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The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965


Even before the Korean War, the United Nations had proved that it could take effective action to control serious conflicts. It first took such action in the conflict over Palestine. During World War I, the British had ousted the Turks from Palestine. When the war was over, the League of Nations placed that land under the authority of Britain. The British then issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people that Palestine would someday become their homeland, but the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding countries strongly objected to this and year after year passed without the British making good their promise. During and after World War II, Britain refused to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter Palestine. In 1946 Jewish terrorists began to stage raids against the British army and a year later Britain turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations. The General Assembly set up a special committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations and several months later the committee delivered its report. It recommended that Palestine be divided into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish. Although the Arabs, who formed a majority of the people in Palestine, said they would never allow the existence of a Jewish state, the General Assembly approved the committee’s report. Britain was expected to carry out and enforce the recommendations. Instead, the British suddenly left Palestine in the spring of 1948 and war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were supported by troops from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but the Jewish army, which included many hardened veterans of World War II, won battle after battle. With every victory, the Jews added to the territory originally granted them by the United Nations special committee. Most …

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After the Peace of Paris 1919 – 1920


DURING THE war, three great empires — the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the German –had vanished forever. Then, by the Treaty of Sévres, a fourth empire, the Ottoman, was quietly put to death. Turkey was confined to Asia Minor and became a republic. Of its former possessions, the League of Nations assigned Syria and Lebanon to France and Palestine and Iraq to Great Britain. Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had fought the Turks under an adventurous British colonel named T. E. Lawrence, became independent kingdoms. In Europe, there were seven new states: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The first six, with Rumania, formed a zone that blocked Russian communism from spreading westward. Rumania had grown larger at the expense of Hungary, Russia and Greece at the expense of Turkey. Hungary and Austria were made small independent states, with no link between their governments. The South Slavs, who had triggered the crisis that brought on the war, saw their dream come true in a free, united Yugoslavia, but some Yugoslavs were still dissatisfied, for the Allies, in line with their secret treaty of 1915, had given Italy the port of Trieste and some islands on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Italy also received the Trentino and South Tyrol, former Austro-Hungarian lands. AMERICA AND THE LEAGUE Although the five treaties of the Peace of Paris changed the map of the world, it left more than one nation resentful and discontented. The Italians felt that the Allies had betrayed them by not giving them any of the German colonies. The Japanese felt cheated of their rightful gains in the Pacific and the Germans were particularly bitter, for they felt they had been unjustly treated in almost every way. When the peace conference began, they had expected that the Allies …

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The Ottomans, the Last Great Islamic Power A.D. 1299-1922


ACCORDING to their tradition, the Ottoman Turks once belonged to the same Central Asian tribe as the Seljuk Turks. Their ancestors came to Asia Minor with the Seljuks. In time, they began to challenge the authority of their fellow Turks. The Ottomans took their name from a chieftain called Othman, who in 1299 became the emir of Seljuk lands bordering on the Byzantine Empire. Othman declared holy war on his Christian neighbours. His son Orkhan captured the city of Brusa and in 1362 Orkhan’s son Murad took Adrianople, beyond the strait and sea that separated Asia Minor from Europe. Thereafter, Murad and his son Bayezid pressed forward on two fronts–against Serbs, Bulgars and other Balkan peoples in southeast Europe and against Byzantines and Seljuks in Asia Minor. By 1400, the Ottomans had conquered Macedonia and Bulgaria, pushed the Byzantines out of Asia Minor and swept the Seljuk emirs from their thrones. In that year, however, Timur attacked the eastern Bank of their kingdom. After devastating Syria, he came back and crushed the Ottoman army near Ankara, taking Sultan Bayezid captive. He restored the Seljuk emirs to their posts. When Bayezid died in 1405, his three sons immediately began to fight over their inheritance. Their struggle raged for ten years. At last Sultan Mohammed came out the winner, with both of his brothers dead. These civil wars, coming so soon after the Mongol invasion, left the land and the people exhausted. The Ottomans’ fighting spirit soon revived. Under Mohammed and his son Murad II, Turkish armies again advanced across southeast Europe. In 1443, a huge army made up of Rumanians, Hungarians, Poles, Germans and Frenchmen defeated them. Five years later, however, they beat back another massive Christian attack in Serbia. Murad’s son Mohammed II, became sultan in Adrianople in 1451. He …

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Cracks in the Wall of Islam A.D. 656-750


THE FIRST three caliphs — Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman — had all known — Mohammed well. In 656, Othman, an old man in his eighties, was stabbed to death by a band of rebels. They believed that the right to be caliph belonged to Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali. Sometime later, Ali defeated his rivals for power in battle and proclaimed himself caliph. Instead of Medina, he chose as his capital the new Arab city of al-Kufah, in Iraq. All but one of the leaders of Islam swore loyalty to Ali. The exception was Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, who set out to avenge Othman. Holding the dead caliph’s blood-stained shirt above his head in the mosque of Damascus, he accused Ali of Othman‘s murder. He challenged Ali to produce the actual murderers or resign. ALI AND THE OMAYYADS Muawiyah was certainly ambitious‚ but his real quarrel with Ali was political, not personal. The question was whether al-Kufah or Damascus, Iraq or Syria, was to be the center of the Arab world. Soon the quarrel became a war, and two great armies stood face to face on the banks of the Euphrates. Instead of clashing, however, the Iraqi and Syrian soldiers merely raided each other’s camps, for neither side was eager to spill Moslem blood. Nevertheless, after a few weeks it began to look as if Ali’s forces would win. Then Muawiyah’s general Amr, the conqueror of Egypt, had a clever idea. He ordered his men to tie copies of the Koran to their lances and hoist them aloft. Fighting stopped immediately. The signal meant that the two sides should settle their differences by peaceful discussion, letting the holy word of Allah be their guide. To spare Moslem lives, Ali agreed. His decision had serious results. By accepting Amr’s suggestion, the …

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Mesopotamia, Where Civilization Began 4000 B.C. – 1750 B.C.


By 4000 B. C., many different groups of people  were working out their lives in a variety of ways. In a great arc from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, across the Turkish plains and through the highlands of Iraq and Iran, groups of peoples had settled and were farming, tending animals, making pottery and building towns, markets and forts. In the deserts, mountains and steppes, nomadic tribesmen lived by herding animals and by hunting and raiding. As all these populations grew, they began to compete for land, food and supplies. One of the areas that was to become most sought after was a stretch of land almost at the very centre of these various peoples. It was only about 150 miles wide and 600 miles long and extended from the foothills of northwester Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, drained the area and gave it its name, Mesopotamia – “the land between the rivers”. For the next 3,500 years, Mesopotamia was to witness the rise and fall of many cities and cultures. Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldaeans – these were only some of the people who took root and flourished in this land. Finally the Persians came and reduced Mesopotamia to a mere province but from the first unknown settlers to the mighty Nebuchadnezzar, this land gave rise to much that would affect all civilization. The first settlers in Mesopotamia set up their villages and farmed in the upper reaches of the Tigris. These were among the earliest farming communities anywhere in the world, but they gradually declined and it was many years later before this region came to be known as Assyria. Mesopotamia’s southern region, which was later called Babylonia, was especially hot and dry and did not seem to attract early …

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The Coming of Man

About 400,000 years ago, a group of people were gathered at the mouth of a cave. They had a fire in which they were roasting deer meat and around them lay the bones of monkeys, wild pigs and water buffalo from previous meals. One of the women was picking berries from the nearby bushes. A man sitting close to the fire chipped away at a broken stone he would use to cut off chunks of the cooked meat. another man, too hungry to wait, gnawed the marrow from some bones. The cave was one of several not far from what is now Peking, China and the people who first used these caves are known as Peking Man. Peking Man did not leave anything behind except some bones, charcoal, berries and stones, but these are enough to suggest certain things about the way he lived. They show that the people at the caves ate meat as well as plants, made crude tools, could kill large animals and knew how to keep a fire alive. With fire they could keep warm and fend off wild animals at night. Probably they cooked some foods in the fire. Instead of eating in the fields after killing an animal, the men might wait until they gathered around the fire to eat. Such a meal became something of a family or group occasion. There was a sharing of tasks, of food, of pleasures. No one said much, but with simple language the adults could pass on something of what they had learned to their children. At times, when food was scarce these people may have eaten human flesh, but it is likely they killed only to survive. Or perhaps they believed by eating human flesh they could obtain the strength of a slain enemy, or keep …

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