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Joseph S. Lucas and Donald A. Yerxa, Editors 

National Origins | The Persistence of Nationalism | Tragedy and the Pacific War 
Japanese-Brazilians | Honor and History | Historiography of the American West | America and Europe
Dispatch from Canada | Evolution and War | Held Hostage | Letters

June 2002

Volume III, Number 5

European Nationalism and the Medieval Past[*]
by Patrick Geary 

Little more than a decade ago, Europe seemed to have finally escaped the early Middle Ages. The brave new world of the European Union was supposed to free the continent at last from the shadows of ancient antagonisms supposedly rooted in the age of migration, when Europe’s peoples with their distinctive ethnicities and rivalries first appeared. Of course, over the last decade exactly the opposite happened. The creation of new states in East and Central Europe and the reemergence of xenophobia in Western Europe have returned to prominence old myths of medieval national origins and ethnic enmity. The early Middle Ages are back—with a vengeance. Some of this seems at first glance harmless or simply amusing. Consider the “history” of Slovenia, the newest and perhaps the most harmless of the states to emerge from the corpse of Yugoslavia. With a little help from medieval history, it turns out that Slovenia is actually one of the most ancient nations in Europe. According to one version, Slovenian political history dates back to the 6th century, when the first free principality of the ancient Slovenians was established, “famous for its democratic institutions, legal system, popular elections of dukes and progressive legal rights for women.”  One could not ask for a more progressive past on which to build a better future! 

However, other medieval myths are more ominous: Jean-Marie Le Pen, who recently won 17% of the votes cast for president of France, proclaimed that the French people were born with the baptism of Clovis in 496. Implicit in such a history of course is that Jews and Muslims cannot be “real” French. One may detect the same sort of ethnic nationalism across the Rhine when the Leitkultur of Germany is proclaimed as the standard for judging who is really German. Across Europe, history is being mobilized to legitimize national politics and medieval history has a prominent place in this mobilization.

If all this playing with history seems familiar, it should: “Scientific medieval history,” the marriage of philology and source-critical historical investigation, first arose as part of the nationalist enterprise in Germany as scholars joined politicians to find an historical basis for German national identity. Beginning with the Gesellschaft für älterer deutsche Geschichtskunde, founded in 1819, and the publication of its Monumenta Germaniae Historica, historians, philologists, and archaeologists collaborated to identify language groups and to project these back into history, where they could be identified with the peoples historical sources described as migrating into the Roman empire at the end of Antiquity. Later in the 19th century archaeologists such as Gustaf Kossinna identified patterns of material culture with these linguistic and political groups, making it possible to map Europe’s peoples before, during, and after their definitive settlement within their historic homelands. 

These tools of German nationalism, philological analysis and archaeology, not only created German history but also by implication created all history. They were a readily exportable package, easily applied to any corpus of texts in any language that could be mapped onto archaeological.0 material of an “ethnic” nature. Moreover, since German standards of scientific historical scholarship increasingly dominated the 19th-century universities of Europe and even America, foreign historians trained in the German seminar method and critical scholarship served as ambassadors of nationalistic analysis when they returned to their own countries. 

The historical method was equally seductive to peoples in search of states and to states in search of peoples. Germans sought a state to embody and extend the unique identity of the German people. France, with a long tradition of state continuity, looked to history to find a people whom the restored French state could embody. In between were the numerous interest groups, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Czechs, Basques, Britons, and others, who wanted proof that they, too, had the right to sovereignty, a right based in no small part on the historical claims of the distant past. 

The philologically-based scientific history drafted into the service of nationalism led back ultimately to the period between the 3rd and 11th centuries. The period between the disappearance of the Roman Empire and the formation of recognizable polities became the crucial terrain for the establishment of nationalist claims. Here was to be found the moment of “primary acquisition” when the ancestors of modern nations—speaking their national languages which carried and expressed specific cultural and i n t e l l e c t u a l m o d e s — f i r s t appeared in Europe, conquering for once and for all their sacred and immutable territories and often, in so doing, establishing for once and for all their natural enemies. Essential in such a vision of nations was its “scientific”— one might well say “genetic”—nature: ethnic identity was an objective fact of nature, an accident of birth from which one could not escape. 

In the progression toward nationalist political movements, medievalists were in the forefront of the so-called “awakened” intellectuals who “recovered” the history, language, and culture of their people by showing continuities between the language of ancient texts, the deeds of ancient kings and warriors, and the struggling peoples of the present. Across Europe, a spectrum of intellectuals—ranging from serious scholars such as Georg Heinrich Pertz (1795–1876), director of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, to the Croatian nationalist historian Eugen Kvaternik (1825–1871) and the English racist historian Edward Augustus Freeman (1823–1892)—transmitted this recovered history to patriots, who in turn disseminated it throughout society, creating mass national ideologies. The central role of historians and philologists in this nationalist enterprise created the glory days of medieval studies in Europe and accounts for the publication of texts, establishment of university chairs, and ensured readership and public support for scholars. 

Recently, medievalists have slipped from the center of historical concern along with the national visions that they once espoused. Today many scholars reject such views of the nationstate or of ethnic groups. We are told by Benedict Anderson and others that the nation-state is an imagined community, not rediscovered but called into being by 19thcentury intellectuals and politicians. Following Eric Hobsbawm, many modernists dismiss nationalist versions of history as “invented traditions” and scoff at their naiveté. Such an approach allows modern historians to ignore history prior to 1800, but it does not tell us how to deal with the prehistory of the nation-state. After all, the imagining was not done ex nihilo, but using texts and historical materials that are real and that continue to weigh on Europeans. As we see and hear, these 19th-century medievalists did their job as educators very well. The use of myths such as those of the Slovenes or the Franks to justify the present through a medieval past are proof that the likes of Benedict Anderson or Eric Hobsbawm have had little effect on how societies understand themselves. A new generation of ethnic nationalists finds that the old model of history still resonates with millions of Europeans. 

Nor are all scholars ready to abandon the ancient histories of peoples as merely invented traditions. Many sociologists and historians, often termed primordialists, believe that while nationalism may be recent, nations, understood as ethnic communities united in shared myths of descent, a common history, and a distinctive shared culture (one might almost say Leitkultur) are indeed just as old as the 19th century suggested. They can point to the same evidence as their nationalist predecessors: to the contemporary descriptions of peoples, their customs, religions, and political movements as well as to the archaeological record of settlement and conquest. And they can bolster their arguments by applying the scientific tools of historical, philological, and archaeological analysis that for almost two hundred years have been the hallmarks of serious historical study. 

Both the old nationalists and the new primordialists pose a powerful challenge to contemporary scholars who are both unable to dismiss the past as simply invented and unwilling to become the tools of nationalism once more. But then how are we to imagine peoples in the early Middle Ages, and how are we to approach their histories without using the tools of philology and historical analysis developed by our predecessors? 

A start is to treat the evidence of the past seriously, but to be aware of the biases and ideologies of the people who produced it. Peoples certainly existed in the migration era, and their bonds were important historical realities. However, we should reject the image of migration era peoples as the homogeneous linguistic, cultural, and thus ethnic units so dear to nationalists and primordialists alike. The image is one invented in Antiquity by Greeks and especially Romans, who recognized the heterogeneity, complexity, and malleability of their own societies but saw “barbarians” as ahistorical and immutable, part of the natural world rather than the world of human history. It is more appropriate to think of what our sources term “peoples” as constitutional rather than biological or even cultural units. Membership in a people was never simply a question of language, cultural heritage, or common origin. From the Goths who governed Italy and Spain to the Huns, Franks, Saxons, Alemanni, and Slavs, the groups that appeared in Europe at the end of Antiquity were composed of people with different languages, cultures, geographic origins, and political traditions. One might term them more programs or parties than peoples, their names and their leaders rallying points in shifting political and military alliances. Indeed, these identities could change rapidly with the fortunes of war and the advantages of alliances. What masqueraded as shared histories and common cultures were less descriptions of reality than claims and programs presented by their leaders in their efforts to garner support, very much as nationalist politicians do today. Those who chose to accept these traditions as their own, who fought alongside these leaders, could become members of a new people, without necessarily abandoning other simultaneous or even conflicting identities that could reemerge when advantageous. 

Second, rather than searching for the continuities linking the migration period to the present, we should understand the essentially discontinuous nature of ethnic identity. Nations and ethnic groups could and did change what appeared to be their essential characteristics, including language, religion, modes of warfare, political traditions, customs, and even histories. The heterogeneous makeup of these groups facilitated such transformations, since different options always existed within these societies, and they remained, even in spite of their explicit ideologies, open to recruitment from without. Homogeneity never really characterized these groups as completely as kings or their propagandists pretended. Goths could become Huns and then again Goths; Romans could become Franks. Franks could abandon their languages and religions for Latin and Christianity. Shared legends of origin could be contradictory or multiple, adjusted but not necessarily believed from generation to generation. 

Third, neither of these processes should be assumed to have ended with territorialization or some “moment of primary acquisition” of a homeland. European peoples continue to be works in progress: new ones appear and old ones transform; names endure but the content of these names changes. Whatever the Leitkultur of Germany or France (or Slovenia) is today is certainly not what it was a thousand years ago, and just as certainly it will not be the same in the future. Peoples are processes, they always have been, and they always will be. History is not some moment in the past that justifies the present and tells us what the future must be. It is an ever-changing flood in which we continue to be a part. 

Patrick J. Geary is professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. His most recent book is The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton University Press, 2001), from which this essay is adapted. 

[*] A version of this essay appeared in the Frankfurter Rundschau, July 16, 2002.

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A World of Nations, After All
by Richard Blanke

Historians trying to make sense of difficult national problems often turn for analytical and contextual assistance to the extensive theoretical literature on nationalism, most of it of social-science provenance. As often as not, they come away disappointed. At least, this has been my experience, whether the specific problem was the ability of Prussian Poles to maintain their position against a supposedly powerful German Empire, or the peculiarly difficult situation that faced the one million Germans consigned to resurrected Poland after World War I, or the phenomenon of  “Polish-speaking Germans” who insisted on a national identity that ran counter to their native language, or the complex of emotions, experiences, and rationalizations that made possible history’s greatest ethnic-cleansing operation: the removal of approximately 17 million Germans, mostly from eastern regions of their own country, in and after 1945. 

These are just four of the many historical examples that demonstrate the force and centrality of nationalism; none of them has been persuasively analyzed, accounted for, or even addressed by the most influential works on nationalism published since the 1960s. As for national developments in Eastern Europe since the collapse of Communism, steeping oneself in this literature before 1990 would have provided no better preparation for what actually happened than a major in Soviet Studies prepared one for the collapse itself. But while the methodological assumptions of Soviet Studies have been subjected to a great deal of justified criticism, the field of “Nationalism Studies” does not seem to have undergone a comparable critique (or self-critique).

When we turn from contemporary nationalist theory to the contemporary world, this is what we find: first, that nationalism itself (in the general sense that most people identify with political or cultural communities called nations, whose interests and values take precedence over other forms of social organization, and believe that national communities and political units should coincide where possible) remains the world’s primary political ordering principle. For most individuals, the nation continues to function as Rupert Emerson’s “terminal community,” the largest community that, when the chips are down, commands their loyalty. National identities and loyalties— in some parts of the world these are still called “ethnic” or “tribal”—demonstrate a continuing ability to defy the most powerful regimes and to confound the most sophisticated elites; to prevail over the competing demands of traditional polity, social class, economic interest, multi-national construct, topography, and common sense; and to engender levels of individual commitment and group action about which advocates of class or gender solidarity can only fantasize. Only religion demonstrates, in some situations, a comparable appeal. And once-confident pronouncements by some theorists that nationalism was a passing phase in human history whose hold was already weakening have been rudely challenged by recent developments, and not just in Eastern Europe. 

Second, it is hard to ignore the fact that language and ethnicity, while they may not underlie all forms of national assertiveness, continue to provide the foundation for most expressions of nationalism. To be sure, some successful nation-states have arisen on otherthan- ethnic foundations, notably in Western Europe. But we should not forget that such states were once common to Eastern Europe as well; except that they have disappeared from that region. The classic examples were the multi-national Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, which gave way to a new system of alleged nation-states after World War I. But some of the new states, e.g., the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, were also multi-national constructions, and now they too have capitulated to the forces of ethnic nationalism. And this second wave of destruction of multi-ethnic polities may be even more instructive than the first, for these latter states (and the Soviet Union most obviously) had very powerful means of persuasion at their disposal, and did not hesitate to apply them. Nonetheless, Europe consists today, for the first time in its history, almost exclusively of nation-states. 

Third, while few would argue (as some did in the 19th century) that language necessarily prefigures national identity, it does seem to function in most cases as the leading indicator of ethnic nationality, if not its synonym. To be sure, while a common language may invite people to see themselves as a national group, it clearly does not oblige them to do so. Other considerations, e.g., differences of religion, may take precedence. In today's Europe, Croats, Bosnians, and Serbs, who speak a common language but are divided by religion and history, are the obvious example. Overall, however, and especially in Europe east of the Rhine, language coincides with national identity to a historically unprecedented degree. And with just a few exceptions (Basques, Catalans, and several peoples of the Russian Federation, all with substantial autonomy), every self-defined European language group with one million or more members now has a state of its own; a singular, and yet little-remarked development. 

The problem is that each of these three outcomes would probably have come as a surprise to someone whose understanding of nationalism derived primarily from the theoretical literature that has appeared during the past quarter-century. Pending a better explanation for the substantial disconnect between the world of nationalist theory and the nationalist world in which we live, I would like to suggest that it has something to do with the recent popularity of “instrumentalist” approaches to national identity and nationalism. “Instrumentalism” is not a formal affiliation, of course; and while most contemporary work on nationalism reflects instrumentalist (or related post-modernist) fashion to some degree, many authors might be uncomfortable with the label. For this reason (and because space limitations preclude an adequately detailed discussion of individual works), what follows pertains more to the general posture than to individual scholars (including the several who are cited). 

The gist of the instrumentalist view is that nationalism is best understood, not as a quasinatural or autonomous force, but as a contingent mean to other ends—summoned, shaped, manipulated, and sometimes even created out of whole cloth by states and/or elites. Instrumentalists typically emphasize the mythical, packaged, and top-down character of the history and ethnic traditions that have served as the foundation for national consciousness; and thus the artificial, constructed, and ephemeral quality of national identity; and thus the contingency, voluntarism, and spurious assumptions of ethnic nationalism itself. They seek the origin of modern nations, not in an (imaginary) ethnocultural inheritance, but in the minds of a nationalist elite; as what Benedict Anderson has famously termed an “imagined political community.” Thus it was the idea of nationalism that first suggested a supposedly antecedent nation, which image was then imposed upon the general population in order to bind it together in a common social or political purpose. Language, religion, and ethnic culture might have served, writes Paul Brass, as “raw materials for the intellectual project of nationality,” but they should not be “naturalized,” granted an independent existence, or treated as the autonomous authors of major historical developments.[1] To be sure, national consciousness generated in this manner may well become internalized over time, and provide people with what Ronald Suny calls “a provisional stabilization of a sense of self or group,” but we (and they) should not overlook its “historical construction (and) provisionality.” [2] Moreover, adds Rogers Brubaker, “national feeling is less strong, national identity less salient, . . . than is often assumed.”[3] And the nation itself remains essentially a political fiction, even where it seems to have been “realized;” for we live not in a “world of nations,” but only in a world where the idea of nation happens to be “widely available . . . as a category,” “nationhood” is “pervasively institutionalized,” and “nationness” may “suddenly and powerfully happen.”[4] In other words, the thrust of the instrumentalist approach is to discount and relativize national identity and its putative ethnic substructure by way of challenging the underlying force and authenticity of nationalism itself. 

Other students of nationalism, now clearly a minority, continue to acknowledge ethnic identity and national consciousness, whatever their ontological status, as significant historical forces that are simply too widespread and persistent to attribute to the conjuring ability of elites. These scholars are classified—mainly by those who disagree with them—as “primordialists,” although none of those to whom this label is sometimes applied (Anthony Smith, Miroslav Hroch, Walker Connor, John Armstrong) contends that national identity is literally primordial, i.e., “existing from the beginning; underived; a part of creation.” They do note the obvious, however: that ethnicnational consciousness has arisen in a great variety of places over an extended period of time; that it has often been central to the development of nationalism as a political force; that it has frequently manifested itself independently (if not in the face) of political elites and changing intellectual fashion; and that it is probably no more “imagined” or “invented” than any other aspect of the cultural environment in which people live. True, ethnic nationalism has often begun as a minority movement, but that hardly disproves the importance of ethnicity. Rather, as Miroslav Hroch argues, elites can “invent” nations only where “certain objective preconditions for the formation of a nation already exist.”[5]

The most important of these preconditions is an ethnocultural substructure that may be affected by, but is rarely altogether the creation of, purposeful state activity. (It is called “objective” only in the sense that it exists independently of individual perception and volition and can be recognized and described by others.) It is not the only source of national identity, of course: in addition to “ethnicobjective” sources of national identity, there are others that are usually called political or “subjective.” Some nations have clearly evolved more on the basis of political conditions than of pre-existing communities of language or culture; and even where such community exists today, it may be more the result than the cause of the original act of nation-state creation. Thus in some cases the state has come first, and then produced the nation; for example, by imposing an official language, establishing schools to teach a common history, processing much of the male population through a national army, and introducing infra-structural improvements and economic development to create a sense of common material interest as well; which process receives quasi-classic treatment in Eugen Weber’s account of how “peasants” were made into “Frenchmen.” 

The resulting sense of national identity is called “political-subjective” because it is ultimately a function of individual consciousness and volition, molded by a particular political environment. It has characterized some of the most prominent nation-states, including Britain, France, Spain, Canada, and the United States; for which reason theorists of nationalism are clearly right to insist, as virtually all of them now do, that national identity cannot be understood simply as a function of ethnicity. And yet, the notion of nationality divorced from ethnicity—as essentially or exclusively a matter of subjective sentiment shaped by political circumstances—also presents some problems. For one thing, national identity of the subjective-political type can only be perceived and analyzed a posteriori: one cannot say when or where it will occur until it has already done so, for the theoretical literature provides little reliable information about the circumstances under which an effort to generate a subjective national identity under ethnically indeterminate conditions can be expected to succeed or fail. Moreover, the ethnic-objective vs. political- subjective dichotomy is to some extent false, for most modern nations incorporate a mix of ethnocultural foundations, political traditions, and subjective sentiment. Even nationstates of the political-subjective type usually rest on particular cultural underpinnings; and while multiculturalists do not like to be reminded of it, the classic political nations of North America also had/have at their core a majority population of considerable ethnocultural coherence, without which their political evolution is hardly comprehensible. 

More to the point, however, while the instrumentalist approach to national identity may be suggestive, sophisticated, personally satisfying, and even stand to reason, recent history offers little empirical support for the notion that states or elites can actually construct nations. Individuals may adjust their national orientation for personal reasons—as they commonly do after emigrating to a coun- try with a different national culture. But the record of “nation-building” efforts across ethnic lines, including the spectacular failure of some very powerful states in our own time in the face of a supposedly constructed ethnicity, suggests that the instrumentalists have rather overestimated the ability of states and elites to create the kind of national identities they want and seriously underestimated the strength and persistence of ethnicity as a stubbornly independent and highly resistant historical variable. This may also explain why some of them were so wrong-footed by the recent resurgence of nationalism in Eastern Europe; e.g., John Breuilly, who concluded previously that nationalism's “day has largely passed;” and Eric Hobsbawm, who contended as late as 1990 that nationalism was becoming “historically less important,” was probably “past its peak,” and would play a more “subordinate and often minor role” in the future.[6]

Elsewhere in the world as well, it is increasingly difficult to find multi-ethnic states, especially if they are less than a century old, that seem sure to prevail in the long run over the disintegrating pressures of ethnic nationalism. This may explain why theorists of nationalism whose primary interest is Africa or Asia— where lack of congruence between state and “nation” remains the norm and rulers of political houses built on the sand of ethnic heterogeneity struggle against the odds to instill new national identities of the political-subjective type—incline most strongly toward the instrumentalist position. But in the light of the recent experience of Eastern Europe, the assurance that “routine allegiance to a civil state, supplemented by government's police powers and ideological exhortation,” has become an adequate replacement for ethnic cohesion[7] has a certain whistling-past-thegraveyard quality. There is also the dubious, but clearly implied corollary of the instrumentalist position: if national identity is mainly constructed by states or elites, it follows that it should be “deconstructable” by similar means; in other words, national identity should be a lot more mutable than the experience of the last 150 years in Central and Eastern European suggests. Official languages, monolingual public schools, universal conscription, a pervasive bureaucracy, and infra-structural improvements may have made “Frenchmen (or whatever) out of peasants,” but such methods have rarely been able to make Frenchmen (or whatever) out of people of an altogether different nationality. Indeed, the ultimate ineffectiveness of most exercises in “integral” nationalism, as typified by Imperial Germany or interwar Poland, was doubtless an important reason for the recourse of some states to the subsequent horrors of coerced emigration, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. 

The late Isaiah Berlin offered one plausible explanation for the tendency of so many contemporary students of nationalism to discount and underestimate the essential character, historical force, and continuing appeal of their chosen subject: they may be guided more by personal and class predilections than by a decent regard for the historical evidence.[8] As members of the class that has traditionally placed the greatest faith in human reason (i.e., the intelligentsia), they prefer the idea of national identity rooted in a civil polity of informed citizens (possessed of at least some individual choice in the matter) to an ethnic nationality conceived as an irrational force rooted in a primordial tribal order, with little room for individual freedom of choice. In other words, nationalism of the political-subjective type is okay, for it has also been associated historically with liberalism, sought popular as well as national emancipation, and had an internationalist dimension, seeking the emancipation of people in general and not just one’s own. But ethnic-objective nationalism has been associated more with conservatism (and so is not okay); and its reliance on the vagaries of customs and language rather than the explicit laws and institutions of territorial nations also makes it seem less “safe.” And the suggestion that ethnic nationality was the only legitimate basis for states presaged not just the radical reorganization of Europe but an epidemic of insurrection and war; as was indeed born out by nationalism’s role in the wars of the 20th century—not to mention the havoc wrought by states that actually tried to make themselves into ethnic-national communities rather than civil societies. 

Berlin’s point, however, is that scholars should not allow their own disapproval of a historical development to lead them to underestimate its force. Much the same point is made by the sociolinguist Joshua Fishman, who describes “guided, exploited, mobilized ethnicity” as one of the “great destabilizers of the status quo so precious to all establishments;” for which reason “no one, it seems, likes language loyalty movements, unless they or their favorite causes can profit or gain from them. And yet such movements abound, and their end is not in sight.”[9] Meanwhile, for the historian looking to contemporary nationalist theory for help with some of the past century’s most destructive national conflicts, it is as though he has just come upon a serious automobile accident—many injured, the cars wrecked—only to find a traffic expert explaining that people only imagine that they need to drive; they did not drive at all until a century ago; they are actually much less devoted to driving than is generally believed; and they are already beginning to drive less in favor of public transportation. But the fact is that most people drive, and sometimes they have accidents. Most people also possess a reasonably welldeveloped and persistent national consciousness, which sometimes results in national conflict; and this remains both a fact of modern life and the source of a lot of modern history. 

Richard Blanke is Adelaide & Alan Bird Professor of History at the University of Maine. His most recent book is Polish-speaking Germans? Language and National Identity among the Masurians (Böhlau-Verlag, 2001).

[1]Brass, Ethnicity and Nationalism (Sage, 1991), 15. 

[2]Suny, “Constructing Primordialism: Old Histories for New Nations,” Journal of Modern History 73 (2001): 865f. 

[3]Brubaker, “Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism,” in The State of the Nation, ed. John Hall (Cambridge University Press, 1998), 273f. 

[4]Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed (Cambridge University Press, 1996), 16ff. 

[5]Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully Formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in Europe,” New Left Review, no.198 (March/April 1993): 4. 

[6]Breuilly, Nationalism and the State (University of Chicago Press, 1985), 352; Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge University Press, 1990), 181ff. 

[7]Clifford Geertz, in Old Societies and New States (Free Press, 1963),110. 

[8]Berlin, “Nationalism,” Partisan Review 46 (1979): 337–358. 

[9]Fishman, Language and Ethnicity in Minority Sociolinguistic Perspective (Multilingual Matters, 1989), 218. 

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No Quarter: The Pacific Battlefield
by Eric Bergerud

World War II was, by a great margin, the most violent conflict in modern times. Yet Japanese and American soldiers fought the land war in the Pacific with a savage and relentless intensity that was rarely equaled and never surpassed in World War II. Although it is possible to identify incidents of restraint and humanity coming from both sides, the essence of the conflict was something very close to a war of annihilation. 

The grim nature of the Pacific War is best illustrated by the extremely low number of prisoners taken. The numbers tell a dismal tale. Approximately 37,000 Japanese servicemen surrendered during land operations in the Pacific War. This was opposed to a total of killed in action that surpassed one million. In other words, for every Japanese soldier or sailor fighting on land (Japan had no Marine Corps and the Naval personnel were involved in all major ground campaigns) that surrendered, there were twenty-five killed. In comparison, in northwest Europe both Britain and U.S. ground forces lost one prisoner for every two men killed. But the numbers are even worse than they seem. A very high percentage of Japanese POWs surrendered in the waning months of the Pacific War in areas such as the South Pacific or the Philippines where imperial garrisons had long been isolated. Men were starving, in despair, and military discipline gone. What was absent, however, was an organized surrender of a large number of prisoners during or at the end of any of the major land campaigns, the kind of occurrence that was typical in every other theater of war. After the surrenders of several garrisons early in 1942, almost no American soldiers or Marines became prisoners and lived to tell the tale. In short, when the Japanese and Americans squared off in battle there was no quarter asked or given.

The most common explanation for what John Dower called “War without Mercy” is racial hatred between the Japanese and Americans. Although Japan receives a share of the blame, deeply ingrained Western racism, as manifested in the United States, is found to be the prime culprit. Scholars attempt to prove their point with a cavalcade of propaganda posters, films, cartoons, and articles in the press. The Japanese were systematically portrayed as animals; consequently, so goes the argument, extermination was a natural response to Japan's attack. Many now argue that wartime propaganda campaigns in the West were only one manifestation among many of an old pattern of racist behavior that created the slave trade, underlay colonial empires, and led to the incarceration of thousands of Japanese citizens in the United States in 1942. I don't doubt that ethnic loathing was part of the equation. However, for a number of reasons, I find this argument incomplete.

One problem is obvious. If the murderous nature of combat in the Pacific was generated by American or Western racial attitudes toward Asians, it is very difficult to explain why U.S. forces took huge numbers of POWs in the Korean War. If racial enlightenment had taken place or the Rules of Engagement within the U.S. military had changed between 1945 and 1950, I find it difficult to detect. Likewise, in Vietnam Americans captured enemy soldiers in numbers that dwarfed those of the Pacific War. 

We should also remember that there was no history of conflict between Japan and the United States. Nor were American soldiers fighting for the physical survival of the United States. Many in America’s intellectual class had long found much to admire in Japan, although Japanese aggression against China did much to tarnish Tokyo’s image. More important, the segment in the American political arena that wished either to enter World War II or become more actively involved had its eyes on the struggle against Hitler. Although conspiracy theorists continue to try to prove otherwise, I am convinced that Washington very much wanted peace in Asia as long as Japan did not threaten Western interests in Southeast Asia. 

I doubt such calculations had much impact on the young men swept up into war. Eighteen- or twenty-year-olds of 1941 were no less apolitical or self-possessed than their contemporaries of today. I have spent the last seven years researching the Pacific War and have interviewed about two hundred veterans of all services, mostly American. I asked each about their attitudes toward the Japanese. When describing their wartime service, almost all expressed retrospective hatred: many admitted that the hatred had not totally cooled over a half-century. Interestingly, however, many G.I.s pointed out that prior to service in the Pacific they had never met a Japanese person or an American citizen of Japanese descent. These same men admitted that they knew almost nothing about Japan. Obviously, Pearl Harbor changed this situation overnight. It is also clear, in my view, that these men learned their hatred not at home but on the battlefield. 

It is important to realize that American servicemen heading to war in 1942 lacked any systematic political indoctrination. Whatever racial attitudes existed in society there was no “hate Japan” curriculum in the public schools. Prior to Pearl Harbor political indoctrination within the armed services was forbidden because it would arouse the ire of isolationists. The young men who swamped recruiters after December 7 received the most cursory of training before being shipped out to destinations like Guadalcanal. (Some Marines I interviewed recall receiving weapons training onboard troop transports en route to the South Pacific.) In such conditions there was no time for indoctrination or systematic propaganda. By the time the U.S. government, aided by Hollywood, did create a formidable propaganda machine, the Pacific battlefield had already been poisoned by bitter experience, not political manipulation. 

The war of annihilation that marked the Pacific War resulted from unique battlefield dynamics. In other words, the slaughter was homegrown in the Pacific jungles rather than a reflection of outside social influences. 

To understand this violent dynamic, it is important to understand how surrender is handled on the battlefield. At that time, the concept of surrender was accepted by every army in the world. Even Imperial Japanese forces took prisoners. This reflected tacit recognition that when violence was separated from military purpose, it became either murder or suicide. It also stemmed from powerful selfinterest. If a soldier knows the enemy will take prisoners, he is far more likely to give up. If he believes he will die regardless, he fights on. Most armies wish to end battles as quickly as possible with minimal losses and welcome surrender. They realize, however, that this is a reciprocal relationship. If one side takes prisoners, so must the other. 

In practice, surrender entails great danger on the battlefield. Surrender is much safer if it is done by several people at once, and with some type of prearrangement. Once fighting starts, the situation changes drastically. If machine gunners start a fight, inflict casualties on the other side, and then decide they wish to surrender, they are facing likely death. If they are powerful enough, the enemy might accept surrender out of simple self-preservation. If not, the code of battle allows men to take retribution. If one side has committed an atrocity, the chances for safe surrender by its soldiers also decline greatly. Consequently, surrender should be viewed as a tacit pact. It is done to avoid mutual violence and breaks down in the midst of bloodshed. This is true in all wars. Killing the helpless was not unique to the Pacific. 

The most remarkable behaviors shown by Japanese soldiers were their willingness to accept orders that meant certain death and their refusal to surrender. To what extent the Japanese soldier’s willingness to recklessly embrace death reflected something deep in Japanese culture I will let others judge. However, it is undeniable that a Japanese youth in 1941, very much unlike his American counterpart, had been subject to intense military indoctrination in and out of the education system. Present in some form from the start of the Meiji era, the propaganda barrage reached a fever pitch in the late 1930s. In short, every Japanese soldier was imbued with a kind of ersatz bushido that bound the individual to the state and glorified death in battle as the supreme act of sacrifice and spiritual purification. 

Every Japanese serviceman possessed a copy of the Emperor Meiji’s famous Imperial Edict of 1882. It contains a striking image. The cherry blossom, beloved of the Japanese, falls to earth in perfect form. The Edict counsels: “If someone should enquire of you concerning the spirit of the Japanese, point to the wild cherry blossom shining in the sun.” Thus, the Japanese honored the sanctity of the death of the young in battle. The death of the young is one face of war. Unfortunately for all concerned, the Japanese veneration of death was unique and came dangerously close to becoming a cult of oblivion. It struck at the very nature of the warrior code as understood in the West. The Japanese viewed the idea of surrender, accepted widely in the West, as a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, if Japanese officers did not hallow the lives of their own soldiers, they likewise showed a contempt for the lives of the foe. It was this terrible chemistry that made Pacific battlefields killing grounds of unusual ferocity. 

American soldiers learned very quickly that combat in the Pacific would be unlike that engaged in during any previous war. Pearl Harbor itself had enraged the nation and was living proof that the Japanese could not be trusted. As the first American expeditionary force of the Pacific War headed to Guadalcanal, rumors were already circulating of Japanese cruelty in the Philippines and on Wake Island. Officers were also telling their young soldiers that the Japanese did not surrender. Japanese victories had also given American soldiers a healthy respect for their enemies’ fighting skills. Thus fear also was added to the brew. 

Dire predictions of a brutal war proved true in America’s first two Pacific campaigns— Guadalcanal and Buna. In both of these campaigns —fought nearly simultaneously during the fall of 1942 through the early winter of 1943—an alarming pattern developed. Japanese forces showed astounding courage both during attack and defense. However, Japanese tactical doctrine, which relied so heavily on the fanatical spirit of the individual infantryman, ultimately proved wanting in the face of Allied fighting skill and superior firepower. 

Now it is safe to say that any general wants his army to fight with courage in the face of bad odds. The Japanese soldier fulfilled this duty to the fullest in the Solomons and in New Guinea. In both battles Imperial forces inflicted serious losses and cost the Allies valuable time. Unfortunately, during the concluding stage of both battles the Japanese battle ethos degenerated into a completely pointless waste of life, most of it Japanese. By January 1943, the Japanese were facing a hopeless position at both Guadalcanal and Buna. Recognizing this, the Japanese high command evacuated some 12,000 men from Guadalcanal. However, this still left several hundred Japanese infantry manning positions in a ridgeline south of Henderson Field that the Americans called Mount Austen. These soldiers were isolated, starving, and in miserable physical condition. They had done their duty and should have surrendered. Instead, in every case, these garrisons fought to the last man, often ending resistance in a pointless but terrifying “banzai” charge. Many Japanese survivors, too weak to fight, set off their own grenades, vowing to meet their comrades at the Yasakuni Shrine. 

The end game near Buna was even more forbidding. After bleeding Australian and American units dry for three months, the Japanese outposts near Buna began to fall apart. In the last days scattered Japanese units made meaningless attacks, and scores of Japanese soldiers committed suicide. Few incidents during the Pacific war were more pitiful or more tragic than the end of the Japanese resistance on January 21,1943. After withstanding heavy pressure from American and crack Australian infantry, a disintegrating Japanese battalion north of Buna was attacked by four companies of the U.S. 41st Division. Although attacked by a force no larger than those beaten off many times before, the Japanese perimeter, which at this time was deep inside Allied lines, simply fell apart. Allied artillery and mortars pounded the position in the morning. American infantry, without the aid of tanks, penetrated the perimeter quickly. Perhaps dazed by the bombardment or simply exhausted, Japanese infantry wandered in the open as American soldiers shot them down. In the words of one soldier, “We caught most of the Japs still underground or trying to extricate themselves from shattered bunkers. The garrison panicked and ran up Sanananda Road across our line of fire. We had great killing.” At the end of the day the Americans counted 520 dead, one of the bloodiest days endured by the Japanese Army up until that time. American losses were six killed. What made this incident so particularly wretched is that a large, wellgarrisoned perimeter was exactly the type of position that could have arranged an orderly and relatively safe surrender. Fighting in a hopeless position, almost as many Japanese soldiers perished in that single spot in a few hours as the Americans had lost in the entire Buna campaign. Instead of honor, the Japanese chose death. In doing so they taught yet another division that Japanese soldiers would not surrender and added fire to the lethal momentum already building. 

The pattern seen first at Guadalcanal and Buna was repeated again and again in the Pacific War. The Allies would attack. The Japanese would fight with great courage and tactical skill, although not always with great strategic wisdom. American forces suffered painful losses, and most campaigns dragged on well past the date predicted by the U.S. commanders for victory. However, at some point, American firepower would begin to take its toll, and the Japanese resistance would begin to disintegrate into a macabre and senseless death orgy during which almost all victims were Japanese. So the tragedy at Buna was repeated often on a much larger scale throughout the Pacific War. Among the most horrid examples were the Cliffs of Death on Saipan, the Meat Grinder on Iwo Jima, and the Suicide Caves on Okinawa. 

As American troops on Guadalcanal learned first-hand that the Japanese would not surrender, they also learned a related and even more painful lesson: an attempt to surrender on the part of a Japanese soldier might actually be a ruse designed to enable the Japanese to take an American with him on his journey into death. The most dramatic such occurrence was an incident forgotten today but, at the time, known by every American soldier in the South Pacific—the infamous Goettge Patrol. Immediately after the American landing on Guadalcanal, a handful of Japanese and Korean construction laborers surrendered. One of the Japanese told the Marines that others in his unit wanted to surrender. LTC Frank Goettge, the First Marine Division’s intelligence officer, convinced commanding General Vandegrift to allow him to take a twenty-five man patrol up the coast and arrange the surrender. Reluctantly, Vandegrift gave his permission, and the patrol left the next morning. By evening one survivor had made it back to American lines. It is very possible that the Goettge Patrol perished due to tactical incompetence and not Japanese design. However, to every Marine it was a dramatic example that the Japanese were ruthless and treacherous. It was known to be difficult to get Japanese surrenders: from then on it was also believed to be dangerous. The outcome was that many American soldiers simply didn’t try. 

Dozens of veterans described small-scale versions of the Goettge Patrol that they witnessed in the Pacific. Lou Marvellous was a squad leader with the First Marine Division and gave interesting commentary on the fear and confusion caused by the Japanese: 

I have thought about the Japanese for fifty years. I had a high regard for Japanese soldiers. They were brave, tenacious, sly, and very good at pulling off the unexpected. But in another way, I feel that many of the things they did were simply stupid. They sacrificed their own men needlessly, for no purpose at all. During a battle along the Matanikau three or four were straggling toward us as though they were going to surrender. There must have been a dozen of us with a bead on them. Sure enough, one bent over and there was a carbine or sub-machine gun slung on his back that his comrade tried to grab. We shot them down instantly. Later we were out on a large operation. There were maybe a hundred of us. Suddenly, one Japanese officer comes charging out of the jungle screaming and waving his sword. We riddled him. What did he accomplish? He was only one man. What could he hope to accomplish? They did this type of thing so many times. It got to the point where we took no prisoners. It wasn’t a written order, but a way to survive. No one should take a chance to take a guy prisoner who might try to kill him. 

I don’t know how you can defend this attitude. I feel the military in Japan fooled their people. Somehow they convinced their soldiers that their lives belonged to someone else. So the Japanese soldier was tough and smart, but at the end he was finished and could only blow himself up.

I have emphasized accounts of early engagements because they helped create a kind of battlefield culture in the Pacific. All of the events related above became lessons learned for soldiers trained later in the war. More important, each account was passed on from soldier to soldier. The rumor mill works overtime in war, and no doubt bogus or exaggerated accounts of Japanese treachery appeared in large numbers. As the war continued and more American soldiers received a good dose of political indoctrination and propaganda, the audience was well inclined to believe the worst of the stories. Sadly, as the war progressed, and the bloom of Japan’s victories began to wane, it is very possible that more Imperial troops might have been willing to surrender had the situation allowed it. Unfortunately, these servants of the emperor met Americans increasingly convinced that the Japanese would not surrender, or, if surrender was offered, it might prove a ruse. The Americans believed that it was not worth the risk to take prisoners. Japanese propaganda told soldiers and civilians alike that the Americans were butchers who would murder anyone tempted to capitulate. By 1944, to a sad degree, both sides were preaching a kind of truth. 

Despite the vile circumstances, the American Army made systematic efforts to take Japanese prisoners throughout the war. Each division had Japanese-American intelligence personnel who had, among their duties, the job of attempting to get Japanese soldiers to leave their entrenchments and surrender. In some cases they succeeded. Yet these men, despite brave work and a largely unheralded record, were swimming upstream against a powerful current of mutual bloodletting. 

A tragedy took place in the South Pacific that stemmed largely from the grotesque manipulation of the Japanese people by Japan’s military government. By successfully convincing their soldiers to find meaning in oblivion, and to accept the frightening idea that spiritual purification comes through purposeful death, the Japanese government created the psychological framework for total war. I think that it is very possible that the wellearned image of Japan as a fanatical, even suicidal foe, had a profound influence on the extremely brutal measures taken by the United States to end the Pacific War. In an era when the United States and other nations of the world may again be facing an enemy propounding a cult of death, this is a sobering thought. 

Eric Bergerud is professor of history at Lincoln University. He is completing the last volume of a trilogy on World War II in the Pacific.

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The Japanese in Brazil: From Immigration to Dekassegui
by Mieko Nishida

In 1980 the first Japanese-Brazilian woman film director, Tizuka Yamasaki, made her international debut with Gaijin: oscaminhosdaliberdade. Gaijin, a Japanese word literally translated as “foreigner” that usually refers to white foreigners in Japan, is the term with which Japanese- Brazilians have always referred to non-Japanese-Brazilians. But as Yamasaki says, “It is indeed the Japanese who have been gaijin in Brazil.  They had been abandoned by their native country, and have been alienated in a new land.” Yamasaki, born in 1949 to an Issei father and a Nisei mother, based this movie on the life of her maternal grandmother. It captures various aspects of Japanese immigration to Brazil, including the hardships of coffee plantation life.

It is widely believed that Japanese-Brazilians have enjoyed success as a model minority group in urban Brazil. Dedicated to educating their children, highly motivated immigrant parents left the coffee plantations for the city. Brazilian-born children attended the University of São Paulo and became lawyers, medical doctors, and dentists. But is this picture of the Japanese-Brazilian elite a social reality or a cultural myth?

The state of São Paulo has the second largest concentration of persons of Japanese descent outside Japan (Hawaii is first). In Brazil as a whole, the total number of persons of Japanese descent amounts to some 1.3 million, almost 1% of the entire Brazilian population of 155 million. 

Japanese immigration to Brazil was a response to the great demand for labor on the coffee plantations in the Southeast following the abolition of slavery in 1888. At first, European immigrants filled this demand. But the flow of workers from Europe came to a halt by the beginning of the 20th century. Japanese immigration to Brazil began in 1908 and, after the enactment of anti-Asian immigration laws during in the 1920s in the United States, quickly rose to more than 100,000 by the 1930s.

During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Japanese-Brazilians were faced with two drastic changes. One was Brazilian nationalism; the other, Japan’s involvement in World War II. Brazil’s President Getulio Vargas strictly enforced the country’s immigration laws and its assimilation policy. Schools taught by aliens and in foreign languages were suppressed in 1938; almost all Japanese schools, numbering about 600 at the time, shut down. Beginning in 1940, foreign language newspapers were subjected to censorship. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese immigrants were no longer permitted to publish newspapers, even in Portuguese. Furthermore, Brazil severed diplomatic relations with Japan in January 1942, and Japanese-Brazilians lost all freedom to travel inside the country. The Brazilian government prohibited Japanese immigration in 1943, although immigration was allowed to resume a decade later. 

The urbanization of the Japanese- Brazilians did not take place until after Japan’s defeat. By then, most had given up hope of returning to Japan with a substantial fortune; instead they decided to settle in Brazil with their Brazilian-born children. During the 1950s, they began to move to major cities on a large scale. Rapid urbanization did not mean that Japanese-Brazilians moved up the social ladder. On the contrary, most abandoned positions as landowners and independent farmers to work in small family businesses—laundries, vegetable stands, grocery stores, beauty salons, and craft shops. Without sufficient capital to invest in these businesses, Japanese-Brazilian entrepreneurs relied heavily on the unpaid labor of family members, particularly Nisei children. Thus a typical Japanese-Brazilian family strategy was created: older children worked for the family business, while younger children, particularly sons, were sent to college. Two classes of Japanese- Brazilians emerged: college-educated, assimilated, white-collar professionals; and members of the working-class who continued both to speak Japanese and preserve Japanese values and customs. 

In the mid-1980s many South Americans of Japanese descent—not only from Brazil but also Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay—began emigrating to Japan. In the case of Japanese-Brazilians there had always been a cultural factor motivating them to move “back” to Japan. Despite the image of Japanese-Brazilians as a successful urban middle class, they had been consistently exposed to the larger society’s pejorative racial and ethnic biases under the label of “Japanese” (japonês/japonêsa), which often limited their social advancement. In return, Japanese-Brazilians defended themselves by romanticizing Japan as their homeland, while looking down at Brazil as a thirdclass nation (santou-koku). 

In both Brazil and Japan the new immigrants are known as dekassegui, derived from the Japanese word dekasegi, the term for seasonal labor migrations from rural Japan to major cities such as Tokyo. In 1990 the Japanese government offered persons of Japanese descent permanent residency in Japan, and the number of dekassegui workers from Brazil quickly rose to some 250,000 by 1997. But during the last few years of the 20th century, in the face of a major recession in Japan, this number dropped drastically. Now, many former dekassegui have moved back to Brazil. 

Dekassegui seems to have provoked a strong sense of shame among Japanese- Brazilians. Many Japanese-Brazilians try to hide the fact that their family members had been to work in Japan. Some dekassegui returnees say that they went to Japan not for work but just to look around Japan and have a good time. 

In fact, about half of the “Japanese” migrant workers from Brazil, both men and women, worked on assembly lines for minimum wages and without the mandatory health insurance required by the Japanese government. Others worked in the construction industry, as well as in the service industry, including hotels, hospitals, and golf courses. The Japanese did not accept them as equals. For the indigenous Japanese, 

Japanese-Brazilians were foreigners, manual laborers, and also descendents of the “undesirables” who had emigrated from Japan many years before. As an old Japanese saying goes, “emigrants are the abandoned (Imin wa kimin).” Japanese-Brazilians also tended to separate themselves from the Japanese to a considerable degree. They kept in touch with their “fellow Brazilians” and formed ethnic Brazilian communities in various small and middle-sized industrial cities in Japan, such as Hamamatsu of Shizuoka prefecture, Toyota of Aichi prefecture, and Oizumi of Gunma prefecture. In the case of Oizumi City, commonly called Brajiru Taun (Brazil Town), the non-Japanese population constitutes only 12% of the whole. Within such enclaves, Japanese-Brazilians speak Portuguese, publish Portuguese newspapers, and operate their Brazilian restaurants, nightclubs, and samba bars. 

On the other side of the Pacific, the impact of dekassegui on Japanese-Brazilians in São Paulo has been notable in various ways. Liberdade, the Japanese district of the city of São Paulo, has virtually disappeared.Most of the Japanese stores and restaurants have been sold to Chinese and newly arrived Korean immigrant merchants, who continue to use the stores’ original Japanese names and employ Japanese-Brazilian clerks to maintain their Japanese identity for the sake of business. Many old and well-known Japanese hotels and travel agencies, which used to cater to Japanese and Japanese- Brazilian tourists, have gone bankrupt. 

They say that almost every Japanese- Brazilian family has at least one member or relative who works or has worked in Japan. It is also commonly said that if a Japanese- Brazilian household earns the average wage of a Brazilian middle-class family, approximately $1,000 (U.S.) a month, none of the family members would migrate to Japan for dekassegui. This suggests that the image of Japanese-Brazilians as a successful urban middle class may be more myth than reality. Furthermore, Japanese Brazilians’ wellknown enthusiasm for higher education and urban professional occupations has been declining notably. Many Japanese-Brazilians with college degrees have chosen to work as manual laborers in Japan. The youth from families with relatively limited means have also opted for dekassegui in Japan instead of college in Brazil. 

Dekassegui has destroyed much of the myth of the collective success of Japanese- Brazilians and revealed the reality of nonelite Japanese-Brazilian life. By returning to their “homeland,” the “Japanese” in Brazil have found themselves becoming gaijin again—as Brazilians in Japan. 

Mieko Nishida is assistant professor of history at Hartwick College. She is the author of Slavery and Identity: Ethnicity, Gender, and Race in Salvador, Brazil, 1808–1888 (Indiana University Press, forthcoming). 

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Honor’s History across the Academy
Bertram Wyatt-Brown

The concept of honor provides the ethical foundation for an array of discriminations about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious conviction, and age.[i] For centuries those sources of pride and prejudice have subjected countless numbers to rank injustice while elevating arbiters of custom to righteous ascendancy. It goes without saying that there are many definitions for the word “honor.” Yet the work of Julian Pitt-Rivers, Pierre Bourdieu, and other anthropologists initiated in the 1960s the new understanding of honor as a means of organizing society and its values. In accordance with that outlook, the remarks that follow stress the darker and more troubling aspects of the code. Also, they clearly contrast a social science orientation against popular meanings of honor, no less valid but not pertinent to this discussion. To a degree, other academic disciplines have pursued the ethical construction with considerable effect. American historians, however, have been slow to recognize the significance of this nearly universal way of ordering social arrangements. 

In the West, honor and its code of behavior long predates Christianity. At the same time, honor flourishes feverishly in our own day in other parts of the globe, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia. In spite of variations from one locale to another, diverse emphases from nation to nation, and changes over time, honor has retained a remarkable consistency. Historians in the United States should welcome its explanatory power.

By now, the broader apprehension of honor may be familiar enough to make unnecessary a lengthy explanation. Suffice it to say, the scheme is based largely upon the nature of human existence—the accidents of birth and rearing no matter how outrageous, unjust, or irrelevant they might seem to the modern mind. Among them are: the primacy of male over female, senior over junior, inherited over acquired wealth. A noted blood lineage is favored over obscure or disreputable origin. In some societies an allegedly superior claim to religious truth separates the body politic. A freeborn condition over enslavement marks the honorable from the shamed. Other distinctions come to mind but are too numerous to mention. Psychologically, honor requires that self-identity not be determined by selfgenerated factors. Rather, assessment of worth relies upon a watching public. The individual then must accept that community judgment (good or bad) as valid and adopt it as part of the inner self. Honor thrives in the absence of law. Yet it often can exist as an alternative to law or provide the basis of law, as in the case of the Muslim sharía. Sometimes it takes the form of far grimmer mob actions or lynchings than, for instance, the “shivaree” in the musical Oklahoma

For most cultures, a warrior spirit elevates honor to the zenith of ideals. The interdependence of men at arms upon the reliability of their comrades and the necessity of an ironclad discipline make honor a vital part of military culture. Essential though it may be in that domain, the same tenets of authority can play a deplorable role in other situations. For instance, the sociologist Orlando Patterson in Slavery and Social Death (1982) has studied nearly two hundred slave societies, with their inhuman proclivities and determination to obliterate autonomy. All of them, he concludes, were honor societies. Yet, not all honor societies, he observes, were based on bondage. With or without the regimen of slavery, devotees of honor may mistake gentleness for weakness, kindness for effeminacy. Of course, magnanimity, condescension, and noblesse belong among traditions of honor. Yet these alleged virtues must appear to be uncoerced: the giver sets the terms, not the recipient. In response to outside criticism, men sensitive of their honor insist on violent repudiation. They are likely to lambaste reluctant or prudent skeptics with charges of cowardly, unforgivable acquiescence. Compromise and the eagerness to negotiate rarely rank high in honor-shame societies. On that unhappy basis, nations may be pressured into making war. Aggrieved or subjected peoples may be swiftly led into rebellion, even to the point of self-destruction. In earlier days, gentlemen might have felt compelled by the opinion of peers to duel, while lesser folk were goaded into eye-gouging, knife-throwing, or ambushing an enemy with firearms. 

To demonstrate the uses to which this paradigm has been put, we might begin with the ancient world. In biblical studies, the explorations of David Arthur de Silva, Krister Stendahl, Bruce Malina, and others have clearly demonstrated the significance of the honor code in the cultures that produced the Old and New Testaments, the letters of Paul, and other scriptural sources. The teachings of Christ rejected the tenets of honor, with few exceptions. George Fenwick Jones’s rephrasing of the Sermon on the Mount put the honor code neatly years ago: “Blessed are the rich, for they possess the earth and its glory . . . . Blessed are they who wreak vengeance, for they shall be offended no more, and they shall have honor and glory all the days of their life and eternal fame in ages to come” (Honor in German Literature [1959], 40). 

The sociological approach now abroad in the theological field places Christ’s message in the context of contemporary conventions. The precepts challenged the rigidities of hierarchical codes, hot demands for retribution, obsessive worship of power however well disguised as virtue, and ascriptive modes of behaving. Was it truly honorable to turn the other cheek, give all one’s possessions to the poor, suffer little children to come forward, bow down in awe only to God, consort with tax collectors, servants, and lepers on terms of equality, and offer grace to prostitutes, and forgiveness to criminals? Hardly. Yet, as these authors reveal, for the Christian message to reach beyond a tiny sect there had to be concessions to existing arrangements. Paul was a master of the strategy. By accepting bondage, male predominance, and other concessions, Christ’s apostle provided a bridge between the pagan code and the new dispensation. Of course, throughout Christian history rejections of honorable practices (bows to authority and denunciation of vainglory, for example) have almost invariably accompanied pietist and restorationist movements. 

The application of honor studies to the ancient Near East helps to explain how Christianity itself has managed through the ages to make peace with the community’s moral codes. Yet the chief historical scholarship involving the ethic lies in the realm of European history —from ancient to modern, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. Among classicists, who can deny the acute perceptiveness of Moses I. Finley’s The World of Odysseus (1954)? In addition, Kenneth J. Dover, Paul Rahe, and many others have treated the relationship of honor, slavery, and timocratic arrangements in their work on the ancient Greeks. (In addition, anthropologists and historians of modern Greece have also concentrated on ethical values.) 

For generations, scholars of medieval Europe concentrated on renditions of chivalry and the rituals and institutions of knighthood. New work that embraces more than just the warrior class, however, has appeared, most particularly with regard to Scandinavian, Frankish, and Celtic cultures. Patrick J. Geary, Peter Brown, and William Ian Miller offer new approaches to the early medieval period. Geary’s study of relic-stealing, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (1978), demonstrates the talismanic honor of possessing saints’ bones, whether bought or stolen. Especially noteworthy from the perspective of honor is Miller’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland (1990), a stunning interweaving of religious ideology, violence, and honor. 

The interpretations of European cultures by Johann Huizinga and Georges Duby and a revived interest in the studies of Norbert Elias laid the groundwork for more recent scholars of the 12th to 15th centuries. Among other crudities of medieval life that historians have examined, scarifications were not uncommon. In a more palatable vein, the work of such medievalists and historically-minded anthropologists as Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and others link medieval honor and religious thought and practice (see John G. Peristiany and Julian Pitt-Rivers, eds., Honor and Grace in Anthropology [1992]). Research on the moral values of the 15th to 17th centuries, however, has flourished even more than in the earlier era, thanks in large measure to Natalie Zemon Davis. Worth special mention are her insights into youthful mob action (Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays [1975] and “The Reasons of Misrule: Youth Groups and Charivaris in Sixteenth-Century France,” Past and Present 50 [February 1971]). Likewise, E. P. Thompson’s brilliant essay, “‘Rough Music:’ Le Charivari Anglais,” Annales E.S.C. 27 (March–April 1972), explains the ritual of a skimmington used to punish offenders who threatened local moral order. 

Turning to the era of early modernization, a special concentration has developed on the custom of dueling abroad. Robert A. Nye (Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France [1993]) and Kevin McAleer (Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-Siècle Germany [1994]), in particular, have illuminated the relationship between such often deadly encounters and class exclusivity—the effort to shed bourgeois status and enter the aristocratic ranks. Moreover, works by Joanne Freeman (Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic [2001]) and this author (The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s–1880s [2001]) provide fresh material on dueling in a democratic American context. They show how patron-client relations—the need for patrons to show valor or lose their indispensable, younger political clients— played a major role in the famous encounters of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in the North and Andrew Jackson and his opponent, Charles Dickinson, in the Southwest. Despite popular fascination with duels, honor and personal violence furnished a lethal combination among the other classes of society, too, both here and abroad. Anthropologist Frank Henderson Stewart notes in Honor (1994) that peasants in Europe upheld a fierce loyalty to the code. Likewise, the Old South’s yeomanry and poor were hardly immune from the dictates of honor. Nor did they hesitate to shame alleged offenders—sometimes even those belonging to the better classes. In 1985 Elliot J. Gorn demonstrated the backcountry’s regard for matters of honor in “‘Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch,’” American Historical Review 90 (February 1985). Using the theme of honor, David Courtwright on a broader canvas has depicted the persistence of male violence from early American history to the anarchy of inner-city life. In more recent times, honor surfaces in street gang warfare and territorial claims, as Ruth Horowitz points out (Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community [1983]). And of course, most Americans would recognize, if only from The Sopranos, familial honor in the American Mafia and its original Sicilian habitat. 

Honor and shame—as well as shamelessness and violence—ordinarily are associated with small group or close community situations such as the peasant villages of Greece or Sicily. Nonetheless, nations, regions, and large ethnic groups have also resorted to extremities in avenging perceived wrongs—all in the name of a collective honor. One of the most interesting studies in this vein is the essay by Avner Offer, “Going to War in 1914: A Matter of Honor?” Politics and Society 23 (June 1995). When the Gavrilo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo, he had avenged the Austrian prince’s insulting presence on a day celebrating Serbian Nationalism. In turn, Offer argues, the assassination represented an affront to the monarchy. Obsessed with the notion of honor, Kaiser Wilhelm II induced his royal neighbor to rattle sabers unless Serbia demonstrated abject contriteness. The series of ultimatums, each duly refused, was supposed to be most honorable. Yet, like a duel—as General Helmuth von Moltke feared—it was suicidal, and not just for Germany alone. 

Years before, Southern secessionists had responded similarly to threatening events. Eager for war in 1860, the slaveholding fireeaters denounced their Southern critics as base submissionists and proclaimed themselves chivalrous protectors of home and property, human and inanimate. They demanded immediate vengeance for the insult of a “Black Republican’s” presidential victory. The resulting struggle destroyed the very institution, slavery, that the prescriptions of honor were supposed to uphold. 

Finally, we turn to the world today to discover that the old ethical ways not only persist but drive the impassioned forces of terror and war. In the West, the compulsions that drove men to duel, bite, or kill—or to announce pride in white skins and brave manhood —no longer carry their former moral sanction. Elsewhere, though, honor thrives as a deadly, anti-modern force. In the minds of millions it is currently linked to the cause of Islam, whether justifiably or not. Historians— along with ordinary citizens—might learn much from a deeper understanding of so potent an ethical design. Honor feeds on desperation, all-consuming hatred, poverty, and a burning sense of humiliation in the face of an enemy’s prosperity and military might. To know the history of the emotionally drenched modes of honor may not prevent recriminations, acts of brutality, and force of arms. But by reducing the corrupting dread of shame and repressed self-loathing, roads to peace may be found. If not, it will take war to immobilize those unable to grasp anything but the superiority of martial strength. The Nazis, dedicated to Blut und Ehre, blood and honor, discovered that unwelcome truth. Let us hope it does not come to that again. 

Bertram Wyatt-Brown is the Richard J. Milbauer Professor of U.S. History at the University of Florida. His most recent book is The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 1760s–1880s (University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

[i]I wish to thank Anne Wyatt-Brown and Randall Stephens for their editorial help. More extensive bibliographical citations are available on my web site http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/bwyattb/, under honorhistory

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The American West and Its Historians
by Richard W. Etulain

Academic historians have been studying the frontier and the American West for more than a century. When Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner told his colleagues in 1893 that the frontier was the most significant feature of the American past, he fired a historiographical shot heard around the English-speaking world for decades. Interest in frontier and western history remained high until the 1960s and then waned in the 1970s and early 1980s. But since the late 1980s, western American history has regained its earlier status as a field alive with activity and controversy.

With some ups and downs in popularity and minor modifications, the ideas in Turner’s classic essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” held sway until the late 1960s. Along the way, other historians supported the frontier story or followed Turner’s second idea, the significance of sections (regions), which he advanced later in his career. In the 1920s and 1930s, one advocate of both frontier and regional interpretations, Herbert Eugene Bolton, urged all American historians to pay more attention to Spanish influences on American culture. Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb fired the imaginations of other regionalists—and more recently environmental historians—with his provocative book, The Great Plains (1933). In addition, Kansan James Malin, in the 1930s and 1940s, urged historians to pay more attention to subregional and ecological patterns even as he systematically utilized statistical data well before other scholars. Later, Ray Allen Billington produced his magisterial overview of frontier history, Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier (1949), the most widely adopted western text from mid-century until the 1970s.

In the 1950s, two other scholars provided new angles of vision through which to view the American West. American Studies specialist Henry Nash Smith taught historians to think carefully and analytically about myths and symbols cohering around the West in his classic work, Virgin Land: The American West as Myth and Symbol (1950). He also urged western specialists to take more seriously works of mass culture such as dime novels, travel narratives, and government documents. Concurrently, western historian Earl Pomeroy, revising Turner’s thesis, argued that continuities of eastern social, cultural, political, and economic thought and experience bulked at least as large as frontier experiences in shaping the American West. In his books and essays, Pomeroy called for a reorientation of western history, urging historians to place more emphasis on persisting European and cis-Mississippi influences in the trans-Mississippi West.

These interpretations held sway until the end of the 1960s. But that yeasty decade markedly reshaped western historiography from the early 1970s onward. These transformations signaled the end of the Turnerian dominance and the rise of new emphases on racial/ethnic, gender, and environmental themes in western historical writing. 

  If Turnerians seemed to disappear after 1970, specialists in ethnic history surfaced in increasing numbers. Some came by way of other fields. Robert Utley and Francis Paul Prucha, authors of earlier frontier military histories, produced notable works on government Indian policies and white contact with Indians. Others, such as Peter Iverson and Albert Hurtado, utilizing the findings of anthropologists and ethnologists, turned out studies of Native Americans informed by insights novel to most historical writings about the West. Simultaneously, Sandra Myers, Julie Roy Jeffrey, and Glenda Riley published the first overviews of women’s experiences on the trans-Mississippi frontier. 

The 1970s also saw the first crop of environmental histories of the American West. From Turner onward, and especially in the writings of Webb and Malin, the expansive and varied settings of the West had encouraged studies of the frontier environment. But in the 1970s and 1980s path-breaking new books on the western environment appeared, with those by Richard White, Donald Worster, William Cronon, and Patricia Nelson Limerick gaining widespread attention. The theoretical and ecological sophistication of these studies clearly indicated how much western historians were in the forefront of American environmental historiography. 

By the mid-1980s two trends were clear in historical writing about the American West. Hardly more than a Turnerian or two was still alive, and several new thematic emphases were enriching the field. While these new interpretations were invigorating western historiography, revealingly, no one yet called for a fresh synthesis to replace previous overviews. 

But within the next decade interpretations of the West dramatically changed. In the brief period from 1987 to 1991, new books redefined the field and pioneered what became known as the New Western history. The key volume in this movement was Patricia Nelson Limerick’s The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (1987). Also of notable importance was Richard White’s mammoth text, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own:” A New History of the American West (1991). Along with these two innovative works, the writings of Donald Worster and William Cronon (the latter of whom repeatedly asked not be included among the New Western historians), and other important volumes by Peggy Pascoe, William G. Robbins, and Ramon Gutiérrez helped to launch the New Western history by the early 1990s. 

The new movement in western historical writing, linked particularly to Limerick, White, et al., defined itself through its subject matter, point of view, and tone. Limerick’s lively and widely circulated Legacy of Conquest encapsulated most of the major ingredients of the New Western history. Taking the continuity of western history (“the unbroken past of the American West”) as one of its themes, Limerick’s volume stressed the persisting racial and religious discrimination, economic selfishness, and environmental destruction of many Euro-Americans residing in the West. For Limerick, Turner and many previous western historians too often stressed “triumphal” subjects. That is, these earlier writers praised the achievements of pioneers without seeing the darker sides of their actions, including mistreatment of non-white competitors. Limerick’s book, on the other hand, overflows with criticism of the western past. Limerick says her interpretations are “realistic,” but her critics assert that her views are decidedly pessimistic. 

The New Western historians traveled paths both similar to and different from those of many other American historians. Like many U.S. social historians of the 1970s and 1980s, the New Westerners scrutinized previously neglected subjects. For instance, Richard White examined overlooked environmental experiences shaping Island County in the state of Washington, the “roots of dependency” entangling Native American groups, and the “middle ground” cultures emerging from Indian and European conflicts and combinations in the Great Lakes region. Similarly, Donald Worster paid close attention to class and cultural influences on environmental and political decisions. 

Other trails the New Western historians followed were more particular to western historical writing. Breaking from previous interpretations, the New Westerners criticized the ideas of Turner, Billington, and other frontier historians or left them out of their histories. White’s valuable, interpretive overview, for example, omitted mention of both Turner and the frontier; and Limerick frequently noted the large limitations of Turner’s frontier thesis. Ethnic, racial, and class competitions; the destructive power of capitalism; and maltreatment of the environment—these became dominant subjects in New Western histories. And in these histories, conflict took center stage. 

From the late 1980s until the mid-1990s, the New Western history gained notoriety and increasing acceptance among teachers and students of the American West. Then, at the end of the 1990s, still another approach to the West began to surface. Gradually, a few westerners, perhaps dissatisfied with the strictures and tone of the New Western history, perhaps disagreeing with its emphases, began to produce a fresh crop of books. These studies depict a West rife with cultural contacts leading to competition and conflict but also a region sometimes encouraging cultural conversations and even a few combinations. Quite simply, another trend in western historiography is boiling to the surface, one moving beyond conflict toward additional complexity. 

The most important book in this new complex American West is Elliott West’s sparkling volume, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (1998). In this smoothly written book, the Arkansas historian and president of the Western History Association moves well beyond the familiar conflict theme of the New Western history to a much more complex West. To be sure, Professor West’s much-lauded study includes a good deal of conflict. Native Americans contest with demanding environments, with one another, and with inrushing Euro-Americans. American pioneers from the East similarly clash with encroaching landscapes, Indians, and one another. And those competitions continually change as they react to cultural shifts and varying pressures. 

But Elliott West moves beyond these clashes to new complexities. For example, unlike most of the New Western historians, West emphasizes how much plains Indians were already in trouble with an environment that was rapidly being depleted before whites invaded the area. He also demonstrates how often the contesting races intermingled, especially when American men married Native women. These mixed marriages and their offspring, and the resulting sociocultural dilemmas they faced, symbolize the contesting and complicated plains peoples—American Indians, Euro-Americans, and mixed-blood Americans —at the center of Elliott West’s complex story. 

Walter Nugent’s thorough overview of immigration movements to and in the American West in his remarkable book, Into the West: The Story of Its People (1999), provides another noteworthy example of a more complex western historiography surfacing in the past few years. Nugent does not overlook racism and animosities that often divided westerners and frequently led to violent clashes. His thorough demographic overview of western migrations vibrates with numerous competing, interacting groups of people. But his valuable story is not limited to conflicts. He also shows how the Pueblo Indians and the Spanish, for example, merged to produce Hispanic peoples; how diverse other ethnic and racial groups mingled and mixed to spawn new kinds of combinations and communities. Throughout Into the West, Nugent furnishes numerous examples of social and cultural contacts that often moved beyond initial, contesting stages to ones of agreement and even consensus. 

Other western historians, as well as novelists and filmmakers, utilize this complex story of the American West. For example, the muchpraised books of David J. Weber, the leading historian of the Spanish Borderlands, are replete with cultural clashes and combinations. Similar complexities characterize the valuable and smoothly written studies of James P. Ronda, noted authority on Lewis and Clark and other agents of empire. The most prolific author on western women, Glenda Riley, spins equally complex and rewarding stories of women’s experiences on the frontier. Until his recent death Gerald D. Nash pioneered a new field with a half-dozen multifaceted studies of the 20th-century West. Several western novels by Wallace Stegner, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Leslie Silko, Barbara Kingsolver, and Ivan Doig, among many others, feature complex western stories, as do such recent western films as Geronimo (1994) and Lone Star (1996). 

These new complex stories of the American West, emerging since the mid-1990s, now compete with the New Western historians’ conflict paradigm for dominance in western historical writing. In the view of a growing number of western specialists, the New Westerners failed to provide sufficiently complicated views of the western past. Just as the earlier consensus interpretations of the 1950s owed much to the Eisenhower years and the New Western history to the post-1960s, so the social and cultural complexities of the late 1990s have encouraged a more complete view of the West. That an alternative view of the American West has cycled into view in the past few years is not surprising. Shifting historical interpretations of the West have always been revealing evidences of socio-cultural transformations in the region. 

Richard W. Etulain, emeritus professor of history at the University of New Mexico, was president of the Western Historical Association, 1998–1999. His most recent book is César Chávez: A Brief Biography (Palgrave, 2002).

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America and Europe: Before and after September 11, 2001
by John L. Harper

Stripped to its bare essentials, the post-World War II transatlantic relationship amounts to an American protectorate over Europe, invited and to a degree shaped by the Europeans themselves. The protectorate has served a double purpose: promoting peace and harmony among the European states as well as counterbalancing Russian power. Commentators and policymakers have “cried wolf” many times about these arrangements, especially since the fall of the Berlin Wall. According to Professor Stephen Walt, writing in 1999:

deep structural forces . . . are already beginning to pull Europe and America apart. Instead of becoming the core of an expanding security community, united by liberal values, free markets, and strong international institutions, the transatlantic partnership that fought and won the Cold War is already showing unmistakable signs of strain. No matter how many new states join NATO, and no matter how many solemn reaffirmations emerge from the endless parade of NATO summits, the high-water mark of transatlantic security cooperation is past.

Unfortunately for Walt's analysis, several months after its appearance the U.S. led NATO to victory in Kosovo. The Australian analyst Coral Bell compared the war to a “bolt of lightening” revealing Europe's basic weaknesses and America's likely predominance for the next forty years. 

Whether or not one agrees with Bell on Kosovo, it is striking that the U.S. protectorate has not been called into serious question since 1989. This has to do with several assumptions, widely (though not universally) held in Washington and European capitals. First, the U.S. acting through NATO continues to be Europe's indispensable organizer and “pacifier.” Left to their own devices (as initially in the Balkans), the European Union (EU) states are unlikely to form an effective coalition, and national rivalries could reemerge. Despite lip service to the notion of the “democratic peace” (liberal democracies don't fight each other),Washington believes that, in the final analysis, peace rests not on democracy but on hierarchy. Second, a largely unspoken assumption, though it is clearly evident in repeated U.S. warnings against an EU “caucus” or bloc within NATO, is that the EU might actually coalesce to the point that it could seriously challenge the U.S., for example, on policy toward the Middle East and Russia. Gone are the days when a U.S. president could wish (as Eisenhower did) that Europe would become “a third great power bloc.” For the U.S. today, NATO constitutes a ceiling beyond which purely European integration cannot go. Third, most European states prefer that the U.S. remain the leading power on the continent as an insurance policy against Russia, and trust the U.S. as pacifier-protector more than the putative alternatives, Germany or the EU. 

Equally striking is the convergence in the past several years of a set of controversies with the potential to provoke serious transatlantic disagreement. The Bush administration's refusal to support the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (all American initiatives) has provoked European charges of unilateralism and hypocrisy. Such questions will not bring a breakdown in relations, but fuel a crisis of legitimacy of U.S. leadership in Europe and the development of a collective political will on the part of the EU. Trade disputes, meanwhile, will persist (even if history suggests they are manageable), and the common currency will have strategic implications, tending to promote European cohesion and competition with the U.S. 

Both sides have assumed that the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), with its aim to create a 60,000 man rapid reaction force, will proceed. The Europeans have avoided provoking the U.S. by insisting on a formal caucus in NATO, and Washington has not been so foolish as to try to cripple ESDP. But the Americans are clearly irritated by European pretensions and fear a weakening of NATO. Whether it works or doesn't work, ESDP could spell trouble down the line. Washington has opposed “Project Galileo,” a plan to free Europe from dependency on the Pentagon's Global Positioning System (GPS) by building its own satellite-based GPS. Europeans are reminded of de Gaulle's observation that monopoly is always the best of all possible worlds from the point of view of the monopolist. 

Candidates for the next round of NATO enlargement will be named at the end of 2002, and the Bush administration has pressed for inclusion of the Baltic states. The assumption has been that Russia can be persuaded to accept a status similar to that of Turkey after 1918, and to prefer to see bordering countries under the tutelage of an historic rival rather than itself. If, however (the argument goes), Russia objects, it must have hostile intentions. This makes it all the more urgent to prove that Russia cannot draw a “red line” excluding certain states from NATO. The Europeans are more concerned about avoiding Russia's isolation and humiliation. And how, they ask, can the U.S. claim to act as a great power around the globe while denying Russia special influence on its own doorstep? 

The Bush administration has stated that it will create a Missile Defense (MD) to deal with a “limited missile attack.” But few believe that a limited MD would remain limited, or that its real purpose would be to shield the U.S. from unprovoked attacks. In Washington MD has been commonly spoken of as a cover for the deployment of U.S. conventional and/or nuclear weapons in a war with China. 

In Europe there has been far less concern about “rogue states” and more about Russia's and China's reaction to MD. There is also considerable skepticism about the effectiveness of America's proposed Maginot Line in the sky. Europe has leverage: key radar installations must be built there and an MD which protected the U.S. but left U.S. forces and allied territory vulnerable would make little sense. But it is hard to see the shape of a U.S.-European compromise. The U.S. will not settle for the “boost-phase” option, deployed near supposed rogue states, which would be most acceptable to the Europeans and the Russians. 

The Balkans have been the scene of the bitterest recent disagreements, and illustrate the ambivalent attitudes of the two sides. The U.S. professed to favor European initiative in the 1990s yet belittled European efforts and displayed a degree of Schadenfreude when they failed. The Europeans have seen the Balkans as proving ground of their capacity to act autonomously and felt prodded after Kosovo to accelerate ESDP. Yet they have continued to assume that U.S. participation is essential, and fiercely resent the prospect (favored by some in the Bush administration) that the U.S. will remove its forces, leaving European soldiers to do the dirty work. 

Finally, conflicts in other parts of the world pose risks to transatlantic relations, as they did during the Cold War. In a U.S.-Chinese conflict over Taiwan, for example, Washington would expect its European allies to take part in (at least) an economic embargo of China. But it is unlikely that the Europeans would see their vital interests at stake or be prepared to make serious sacrifices on behalf of what many would see as a dubious war for Taiwan. Such a war could lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe out of military necessity, political pique, or both. 

The ways in which the September 11 attacks will affect transatlantic relations are by no means entirely clear, but the initial impact was largely positive. In Europe September 11 produced genuine horror and feelings of solidarity, even if Europeans were quicker than Americans to draw the obvious connection between the attacks and America's hegemonic role in the Persian Gulf. The patient, relatively successful conduct of the Afghanistan phase of the war indicated that Washington had rejected the kind of unilateral crusade that would not be supported in Europe and recognized that it needed the help of its allies to break up the Al Qaeda network. 

With attention and resources focused on the anti-terrorism campaign some of the land mines in the path of U.S.-European relations may be avoided, at least for the time-being. A U.S. pullout from the Balkans today would not provoke the dismay that it would have pre- September 11. Recent U.S.-Russian cooperation has proved fruitful and Washington is now prepared to trade Baltic entry into NATO for a kind of Russian quasi-membership in the alliance. Such a solution will please the Europeans. 

The Bush administration has abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missle treaty, but in the light of the nature of the September 11 attacks Missile Defense may be in for reevaluation or delays. This would be all to the good as far as transatlantic relations are concerned. (European critics have pointed out that since September 11 demonstrated that there are far easier and more anonymous ways of hitting U.S. soil than ballistic missile attack, MD supporters should admit that there is now only one compelling rationale for such a system: to allow the U.S. to deploy military power where and when it wants without fear of retaliation. Europeans also tend to believe that most countries stocking missiles and/or weapons of mass destruction do so not because they contemplate a suicidal first strike on the West but because they do not want to be bullied by local rivals or the United States.) 

China and the issue of Taiwan seem destined for a period of relative U.S. neglect in the wake of September 11, which may be just what the doctor ordered. China needs a calm international atmosphere, including a lack of tension with the U.S., to continue liberalization and carry out the delicate transition to the “fourth generation” of Communist party leaders. Given the damage a major blow-up in the Taiwan Strait could do, benign neglect of China will have fringe benefits for transatlantic relations as well. 

Bush's January 2002 “axis of evil” speech was a rude awakening for those who believed that September 11 had brought the two sides of the Atlantic psychologically and geopolitically closer together. Responding to the heightened sense of vulnerability in the U.S. (or, some Europeans suspected, trying to keep public attention focused on outside threats for domestic political purposes), Bush appeared to be inaugurating a new, unilateralist phase of the campaign. 

Two aspects of recent U.S. policy have particularly disturbed Europeans, and indicate the gulf in perceptions. The first is the conflation (or confusion) of the campaign against Al Qaeda with the long-standing goal of U.S. hardliners to “take down” Saddam Hussein. Where is the evidence, Europeans ask, of Saddam's involvement in September 11, that containment of Iraq as practiced since 1991 is no longer working, or that Iraq (assuming it were able to) would be mad enough to attack Western targets (unless the regime faced annihilation)? What many Americans would apparently view as the removal of a growing threat, Europeans would see as kicking a hornet's nest in the Middle East. The second disturbing feature of recent U.S. policy is its backing of Israeli policy in the occupied territories in the name of an undifferentiated “war on terrorism.” Europeans are appalled by Palestinian suicide bombings, but even more so by what many see as Ariel Sharon's brutal, strategically blind attempt to crush the Palestinian Authority (a policy in place before the current wave of suicide bombings) with tacit U.S. support. 

Today the Israel-Palestine conflict could provoke a major transatlantic row. But it is not the only risk. If there are more costly attacks on the U.S., Washington may be tempted to lash out and/or adopt draconian internal measures. Few Europeans will be on board. Under the best of circumstances holding a coalition together in an open-ended, long-term campaign against terrorism will be a far more demanding task than conducting the Gulf War of 1991. The temptation for the U.S. to go it alone in the face of what it sees as European cravenness and/or lack of capabilities may prove hard to resist. 

On balance, September 11 and the war on terrorism will probably accelerate the trend already visible beforehand: the emergence of a more unilateralist America and its political twin, a more ambitious and autonomous EU. Certainly nothing has happened since September 11 to lead Europeans to question their often-stated view that the world is too big and complex a place to be run by the U.S. on its own. Professor Walt was right after all. 

John L. Harper is professor of American foreign policy at the Bologna Center of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. His book, American Machiavelli: Alexander Hamilton and the Origins of U.S. Foreign Policy will be published next year.

Dispatch from Canada
by Ian Dowbiggin

When it comes to the state of history in Canada, there’s plenty of grim news to go around. Pessimists point to the fact that few topics receive less attention in Canadian public schools than history, buried as it often is in courses called Social Studies or Global Education. In Quebec, the province whose license plates read “je me souviens” (I remember), teachers do little but harp on the theme of French-Canadian victimization at the hands of English-Canadians.

It gets worse. A recent survey found that only 51% of Canadians could correctly name the country’s first Prime Minister (John A. Macdonald), and an appallingly low 17% of Quebeckers (where the vast majority of Canada’s French-speaking residents live) were able to name the nation’s first francophone prime minister (Wilfred Laurier). 

To compound matters, the federal government in Ottawa seemingly can’t resist the Orwellian temptation to airbrush the past in politically correct fashion.  Lately, it paid tribute to twenty-three Canadian soldiers executed as cowards and deserters in World War I. It also appears poised to proclaim Louis Riel, who was hanged in 1885 for leading a rebellion against the federal government, a “Father of Confederation.”

The attempt to rehabilitate Riel, a self-styled religious prophet and ex-mental patient of mixed French-Canadian and Indian blood, indicates that official Canadian historical interpretations usually bend in the direction of identity-group politics, and nowhere does this kind of politics thrive more than in Quebec. Hardly a year goes by there without some heated controversy over the past, and 2001 was no exception. Normand Lester, a television reporter with the French language side of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), published Le livre noir du Canada Anglais (the Black Book of English Canada), modeling it after The Black Book of Communism, a text originally published in France that catalogued the millions of deaths due to the spread of communism in the 20th century. For his part, Lester listed the many real and imagined abuses English-Canadians have inflicted on French-Canadians throughout history. After he was suspended with pay by the CBC, Lester’s supporters rallied to his side and helped to make his book a provincial bestseller. 

The controversy over Lester’s book indicates that though other Canadians argue among themselves, the country’s principal fault line still runs between English-Canada and French-speaking Quebec. The Lester debate also demonstrates that some Canadians chiefly regard the past as a fertile land hiding sinister tales of abuse and victimization. 

Indeed, like all nations, Canada has its share of dark secrets. Take the story of its flirtation with eugenics. In the early 20th century, many in Canada’s elite classes were impressed by the spread of eugenics, a term coined in 1883 by Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, and defined as the science of human breeding. Like thirty American states, and Hitler’s Third Reich, two Canadian provinces (Alberta and British Columbia) enacted eugenic laws that permitted the forcible sterilization of individuals deemed unfit to reproduce and raise families. When over 700 victims of Alberta’s law sued the province for damages in the late 1990s (and settled in 1999), the country learned for the first time about its eugenic past. A public outcry ensued as Canadians asked: how could it have happened here? The answer more often than not was that right-wing Albertans were responsible. But now, thirteen women victims of British Columbia’s sterilization law are suing that province, raising further questions that Canadians may have more difficulty answering. 

The doleful and sordid story surrounding British Columbia’s experiment with eugenics might seem just another in a series of events teaching Canadians to be embarrassed about their history. But there are indications that a deeper and more appreciative attitude toward Canada’s past may actually be evolving. Perhaps the most positive sign is Canada: A People’s History, a bilingual television documentary, now in its second season. Canada: A People’s History chronicles Canada’s growth from the arrival of the aboriginal Amerindians to the present day. In its coverage of the pre-film era, it relies on remarkably effective recreations of events, such as the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham, where France lost its North American colony to the British. 

To Mark Starowicz, the documentary’s creator and executive producer, “the myth that Canadians are not interested in their history died” the day the series debuted. Noted Canadian historian Jack Granatstein, author of the best-selling Who Killed Canadian History? (1998), admits he and probably every historian has complaints about the series; but he adds that it has made “people, students particularly, much more interested in history.” 

Statistics back up Granatstein and Starowicz. The show’s first episode attracted 1.67 million viewers, unheard of for a documentary in this country, and its first season resulted in surprisingly few spats between the French- and English-speaking producers who collaborated on the project. There is even talk that PBS in the United States is planning a similar epic series, and with that end in mind sent a team to Canada to consult with Starowicz and his associates. 

Ratings-wise, the documentary’s second season has been less successful than its first, but only marginally. As the narrative approaches the present day, rumors are rife of sparks flying between the francophone and anglophone producers. But these raw nerves are offset by the fact that the cooperation between the two groups was precedent-setting, given that the country’s two language communities have such divergent visions of Canada’s history. In the final analysis, the spirited debates triggered by Canada: A People’s History may not lead to public consensus about what happened in the past and why. But at least people are interested in history. 

Ian Dowbiggin is professor of history at the University of Prince Edward Island. He is the author of A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 

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A Darwinian View of Warfare
by Doyne Dawson 

There are probably few who now remember that the United Nations saw fit to designate 1986 as the “International Year of Peace.” Perhaps the most lasting result of this proclamation was to inspire a score of social scientists to assemble for an international conference in Spain where they drafted the “Seville Statement on Violence.”[1] This document, modeled on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) 1950 Statement on Race, was later adopted by UNESCO, and has been endorsed by the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Sociological Association, and literally dozens of other professional organizations of social scientists around the world, and has remained a sort of semi-official ideological brief for the international peace movement to the present day. The United Nations, indefatigable on behalf of causes that do not cost much, proceeded to proclaim the year 2000 yet another International Year of Peace, and the entire decade 2001-2010 the first “International Decade for the Culture of Peace.” 

As the International Decade for the Culture of Peace would appear to have got off to a rocky start, another look at the Seville Statement may be timely. The stated purpose of this short text was to “challenge a number of alleged biological findings that have been used . . . to justify violence and war.” Among other heresies it was declared “SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed,” or “that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for violent behavior,” or “that humans have a ‘violent brain.’”

The Seville Statement was directed against the revival of Social Darwinism, then generally known as “sociobiology,” whose impact on the social sciences and historical studies was just beginning to be felt. The new Darwinism appeared to challenge a set of assumptions about human nature, sometimes labeled the “Standard Social Science Model,” which had long held credal status in the minds of left-wing academics: that human nature is utterly unlike the rest of the animal world, that human culture is almost totally free from biological constraints, that both are indefinitely malleable and therefore theoretically perfectible. Hence the Seville Statement took it for granted that Darwinian studies of culture were intended “to justify violence and war” and “condemn humanity to war,” though it failed to name a single evolutionary biologist who had implied any such thing. 

The Seville Statement is pseudo-science. The Seville conference did not give rise to any research program and was not intended to; it produced instead a political campaign to collect endorsements from influential organizations. The authors intended a preemptive strike at biological discoveries that had not yet been made, closing off the evolutionary study of war and violence and, by implication, evolutionary approaches to the study of many other areas of human behavior.

During the 1970s Jane Goodall, a British ethologist, conducted in East Africa the first close field studies of wild chimpanzees and reported that these apes were not exactly amiable and peaceable vegetarians, as everyone thought. Chimpanzees regularly hunt small game and eat a great deal of meat, which is shared with other members of their band. They also practice a kind of organized and lethal group conflict which, if not the same thing as human warfare, looks very much like the evolutionary threshold of it. The most arresting thing about these behaviors is that both hunting and “warfare” are primarily male activities, as among humans. In other carnivorous species, females hunt at least as actively as males, and among lions, more so; but among chimpanzees the males are responsible for nearly all the kills of larger game such as monkeys. Bands of males also routinely patrol the borders of their territories and conduct stealthy raids into the territories of neighboring bands, where they ambush and kill solitary individuals. 

This behavior, unique among primates, seems to be the result of a peculiar social organization. Chimps are one of the very few primates in which females leave the natal group at maturity to join other bands, while their brothers remain in it. Most other primate societies are bands of related females with their attached males, but a chimp society is a band of related males with attached females. This apparently changes the dynamics of male aggression. Coalitional violence becomes an evolutionary advantage. 

There is one other primate that practices male-coalitional aggression. In all the known primitive cultures, hunting and warfare are male activities—indeed the essential male activities—and the badges of masculine identity. There have been many unconvincing attempts by feminists to deny this fact or minimize its significance, mostly based on unrepresentative evidence, or a failure to distinguish what is peripheral from what is essential in sex roles. In hunting-and-gathering cultures women may trap small animals, an activity more like gathering than hunting. But no such culture has ever been found where men do not, under all normal circumstances, monopolize big-game hunting. Nor is there any band or village culture known where men do not normally monopolize fighting in war. Also the great majority of hunting-and-gathering cultures are patrilocal—men stay in their natal group and women marry out of it, as with chimpanzees. 

Parallels between human and chimpanzee social behavior should not be surprising. By the time Jane Goodall published her findings, molecular analysis had established that Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes are very closely related, sharing 98% of their genetic makeup, and are descended from an as yet undiscovered common ancestor that lived perhaps as recently as the dawn of the Pliocene, five million years ago.[2]

Natural selection works only in small, closely related groups, so the supposed tendency of our primate ancestor to group solidarity and coalitional violence cannot explain the evolution of human warfare or human society, which has displayed a consistent tendency toward larger and larger groups of unrelated people. What sociobiologists argue is essentially that the ancient primate tendency toward proto-ethnocentricity and proto-xenophobia provided the genetic seed from which eventually grew the tree of war. 

This implies that at some point a learned cultural pattern must have been grafted onto this proto-ethnocentric stock. Culture built upon the genetic predisposition to help and defend one’s own kind and broadened the concept of “one’s own kind” to include all identified by the same ethnic markers, such as common language and customs. In short, cultural evolution has mimicked genetic evolution. 

Conventional social science has been resistant to any such idea. The Standard Social Science Model divides the human mind into two categories labeled “biological” and “cultural,” with no bridges between them. It is assumed that all “biological” traits must be fixed and invariable, whereas all flexible traits (including all complex mental activity and behavior) must be “cultural,” picked up from the environment. 

Evolutionary psychologists, on the other hand, conceive of the mind as a network of psychological mechanisms which evolved to handle the specific adaptational problems that seemed most urgent during the Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs, such as mating, parenting, learning language, and group defense; these mechanisms remain latent until aroused by the appropriate environmental cues.[3]

Among the problems that forced hominids into new adaptations there could have been none more pressing than group defense. The defensive advantages of ethnocentricity are obvious and irresistible, and so are the advantages of forming the largest group possible. By the time the fully human and cultural form of ethnocentricity was established, the main purpose of group defense had become defense against other bands of men, rather than animal predators. At that point a balance of power situation arose, requiring the continuing escalation of warfare and continuing increases in group size to maintain a margin of safety. Darwin thought warfare had been not only a product of natural selection but also one of its major instruments. Ethnocentricity leads to a process of natural selection in which tribes compete with one another like different species and the better organized tribes win; and this process, he suggested, has been the main factor behind the evolution of the human moral and intellectual faculties and the key to human cultural evolution. Darwin’s concept of warfare as an agent of evolution rests in part on outmoded biology and dubious ethnography. Darwin and his contemporaries were ignorant of the existence of genes and thought acquired traits could be biologically inherited, so they made no clear distinction between biological evolution and cultural evolution; Darwin assumed cultural selection was basically the same process as natural selection, though dominated more by group than individual choices. Natural selection of course requires some populations to become extinct while other, better adapted populations flourish. Darwin saw no problem there, for like all his contemporaries he assumed primitive tribes were constantly at war and had a high extinction rate. Modern anthropologists are not so sure. There have been sectors of the tribal world where warfare almost never seems to cease; but even when it is constant, tribal warfare is slow. There are no conquests; there are processes of attrition in which a tribe may be gradually pushed off its land, eventually to be broken up and absorbed by its neighbors. A recent statistical study of warfare in the interior of New Guinea (an area where the traditional practices of war continued into the late 20th century) concluded that about 10% of all the ethnic groups in the region (“ethnic group” was defined as any group capable of waging war on some other group) became extinct, as distinct cultural entities, in every generation. This seems an alarming rate of extinction; and yet the authors also concluded that if cultural change depends on extinctions it would take centuries for any serious change to occur. Therefore the sort of natural selection envisioned by Darwin seems very unlikely, except perhaps for very long-range changes like the rise of agriculture in the Neolithic. Warfare is too inefficient an agent of selection.[4]

But is not another kind of selection going on? Neo-Darwinian theory suggests it is better to distinguish cultural selection and natural selection as fundamentally different, though parallel, processes. In human populations, information is stored in minds as well as in genes and there is a kind of cultural selection that is different from natural selection and yet behaves much like it. I leave aside the question of what a “culture” is. For present purposes it may be sufficient to point to the fairly obvious fact that there are persistent differences among human groups which are created by culturally transmitted ideas, not genetic or environmental differences. These cultural variations —the vital packets of information that distinguish a group from others—can be preserved long enough to become gene-like units of selection, though we do not understand exactly how cultural information is stored or how the information packets are transmitted, with modifications, from one generation to the next. It is clear that the transmission is fast and combinatorial, and this is what makes natural selection difficult: there are no particular traits that stay fixed long enough to be selected by nature in the Darwinian way.[5] On the other hand, the very speed and instability of cultural group selection facilitates diffusion, and therefore makes it possible for cultural evolution to operate much faster than biological evolution. 

Let us reconsider, and try to bring up to date, Darwin’s notion that warfare is or has been an agent of cultural evolution. There appear to be at least two ways this might work. First, warfare not only enforces social cohesion within the group, but also accelerates the course of cultural evolution toward greater complexity. Warfare forces alliances between bands and villages, constantly expanding the social web and eventually forcing the formation of chiefdoms and states. Second, warfare encourages technical innovation. It is sometimes said that war cannot be a Darwinian process because the effects of competition are blunted by diffusion. But this causes a successful adaptation to spread much more quickly than it could by the glacial process of group extinction. When the first tribe took up archery its neighbors will have imitated it quickly. The diffusion of the bow and arrow during the Mesolithic may in fact have been the first effect of intensive warfare that shows up in the archaeological record. 

But hold on. I have distinguished two levels in the evolution of warfare, the first genetic and the second cultural. Since the cultural explanation seems quite adequate by itself to explain all the phenomena of warfare, why is it necessary to assume a genetic base? As soon as we reach the stage of language, culture, conscious ethnic rivalry, and the balance of power, genetic considerations seem to become unnecessary as explanatory categories. Is it not possible that warfare is entirely a product of culture, as the Seville academics asserted, and as practically all social scientists at that time would have agreed? But if we view the key factor as belligerent ethnocentric feeling, rather than actual warfare, it becomes harder to argue against an innate tendency. No society that was not ethnocentric has ever been found, and it is difficult to imagine what such a culture would be like. The so-called peaceful (better, minimally warlike) cultures like the Bushmen and the Semai are fiercely ethnocentric, and there is no reason to doubt they would return to warlike habits if that became feasible. A culture’s degree of warlikeness depends simply on environmental conditions. One can agree with the Seville Statement that we do not have a violent brain. But we do have a clannish brain, and that can all too easily amount to the same thing. It is much easier to explain the ubiquity of war if we assume that a biological tendency to ethnocentricity was already there. 

One effect of a Darwinian view of warfare is that the question of the causes of war, so much debated among anthropologists (and usually posed as a question about the importance of economic motives), comes to seem relatively peripheral. The important thing is that there is a low threshold for violence. The specific trigger that activates it will vary: motives of revenge and honor are probably dominant in the simplest societies, while material motives doubtless become more important as the permanence and density of settlements increase. 

The continuing evolutionary study of human psychology and the human genome will probably tell us eventually whether the Darwinian perspective on warfare is correct. If it is, what are the implications for ethical and political thought? If it turns out that the tendency to warfare is innate, this certainly would not “justify” warfare in general, still less justify any particular war. And, so far as I can see, those who espouse pacifism as a personal ethical position would be as free to do so as they are now. But I think the triumph of Darwinism would mean that pacifism as a political program is simply wrong. If we wish to control warfare, we need a better understanding of what methods will work, and these methods must not be based on the false assumptions that human nature is infinitely malleable and that all conflict can be ended. 

The threat of war will never go away, and peace can be achieved only by strenuous political effort. It will not be had by promoting “peace studies” or “peace education,” which indeed are likely to do harm by spreading complacency. The most far-reaching implication of Darwinian psychology is that it is time to abandon the utopian visions that have provided the steam for much of the radical Left for two hundred years—Marxist socialism, radical feminism, pacifism. It tells us to suspect all solutions that depend upon the creation of a “New Man” or a “New Woman.” There will remain plenty of room for every type of practical ameliatory social reform, but limited room for societal restructuring. We will probably become more skeptical about promises that we are at the “end of history” on the grounds that liberal democracies will not go to war with one another. As for historians, the success of the neo-Darwinian revolution may have the effect of restoring political, diplomatic, and military history to their former prestige, but it would probably have no implications for the practice of history. Only the broadest of macro-historians have ever bothered themselves with questions like these; and military historians have generally taken it for granted that warfare is, in some sense or another, in the nature of man. 

Doyne Dawson is professor of international relations at Sejong University. His most recent book is The First Armies (Cassell, 2001).

[1] The text of the Seville Statement on Violence is available on the Internet and has been reprinted many times, e.g. in Jo Groebel and Robert Hinds, eds., Aggression and War: Their Biological and Social Bases (Cambridge University Press, 1989), xiii-xvi.

[2] W. G. Kinzey, ed., The Evolution of Human Behavior: Primate Models (State University of New York Press, 1986) is a good starting point for anyone wishing to know more about this subject. The case for the Darwinian view of war is presented in detail by Richard W. Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (Houghton Mifflin, 1996). 

[3]On Darwinian psychology see J.H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby, eds., The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture (Oxford University Press, 1992); and Henry Plotkin, Evolution in Mind: An Introduction to Evolutionary Psychology (Penguin Press, 1997). 

[4]Joseph Soltis, Robert Boyd, and Peter J. Richerson, “Can Group-functional Behaviors Evolve by Cultural Group Selection? An Empirical Test,” Current Anthropology 36 (1995): 473–494. 

[5]This is the main difficulty with thinking of culture as a bunch of “memes” or particular cultural traits analogous to genes. There has been much discussion over the concept of the “meme,” a term coined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (Oxford University Press, 1976); see Robert Aunger, ed., Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science (Oxford University Press, 2000). 

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Hostages in the Classroom[*]
by Elizabeth A. Dreyer
When a young man entered my classroom at FairfieldUniversity at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12, 2002, and announced that he had a bomb and that we were being held hostage, we took him very seriously. No one in the class had ever met him.Only later did we learn that his name was Patrick Arbelo, and that he was a 2001 graduate of FairfieldUniversity. His choice of our classroom was random. He did not know any of us.A short while into the ordeal I had an intuition that this young man was not dangerous and did not intend to harm anyone. But we had to play it “by the book.” The stakes were simply too high. 

Mr. Arbelo’s basic demand was to have a brief statement and a list of five books read over the radio. The statement, unclear and disorganized, contained elements of anti-Semitism. Within a few minutes of his entering the classroom, Mr. Arbelo told three students to leave, then two more. I requested that several other students who had health issues or who were very upset be released. After several hours, I was able to negotiate their release. 

The time moved both slowly and quickly. After about five hours, I began to wonder if we would be there all night.On the other hand, I was very busy mentally, which made the time pass quicklystaying alert to every detail; periodically making sure that each student was okay; constantly encouraging and, supporting students in an attempt to alleviate their fears; and following the conversation between Mr. Arbelo and the police hostage negotiator over a two-way radio.Coincidentally, right before Mr. Arbelo entered the room, I had been describing the two perspectives within which ancient Greek culture viewed timeas chronos, or ordinary time (I remember giving as an example Tuesday, February 12 at 3:45 p.m.) and kairos, or special time, time that is pregnant with meaning and possibility. I wrote these two Greek words on the board in large letters and we stared at them for almost seven hours! Afterward, I asked the students if they would ever forget the meaning of the Greek term, kairos. I received a loud “NO!” from everyone.

There was occasional levity. One student wanted to know if this experience meant that everyone would get A’s for this course. Another wrote a note that she had recently commented to a friend how uneventful her life was! At one point, I told the students that they could consider Lent done and proceed directly to Easter as soon as we got out. 

One aspect of the study of history is that we “meet” figures from many different settings and time periods who have overcome various challenges. The subject matter of this class, “Voices of Medieval Women: Silent No More,” provided a context with several links to our crisis experience. The centerpiece of the course is a critical reading and analysis of primary sources in translation written by medieval women mystics. We examine the historical, ecclesial, social, economic, and political contexts in which each text was produced. But we begin the course with a contemporary piece. The previous week we had had a spirited and engaging discussion of Mark Salzman’s novel Lying Awake (2000) about a group of contemplative Carmelite nuns living outside Los Angeles. The protagonist, Sister John of the Cross, is faced with some very difficult challenges in the course of the novel. Little did we know that the very next week, we would be faced with some of our own. The assignment for the following week was the Passio Perpetua, a prison narrative of a Christian catechumen in Carthage, North Africa, around the year 200. While our setting was totally different from Perpetua’s, the experience of being imprisoned was shared. 

Having taught graduate students for many years and coming only recently to undergraduate teaching, I am constantly struggling to find meaningful ways to link the past with the present that these young people experience— to find “hooks” in students’ knowledge and experience that will help them see history as a complex, lively, and interesting story that ends up in the present with their own stories. To this end, I use experiential learning, various media, and try to engage students in the search for common ground in the human condition. In the hostage crisis, I think students discovered that some of the ideas we were studying could be used to help cope with the situation. 

My work in historical theology also served me in many ways throughout this crisis. The Christian mystical tradition is a rich strain in Western culture that is filled with wisdom about how to live. Writing about and teaching these texts has been an important part of my identity as a person, as a woman, and as a professional. I find in them a certain clarity— like good poetry. The mystics invite me to keep focused on what is truly important and remind me not to “sweat the small stuff.” This perspective served me well during the hostage crisis in which some of the students actually prepared to die. 

Medieval women mystics wrote about God and love and the human struggle in vital and creative ways. These women were grounded in a way that allowed them to trust and live in peace no matter what they were up against. These visionaries make a claim on my life in ways that proved relevant to the crisis in which we found ourselves. They teach that in the end, God can be trusted to hold us up in love and care and that we can do the same for each other. 

We moved the class to another building, but it was impossible not to feel a little on edge every time we came together. Since six students were ill that day, we first had to hear from them and allow those who were in class that day to respond. Both groups were honest, gracious, and understanding. I met with each student individually to see how things developed during the rest of the semester. I also altered the syllabus and writing requirements since many including myself) found it difficult to concentrate in the days that followed. Students fell behind in all their classes, and even though teachers were alerted, some students still felt anxious about the potential for slipping grade point averages. Many are preparing for jobs or graduate school next year. I added a showing of Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (with foot-long submarine sandwiches and soft drinks) and scheduled a class in our chapel during which students experienced various forms of meditation popular in the medieval period. Together we planned a grand party after our last class, ending the semester with good as well as traumatic memories. 

I learned a lot—too much to detail here. I learned that we live life together. We depended on campus security, local police, FBI, administrators and staff, counselors, and parents to get us through. Their care, expertise, and professionalism were amazing and welcome. I learned how helpful it was that the many communities to which I belong chose to show their support through phone calls, e-mails, a question about how we were, a hug in the hallway, flowers, and notes. I guess I am not a Catholic for nothing—my psyche is oriented to the visible, tangible, sacramental symbols of care and concern and it helped me move through this with a modicum of grace. 

I learned that university students in my class are strong, savvy, resilient people. Each one did something important to move the situation forward and no one did anything that jeopardized the safety of others in any way. They are an impressive lot, and I feel more confident about the future as a result of this experience. I have also “met” these students in new and welcome ways. This is a gift indeed, and I feel proud to know and be associated with these young people. We have a kind of bond that would never have existed without the shared trauma of being held hostage together—one of the many ironies of life. 

Beyond being alert and using common sense about strangers or troubled students on campus, we can’t “prevent” such an event from happening. By their nature, universities are meant to be places of openness and dialogue— places that offer welcome and hospitality to both the stranger and the fresh idea. 

In retrospect, the thing that proved most important was calm. Students told me that it helped that they did not see fear or panic in my face. They needed someone to be in charge. One student said, “You never became one of us.” I did not realize until afterward how much the students were relying on me to get through this ordeal. I think that each professor caught in such a situation must rely on her own particular gifts, resources, and personality. I am a tactile person, so I held hands, touched shoulders, rubbed backs, and encouraged students to hold on to each other, especially those who were most afraid. 

Since September 11, I have often been reminded of the mix of terror and beauty that characterizes human experience—often in dramatically uneven ways. Those across the globe who experience the most extreme forms of terror are often, strangely, the ones who teach this truth best. In the midst of crisis, it is good to remember the simple, tender, touching moments life puts before us. Life is never just one thing and we shouldn’t demand that of it in order to embrace it. 

Elizabeth A. Dreyer is professor of religious studies at Fairfield University. She is the editor of The Cross in Christian Tradition: Paul to Bonaventure (Paulist Press, 2000).

[*]On the afternoon of February 12, 2002, Patrick Arbelo entered a FairfieldUniversity classroom and claimed to be holding a bomb. Professor Elizabeth Dreyer and twenty-six students were in the classroom. Seven hours later, a hostage negotiator from the Fairfield police department convinced Mr. Arbelo to leave the classroom, and he was taken into custody. No one was hurt. 


To the Editors,

Roger Emerson is a valued friend and colleague, who knows far more about Enlightenment in Scotland than I ever shall. The issue between us is whether I can write of this subject—especially when using the phrase “The Scottish Enlightenment”—without binding myself to depict it in all the fullness of which he is capable, so that I may be at fault if I do not attempt this. I shall try to show that this question is based on a methodological confusion: a reification, based on a widespread misuse of language, which has so far bedeviled his thought that he several times accuses me of saying things which I specifically said I was not saying. How has this confusion come about?

On the cover of the February 2002 Historically Speaking in which Emerson’s communication was published, there appeared the words, “What Was The Enlightenment?” They were not Emerson’s; he had chosen his own title; but they offer a good starting-point for discussion of this question. It is my position that we do better to avoid the term “The Enlightenment;” not because there was no such thing as Enlightenment but because there were too many things going on to which it is helpful to apply the term, and consequently too many ways in which it is useful to employ the word, to leave it desirable to lump them all together and treat them as a single thing, a process or phenomenon; a step which calling them “The Enlightenment” encourages and even obliges us to take. The definite article—the word “The” itself—is, I am persuaded, one of the most dangerous words in the historian’s vocabulary. It converts adjectives into nouns; it makes us believe in unified entities, of which unitary descriptions must be found and unified causes supplied. “The Enlightenment,” like many other such constructs, becomes a single process—no matter how complex—of which one description must be more correct than another, and to which particular phenomena do or do not belong, according to the description adopted. I wrote The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon because a great historian, Franco Venturi, adopted a description of “Enlightenment” which he could not find in England, and was obliged to choose between excluding Gibbon from Enlightenment and excluding him from England.

The problem is that of the article, and the noun which it creates. The adjective “Enlightened” is not impoverished, but over-rich; there are a great many ways in which it makes sense to use it, and to offer explanations of how one is using it and why. This does not make it a fiction or fancy of the historian’s invention. The actors in the 18th century of whom we use it did not, indeed, speak of “The Enlightenment,” or very much of “Enlightenment” in the abstract sense. But they frequently employed the metaphor of light—very often lumière—and used it in denoting complex historical changes in which they saw themselves involved. By the end of the century, as we know, Immanuel Kant could be asked, and attempt to answer, the question, “was istAufklärung?”—but he did not say “die Aufklärung,” and histories may be written of how such reifications as “die Aufklärung,” “the Enlightenment,” and “les lumières” (the plural makes this an exceptional case) came into being. In general, one may suspect, they were created by historians, who saddled themselves and us with reified abstractions of which final definitions and/or comprehensive descriptions are supposed possible and made obligatory. We thus make demands on ourselves which it is sometimes neither helpful nor possible to meet. 

To liberate ourselves, and escape Venturi’s dilemma, I proposed and practiced a discourse of “Enlightenments” in the plural, and followed Gibbon through a number of cultural encounters to which the term might usefully be applied. To have gone further, and proposed abandoning the noun “Enlightenment” and using only the adjective “Enlightened,” would have been possible but would have involved the unmaking of too much that is established in historical discourse, including my own. But the possibility is worth considering because it enables us to see that there were a great many things going on which are called and worth calling “enlightened,” and a number of processes taking place which it is useful to call “Enlightenments.” These varied from case to case, and occurred in diverse contexts (some of them national, which in the eyes of some critics—not Professor Emerson—is a very horrid thing). At this point there arises the question of how one is using the vocabulary of Enlightenment and why one is using it at all; and I meet the objection that unless I use it with reference to a single set of meanings, I am using it irresponsibly, destructively, or both. To this I reply that I use it to denote a number of things going on in Western European culture in a century beginning about 1680; things highly diverse, often contradictory, but associated with each other, for reasons to which the terms “enlightened” and “Enlightenment” may intelligibly be applied. As we use this vocabulary, however, its implications will shift, which is not to say that they will disappear. We must stand ready to give an account of what we mean by calling these things “enlightened” and “Enlightenments,” of whether others saw them as we do, of how they may be connected with each other and of why they seem to have occurred when and as they did. Since our vocabulary is in part instrumental, it will be rich. But we are not obliged to reduce “Enlightenment” to a single set of concepts, or to depict “The Enlightenment” as a unified historical process. To any of the questions we pose to ourselves, there may be more than one set of answers; history, after all, is like that.

The object of the exercise, then, is to find ways in which the word “enlightened” may be used, and may have been in use, to describe things happening in 1680-1790; to find processes going on to which we may apply the term “Enlightenment” if—as seems probable—it was not then in use. None of this implies a search for The Enlightenment, and if we elect to use the word we must be accountable for our use of it. Some of the processes we describe will be hypothetical, in the sense that we say it makes sense to imagine and describe things in this way and must justify ourselves by showing that it continues to do so. We are not required to populate the historical landscape with a ballet of semi-visible dinosaurs.

The power of reification, and of the definite article to induce and impose reification, is, however, very considerable among historians, as among other language-using humans. There are moments when Professor Emerson seems to me so far its victim that he takes my explicit statements that I am not reifying “Enlightenments” as evidence that I am reifying them, but in the wrong way. Thus he says that I offer a “location of a specific time and place at which the Enlightenment may be said to begin in Europe—at Utrecht in 1713.” Now even with the most charitable interpretation of the words “may be said,” this is precisely what I am not doing. Since I do not hold that there existed any such thing as “the Enlightenment,” I cannot offer any “specific time and place” at which it could begin. What I do offer is a contemporary concept of civility in Europe which associates it with a plurality of states exchanging goods, manners, and ideas with one another; I show this concept set out in the writings of Hume, Robertson, Smith, and Gibbon, and I show how it was associated with the defeat of the “universal monarchy” attributed to Louis XIV. I suggest that it is instrumentally useful to imagine a “Utrecht Enlightenment”—“a” does not mean “the”—between 1714 and 1789, existing in the minds of some Enlightened writers and worth employing in our own thinking. At the same time I point out that Voltaire attributed something very like Enlightenment to that same universal monarchy and its effects upon Europe, and that Hume wrote an essay navigating between the two theses. I am more interested in the existence of rival concepts of what we would term “Enlightenment,” then and now, than in the absurd pursuit of the “time and place” at which “it”—The Enlightenment—“may be said to begin.” The question is whether Roger Emerson really believes I am engaged in the pursuit, and if so, why.

In seeking to pluralize “Enlightenment,” and use the word to denote a diversity of related phenomena, I employed the tactic of writing of a number of “Enlightenments” supposed to exist in a number of contexts. Among these were “the Arminian Enlightenment,” “the Parisian Enlightenment” (the one known to us all), “the Utrecht Enlightenment” (far more a concept than a phenomenon), and others mentioned in The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon and its successor. “The Scottish Enlightenment” enters my narrative later, for the reason that Gibbon encountered anything that might be known by that name only as the shaping of his Decline and Fall was affected by the historical writings of Hume, Robertson, Smith, and Ferguson. He wrote: “On this interesting subject, the progress of society in Europe, a strong ray of philosophic light has broke from Scotland in our own time” (Decline and Fallch. 61, n. 69). It could be said here that he was writing about Enlightenment in Scotland , but to say that he was writing about “the Scottish Enlightenment” would be to put a further strain on language. He does not use the term, and there is no sign that he thought of “it” as a concrete phenomenon or process. Had he done so, Professor Emerson would be entitled to ask whether his description of “it” was correct or adequate. I used the term, and Emerson argues at length that I give a description of “it” which is neither.

Perhaps it would have been better, or at least safer, to avoid prefixing the definite article to the various “Enlightenments” I posited, since the fatal word “the” was liable to induce in every case the sort of reification I am trying to avoid. I hoped, I suppose, to use it to indicate that the word “Enlightenment” could denote different though not incongruous phenomena in different contexts, and that the insertion of an adjective between article and noun might indicate a need for specificity. If this is not enough, we should avoid the noun “Enlightenment” altogether, since its presence makes the use of an article virtually unavoidable. When I employed the term, “the Scottish Enlightenment”—Gibbon, by the way, never visited or lived in Edinburgh or Glasgow as he did Lausanne, London, and Paris—I did so adjectively and adverbially, to denote something that needs to be understood as context to the great historical writings important to Gibbon. Roger Emerson complains, bitterly and at length, of my writing in this way. He sees “the Scottish Enlightenment” as a complex concrete entity, of which a complex but unified description both can and should be offered; and he is so deeply convinced that I ought to have offered such a description that he treats me as if I were doing so. Each of my refusals to deal with “the Scottish Enlightenment” in the way he demands is treated as if it offered a description of the whole, which inevitably turns out to be inadequate. The extraordinary result is that he ends by accusing me of doing “what [I have] accused others of doing: ‘bringing [the various Enlightenments] within a single formula—which excludes those it cannot be made to fit.’”

Once again, I was not doing what I said I was not doing. I am studying a history of historiography, to which certain aspects of what may be and has been termed “enlightenment” in Scotland and elsewhere were and are highly relevant. I attended to those aspects and what can be called Enlightened about them, and when I used the term “[the] Scottish Enlightenment” it was as shorthand to this purpose. I do not (let me add) say that no general description of “the Scottish Enlightenment” is possible; I think it would become a number of descriptions of a number of phenomena, but there would be ways of associating them with one another. I merely claim the right to deal with those forms of Enlightenment in Scotland that are to my purpose, and I am under no obligation to deal with those that are of another character. Emerson, convinced that I should be describing “the Scottish Enlightenment” as a whole, comes to insist that I am doing what I should be doing, and am therefore doing it wrongly. Even when, in his concluding sentences, he appears to recognize what I am in fact doing, he calls for “a fairer account of the Enlightenments on which [I draw],” and remains the prisoner of his assumptions that all such Enlightenments are unitary entities and to speak of them at all is to incur the obligation to describe each entity in its entirety. I have warned the reader not to expect this. 

J. G. A. Pocock

Roger Emerson replies: 

We are all indebted to John Pocock for many things—for perceptive studies of political concepts, for showing us the importance of the “Machiavellian moment,” and now for interesting analyses of the historiography of Gibbon and those on whom he drew. What I do not think Professor Pocock has given us is a clearer understanding of the varied processes which many, but not he, would call “The Enlightenment.” He thinks the word “the” tends to reify concepts and to give an illusory ontological status to what really were processes that differed from place to place, time to time, and from thinker to thinker. At the same time, he is unafraid to describe the processes as a complex and rich set of developments occurring in Europe between ca.1680-1790, which, in various contexts, resemble one another like members of a family. Well, if the family is a proper analogue, then there is a common gene pool and basic ways in which they are all similar enough to be described as related. To describe the processes of enlightenment with such an analogy leads to talk about “a” or “one” or “the” family which is just as reifying—but no more so—than to deal with The Enlightenment, said to vary over time, from place to place, and from thinker to thinker. I do not think he is a better nominalist than I.

I clearly understand that Pocock is dealing with historiographical traditions and with what Gibbon appropriated from others. This is not an issue which divides us. What does divide us is the fact that Professor Pocock's Enlightenments are characterized too narrowly and without regard to the systematic character of the thought structures of the age. As I wrote in the February 2002 Historically Speaking: 

Pocock is interested in the traditions and men from whom Gibbon drew, but his work often reads as if he were giving a character to the Enlightenment or Enlightenments in which he situates Gibbon. His exciting, valuable, and erudite volumes will be taken by many to be authoritative statements about the Enlightenments with which he deals as well as about the Enlightenment of Edward Gibbon.  As a guide to Gibbon, we may perhaps trust him; I think we should not when we think about the Enlightenment and particularly the Scottish one.

He has shaped the issue dividing us as being whether or not he can deal with “Enlightenments” without treating them in their fullness but only as Gibbon saw them and used their contents. Of course he can, but he cannot write as if what Gibbon saw—and what Professor Pocock wants to discuss—was all there was to see and talk about. Gibbon's Scottish Enlightenment, and Pocock's own, do scant justice to the culture of the enlightened in Scotland or in other of their principal settings. It is like looking only at the fact that the family were all blondes but ignoring that they were mostly all tall, freckled, and gap-toothed. Pocock chooses to interest himself in the creation of “concepts of civility” associated with a plurality of states “exchanging goods” within a balanced system in which universal monarchy had become impossible. This he sometimes characterizes as “the post- Utrecht Enlightenment” in which “politeness and commerce flourish together, and do so better in a commonwealth of independent states than in a universal monarchy ancient or modern ... ” (II:189). He has interesting things to say about this and about how and where Gibbon figures in the discussion of such issues—ones which Pocock, like Franco Venturi before him, has long deemed central to the intellectual and political development of Europe in those years. But there is no mistaking the limited character of the Enlightenments with which he is concerned and which he studies or assumes.  These Enlightenments are, from the beginning (I: 6-10), moral, political, and religious in character. 

We hear little if anything of enlightenment in epistemology, science, or even of such socially important things as patronage and improvements. Those are not just Gibbon's exclusions but the exclusions of John Pocock.  They work to reduce his various Enlightenments to a single formula which omits what cannot be made to fit. Eliminated is what does not interest the 18th-century historian or the 21st-century professor of the history of political thought. It will not do to say that Professor Pocock is not alluding to a whole when he writes passages such as: 

The strategy of Enlightenment in Scotland was the development of a science of morality, which on the assumption that humans were intrinsically social beings became a science of society in all its ramifications. It ... took the form of jurisprudence, which was then organized into history and next—the most importantly but less immediately so for the purposes of the present volume—into political economy .... The Enlightened, however, seized the high ground; they exhibited morality, sociability and as we shall see history, as systems intelligible in themselves, and without bothering to deny the efficacy of grace, left it to attach itself as best it could to phenomena that could be understood without it (II:313). 

When Professor Pocock cites modern historians of Scotland, he tends to cite those whose work is similarly narrow in conceiving enlightenment and the Scottish Enlightenment—partly because it is often somewhat derivative from his own. He and they have unduly narrowed the Scottish Enlightenment by excluding from the processes they talk about things which were central to it and central to Enlightenment and Enlightenments throughout much of Europe

All this does bear on historiography both in Scotland and elsewhere. The conjectural histories sometimes occurred within a natural history of man—those were Baconian collections of facts about men on which inductions rested. The context for such a view was a scientific one. The anthropology used to describe human nature was not without similar relations to the science of the period, as many discussions of race and development show. The methods of the moral sciences—as they were conceived by George Turnbull, David Hume, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, and others with whom Pocock has dealt—were often explicitly related to the methods or ways of thinking of the scientists. And the fact that the men with whom he deals were often put in place by others with particular patronage aims is not irrelevant to the careers of Smith, William Robertson, or Ferguson. Nor is it irrelevant to the fact that they wrote the kinds of histories they did. Gibbon was not, like Robertson, urged by Lord Bute to write histories of a certain sort; nor, like Ferguson, did he write one which was to be applauded by his friends who favored a Scottish militia. John Pocock's Enlightenments when they omit such things are too narrow. When he as an historian ignores them, he is not helping us better to understand Gibbon or the traditions from which he drew and among which he worked. 

Roger L. Emerson
University of WesternOntario

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