archives: November 2013

Muslim rule

The early Caliphs were not as interested in governance as in expansion. They wanted tribute; they were content to use force to exact it and then move on. Local rulers were mostly left in place, with local customs. However, as … Continue reading

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Stress lines in the Islamic Empire

From early on, there were three basic tectonic lines that kept Mohammed’s legacy from ever being placid or unified. (1) Tribal tensions inside Mohammed’s Quraysh tribe, but between different clans. Then tension and aggression between the Quraysh and other Arabs, … Continue reading

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Early conquest

The empires of Byzantium and Persia had been fighting over the territory between them since about 570. By 630, many of cities on the front had suffered destruction of walls and crops, and many of the men of fighting age … Continue reading

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Mohammed

Mohammed, assuming he really lived (which I assume but a few renegade scholars challenge), can be placed in the early 600s. He was a merchant living in Mecca, where the dominant religion was pagan. The Kaaba already existed and was … Continue reading

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Mediterranean world in 600

Mohammed reported his first vision in the year 610. By 640, his followers had a small, growing empire. Before we trace this explosive growth, let’s look at the world that the Mohammedans challenged. The map of Europe in 600 shows … Continue reading

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15th century castles and chateaux

If you do an internet search of “castles for sale,” you’ll always find an array of beautiful stone houses, mostly in France. Most of them are “chateaux,” that is, the word “castle” updated into modern French. As the word changed, … Continue reading

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Gunpowder and castles

I’ve made some references to the changing nature of warfare in the 14th and 15th centuries, which it’s worth spelling out in more detail. Gunpowder changed the nature of war by changing siege strategy; whole cities could be besieged and … Continue reading

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15th century castle kitchens

By the 1400s, castles were more and more residential and less and less military. When the government needed a real fortress, the king now built a compact stone fort with very thick walls and artillery stations. The castle residences could … Continue reading

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Bodiam Castle

Near the end of the Hundred Years War, England was losing badly. We know from the modern map that England lost all of its continental possessions except for the Channel Islands. Calais was part of the British Empire until 1558, … Continue reading

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Last will and testament

This entry somehow never got published in March, 2013 as drafted and saved. Like monks, people in the world began by dying legally: writing a will and making last confession. The availability of paper in the 14th century made actual … Continue reading

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