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  • Cited by 2
  • Volume 4: A World with States, Empires and Networks 1200 BCE–900 CE
  • Edited by Craig Benjamin, Grand Valley State University, Michigan

Book description

From 1200 BCE to 900 CE, the world witnessed the rise of powerful new states and empires, as well as networks of cross-cultural exchange and conquest. Considering the formation and expansion of these large-scale entities, this fourth volume of the Cambridge World History series outlines key economic, political, social, cultural, and intellectual developments that occurred across the globe in this period. Leading scholars examine critical transformations in science and technology, economic systems, attitudes towards gender and family, social hierarchies, education, art, and slavery. The second part of the volume focuses on broader processes of change within western and central Eurasia, the Mediterranean, South Asia, Africa, East Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania, as well as offering regional studies highlighting specific topics, from trade along the Silk Roads and across the Sahara, to Chaco culture in the US southwest, to Confucianism and the state in East Asia.

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  • 1 - Introduction: the world from 1200 bce to 900 ce
    pp 1-26
  • 8 - Art
    pp 179-234
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    This chapter presents an overview of concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. This book traces processes associated with the creation of large-scale political entities and networks of exchange, within a time frame that builds on and expands the usual limits of the classical era. The initial chapters in this book provides an overview of the key economic, political, social, cultural, and intellectual developments that occurred between 1200 BCE and 900 CE. Humans had occupied the islands and mainland of Southeast Asia since Paleolithic times, and during the centuries preceding 1200 BCE they had gathered together into a range of agrarian communities. The existence of Ghanaian soldiers and Byzantine emperors, of Muslim caliphs and Hindu gods, and of Chinese emperors and Australian aboriginals was completely unknown to small fishing communities that occupied the Western Atlantic island environment known as the Caribbean.
  • 10 - Western and Central Eurasia
    pp 271-299
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    This chapter explores the effects of empire-building on both local economies and global connectivity, and the impact imperial expansion may have had on what one might call economic growth and complexity. It deals with agriculture and its development under imperial conditions. The chapter considers the impact of governance structures and taxation on ancient economies. By financing flood control and irrigation, and maintaining the bureaucracy to implement the projects, the dynasty benefited through taxation and power, but it also fostered agrarian development and social prosperity. The use of limited-purpose money in some spheres of exchange preceded all monetary systems of the Afro-Eurasian world of the mid-first millennium and helps to explain monetization as a path-dependent process. Taxation was one of the most important means of asserting and maintaining empire both financially and symbolically. Democracy was not long-lasting, but with the Macedonian conquest of the Persian Empire, including Egypt, Greek urban culture, centered on civic interaction spread toward Central Asia and Egypt.
  • 11 - Regional study: Baktria – the crossroads of ancient Eurasia
    pp 300-324
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    The formation of states, empires, and trans-regional networks across Eurasia and northern Africa led to dramatic transformations in both social and political relations between men and women. This chapter analyzes the interactions and performances of individuals and communities whose traditional gendered identities and roles had become further complicated by the distinction between member and non-member of a political entity defined by law, sovereignty, and competition with other states as well as non-states. In China, family and the inheritance of property evolved along with the waxing and waning of the patriarchal system as well as the composition of the ruling class. Expanding states and empires required soldiers, administrators, and judges to wield and defend public authority. The formation and maintenance of states, empires, and trans-regional networks in the ancient world has traditionally been viewed as primarily a masculine enterprise, contrasted with the feminine world of the household and domestic economy.
  • 12 - The Mediterranean
    pp 325-349
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    Slaves could be found in simpler societies, but more important and better known was the existence of slavery in most advanced states. This chapter discusses the spectrum of different types and levels of slave use. It focuses on slavery in pre-state societies and the correlation between slavery and cities, trade, and empires. Historians often distinguish between slave societies and societies with slaves. New World slavery was agricultural and can seem atavistic and primitive in comparison with contemporaneous industrialization with its wage laborers and technology. The growth of state power, like the growth of cities, typically went hand in hand with the increasing inequalities both of wealth and power that produced an elite who might desire slaves for their lifestyle, status, or profit. The racism directed against black Africans in New World slave systems was a modern, relatively systematic, and extreme example of a much more common attitude toward slaves.
  • 13 - Regional study: Athens in the fifth century bce
    pp 350-374
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    In the course of the last half-century the interpretation of the first millennium BCE has come to occupy a prominent position not only in the fields of history and the history of religion but, increasingly, also in the humanities and social sciences more generally. One focal point in this development is the growing interest in the idea of the so-called Axial Age. The authors of conceptual historical essays on the Axial Age, Johann P. Arnason and Hans Joas, have somewhat different assessments of the relevance of these references. In all areas where the new openness of thought characteristic of the Axial Age emerged, there were multiple competing conceptualizations and a variety of different schools of thought. Inspired by the evolutionary and cognitive perspective of Merlin Donald, Bellah emphasizes that the Axial Age is expressive of the possibilities that opened up to humankind at the time of the emergence of a fourth evolutionary stage in the development of human culture.
  • 14 - Late antiquity in Europe c. 300–900 ce
    pp 375-406
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    The Neolithic Revolution set in motion a development whereby humans influenced their environment on an ever larger scale in order to meet their need for nutrition and material goods. A process of eminent historical importance, especially to the history of the knowledge about nature and technology, was the cultural, political, and economic development of Greece during the Archaic Period. A new era of natural science in ancient Greece began in Alexandria. The development of technology in antiquity was shaped in equal measure by inventions and innovations, by technology transfer and the adoption of technical artefacts and processes from foreign cultures, by the preservation of traditional technology, and also by stagnation. The technological achievements of China included inventions in the field of mechanics, especially the use of water power. The development in India was similar to that in China: the emergence and collapse of empires, immigration, urbanization, internal wars, and local powers shaped Indian civilization in crucial ways.
  • 15 - East Asia
    pp 407-434
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    Traditional discourses on gender and sexuality, even as they helped shape the processes of urbanization, commercialization and state-building in the ancient world, were themselves profoundly affected by the growth of political, economic, and religious networks across Eurasia and northern Africa. This chapter examines literary representations of masculinity and femininity in 'world-encompassing' genres like epic and romance, showing how imaginative models of male and female behavior increased in variety and complexity in conjunction with the evolution of trans-regional political and economic network. The first millennium CE witnessed a transformation of ideal masculinity and femininity in Chinese literature as well. Women, indeed, wrote, and their writing on gender relations and sexuality can be found in a variety of the genres that emerged in the context of states, empires, and networks. Trans-regional networks connected human beings across communities and cultures, and thereby created trans-regional relations of gender and sexuality.
  • 16 - Regional study: Confucianism and the state
    pp 435-456
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    This chapter provides some hint of the richness and variety of the world's artistic traditions. Though art made in Europe since the Renaissance has had some distinctive features to make such recent and local developments an essential part of the definition would be ethnocentric and parochial. Royal art often functions as propaganda aimed at the people who pose the greatest threat to the king, those nearest him; it is his relatives and high nobles who must be made to feel the sanctity of his person. In Islamic art, writing occurs on all surfaces, from bowls to buildings, in a multiplicity of script variants, sometimes boldly legible, sometimes impenetrably patterned. Setting and audience matter because they are clues to the purposes that shaped a work, clues to the effect it was meant to have. The works of Buddhist art illustrates most of the functions on Seckel's list, and readers will probably have no difficulty supplying Christian counterparts for all of them.
  • 17 - Regional study: exchanges within the Silk Roads world system
    pp 457-479
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    The ancient Central Eurasian steppes stretched from Manchuria in the east to the Alfold Plain in Hungary and Romania in the west. Steppe pastoral nomads subsisted largely on the dairy products of their animals, such as cheese, yogurt, and cheese curds, supplemented with meat from their animals as well as from hunting. Covering the Pontic and Caspian steppes, Scythia stretched roughly from the Dniester River to the Amu Darya River and perhaps even to the Altai Mountains. The Sarmatians interacted with the Scythians frequently as the Sarmatians nomadized between the Don and Volga rivers, although by the sixth century some had crossed the Don River and found pastures near the Sea of Azov and may have been subject to Scythian dominion. The Xiongnu merged with other disparate pastoral nomads and formed a new confederation known as the Huns, although this may have been what the Xiongnu called themselves.

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