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April 8, 2021
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April 8, 2021

You will answer three essay questions on this final examination. For each question, please provide a short outline and a short essay, both of which should refer to the evidence from your study for the course. For each question, I provide one or more quotations. You should comment on 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 understandThat 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 of the invading European societies, we must abandon the notion of “primitive” and “civilized” people. There is still some utility in pointing out differences in technological achievement – the Europeans’ ability to navigate 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 contact with an “inferior” one, we unconsciously step into a mental trap in which Europeans are the active agents of history and the African and Indian peoples are the passive victims. Africans, Indians, and Europeans all had developed societies that functioned successfully in their respective environments. None thought of themselves as inferior people. “Savages we call them,” wrote Benjamin Franklin more than two centuries ago, “because their Manners differ from ours, which we think the Perfection of Civility; they think the same 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 in Europe and the United States? Did the Enlightenment begin the process by which slavery was eventually abolished? Did the view of Africa and of Africans change as a result of the rise of Atlantic slavery? How did Africans perceive Europe and Europeans during the 17th and 18th centuries? And what role did Africans have in increasing or decreasing the role of slave trading within their own societies?
II. A common precept of contemporary writers and historians is the notion that the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West is due to the “fact” that the West lived through a period 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 historically in the early history of Islam and in the Ottoman and Islamic empires. It was the early Ottoman Empire that provided examples of tolerance and the acceptance of religious diversity that were far 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 the center of truth and enlightenment, surrounded by infidel barbarians whom it would in due course enlighten and 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-called civilization over all others. Like Lewis, Huntington defines Islamic civilization reductively, as if what matters most about it is its supposed anti-Westernism. For his part Lewis tries to give a set of reasons for his definition – that Islam never modernized, that it never separated between Church and State, that it has been incapable of understanding other civilizations – but Huntington does not bother with them. For him Islam, Confucianism, and the other five or six civilizations (Hindu, Japanese, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American, and African) that still exist are separate from one another, and consequently potentially in a conflict, which he wants to manage, not resolve. He writes as a crisis manager, not as a student of civilization, 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 Islamic society…. Preoccupied with its own forms of monarchical absolutism, Europe elaborated a myth of oriental tyranny and located its essence in the sultan’s harem.” (Leslie Peirce, The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire, 1993)
III. Read the quotation from Jonathan Spence’s book about the K’ang-Hsi Emperor in 18th century China, and then answer the question that follows.
“Too many people claim to know things when, in fact, they know nothing about them. Since my childhood I have always tried to find things out for myself and not to pretend to have knowledge when I was ignorant. Whenever I met older people I would ask them about the experiences they had had, and remember what they said. Keep an open mind and you’ll learn things; you will miss other people’s good qualities if you just concentrate on your own abilities. It’s my nature to enjoy asking questions, and the crudest or simplest people have something of value to say, something one can check through to the source 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 the transfer 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 there a 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 not China 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 had European systems of belief. In his book The Emperor of China, Spence presents the Emperor K’ang-Hsi as an enlightened ruler, fully cognizant of the best way to rule China and to preserve Chinese knowledge and traditions. This may not have been sufficient to please the Ming loyalists, who continued to resist or to express dissent in the 17th century, but by the 18th century, it was clear that the process of acceptance was complete and the Qing dynasty would remain in power.
In the Letter of the Qianlong Emperor to King George III, the Chinese ruler clearly feels that China compared to England is more civilized, more independent, and more sophisticated in its long-held Confucian practices and traditional beliefs:
“Ever since the beginning of history, sage Emperors and wise rulers have bestowed on China a moral system and inculcated a code, which from time immemorial has been religiously observed by the myriads of my subjects. There has been no hankering after heterodox doctrines.” (Letter of the Qianlong Emperor to King George III, 1793)
From the Emperor’s perspective China, the Middle Kingdom is at the center of the world and is self-sufficient; King George’s England is a small island located at the ends of the earth. Discuss the Qing Dynasty in China in respect to notions of enlightenment and of modernity.
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