When the Chinese Emperor ordered the destruction of a whole people

The surrender of Dzungar Mongol troops to Qing forces, 1755. Source.

Considering there is only one state called “Mongolia,” it’s difficult to see how diverse the Mongols really were as an ethnic group. With the exception of a few periods in history, the era of the Mongol Empire being one of them, the Mongols were rarely united and mostly consisted of nomadic tribes, squabbling for dominance of one another.

Historically, there were two rival subgroups of Mongols. The Khalkha were the largest and mostly resided in present-day Mongolia. The Oirats, who were made up of a few major tribes known as the Four Oirat, lived in what is today Northwestern China…

Eastern Turkey is a land of ghosts

The remains of murdered Armenians at Deir-ez-Zor, Syria, 1915–1916. Source.

This 24th of April marks 106 years since the day that is traditionally accepted as the start of the Armenian Genocide: one of the worst crimes perpetrated in modern history. On that day in 1915, the Ottoman Minister of the Interior, Mehmed Talaat Pasha, ordered the arrest and deportation of more than 200 Armenian community leaders and intellectuals in Constantinople, most of whom would later be killed. This was a precursor to the larger atrocity, where Talaat ordered the deportation of the entire Armenian population, of whom 800,000 to 1.5 million men, women, and children were murdered.

Talaat later denied…

Civilizations never collapse on a single date

The Ottoman Turks taking their army and fleet to Constantinople. Source.

There are generally two dates used to demarcate the fall of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires: 476 and 1453, respectively. The Western Empire is believed to have fallen due to the deposition of its last emperor, Romulus Augustus by the Germanic foederatus chieftain, Odoacer. The Eastern Empire nominally lasted for another 977 years until 1453, when the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed II conquered its capital, Constantinople. But these dates shift depending on what you consider Rome to be as an ancient civilization. …

How a toxic metal was so widely used

The Temple of Saturn, Roman Forum. Source.

Lead has long held a role as one of the most frequently used metals throughout human history. Along with copper, tin, mercury, gold, silver, and iron, it was one of the seven elements known to the ancients. And like mercury, it is also among the most dangerous naturally occurring elements on Earth. Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in our bones and tissue, mimicking and supplanting other metals that play an invaluable role in the proper function of enzymes: a masquerade that can cause severe neurological disorders in the form of brain damage and developmental disabilities.

It is shocking that…

The French Revolution would have died without it

Battle of Valmy, 20 September 1792 by Horace Vernet, 1826. Source.

Few events in the modern age have had such a crucial impact on our politics, society, and culture as the French Revolution. The legal systems of countless nations, the abolition of nobility, modern property rights, institutional secularism, the decline in the influence of religious authority, and the rise in prominence of science and reason, were all direct or indirect results of this decade of restlessness and bloody upheaval.

We often forget that reactionary forces tried to destroy the French Revolution on seven separate occasions from 1792 to 1815 in a series of coalitions. But by Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and…

One of the First World War’s forgotten tragedies

King Peter of Serbia retreating across the Albanian Mountains, 1915 by Frank O. Salisbury. Source.

Thinking about the Great War, very little is talked about the region where it actually started: the Balkan Peninsula. After Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, the government of Austria-Hungary presented Serbia with an ultimatum that consisted of 10 humiliating terms.

The Austro-Hungarians suspected Serbian military officials of plotting the assassination, and this was indeed true. But the ultimatum’s demands were so insulting they were impossible to accept, perhaps intentionally as Austria-Hungary may have merely used it as a cloak to justify war. …

An unexpected by-product of French policy

Napoleon III conversing with Otto von Bismarck after being captured in the Battle of Sedan, by Wilhelm Camphausen, 1878. Source.

Living in this modern world, a unified Germany seems a given. It’s something as normal as the blue sky, the green grass, and the yellow sun. But if you went to France in 1800 and told someone that a unified German state would exist in just 70 years, they’d laugh as if you were insane. And truth be told, imagining such a powerful entity at that time would have been ridiculous. …

An upheaval of the traditional order or political ploy?

A French Print that reads “Napoleon re-establishes the religion of the Israelites, 30 May 1806.” Source.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a person of incredible contradiction in stature, personality, and ideology. Bonaparte’s powerful ego contrasted with his small, 5’7" frame: his imperial guard towered over him. A man prone to fits of anger and rage, other accounts portrayed him as a grave and somber individual. Napoleon is depicted in this print as a semi-deity with the ultimate reverence of the men and women before him, but many also described him as average and quite unremarkable in appearance. Regarding reform, Napoleon swept away the old feudal order. …

A bizarre holdover from history

French President, Emmanuel Macron. Source.

France hasn’t exactly been known to be friendly to kings and queens in the past few centuries and has not had a monarch for more than 150 years, which is why it may come as a surprise that yes, the French President is indeed royalty. Since 1607, almost every French head of state has also been Co-Prince of Andorra, a microstate wedged between France and Spain in the Pyrenees Mountains.

A confluence of factors resulted in their departure

The Times of India proclaims the nation’s birth, 15 August 1947. Source.

When India’s independence finally became a reality in August 1947, there were two contrasting dualities. On one hand, the joyous nature of the event was obvious; a nation that had for so long been under the yoke of an exploitative colonial power was free to create its own path. This, however, contrasted with a more somber context. Millions of people in the new states of India and Pakistan were uprooted from their ancestral homelands and had to make harrowing journeys across the border. …

Dhruv Shevgaonkar

Wannabe historian. Human being.

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