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Buzan and Acharya challenge the discipline of International Relations to reimagine itself in the light of the thinking about, and practice of, international relations and world order from premodern India, China and the Islamic world. This prequel to their 2019 book, The Making of Global International Relations, takes the story back from the two-century tale of modern IR, to reveal the deep global history of the discipline. It shows the multiple origins and meanings of many concepts thought of as only modern and Western. It opens pathways for the rest of the world into this most Eurocentric of disciplines, encouraging them to bring their own histories, concepts and theories with them. The authors have written this book with the hope of inspiring others to extend these pathways by bringing in a wider array of cultures, and exploring how they thought about and acted in worlds composed of multiple, independent, collective actors.
This introduction outlines the key aims of the book and its genesis, including a definition of what political culture means – the rituals and explicit legitimisation of power, status and property-holding, alongside the unstated assumptions and customs that help to channel tensions and rivalries within polities. It situates the volume’s approach – a presentation of three neighbouring and overlapping political spheres – within the recent turn towards the global middle ages. Neither a work of systematic and explicit comparison nor an attempt at overarching synthesis or grand narrative – nor a shot at tracing trans-regional connections – the book aims rather to find a conceptual language applicable to all three spheres, attempting to make each sphere accessible to non-specialists. This pioneering survey of three spheres – the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world – should provide useful tools for learning, teaching and research today but is also an invitation to future study of medieval political culture.
After considering what is meant by ‘political culture’, this chapter looks at how such an abstraction can be applied to the long period between c.700 and c.1500, over vast stretches of the western Eurasian landmass. The author looks for recurring themes – not grand theory, but rather elements visible in and shared by societies in the three spheres of the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world in this period. Four such elements are suggested – religion, women, property and war – and the author only resorts to abstract analytic categories when they help in exploring these elements across the spheres. He suggests that alertness to them might help us find some fresh things to say about a number of long-established categories such as social hierarchy, loyalty, political legitimacy and the formation of political classes.
This comparative study explores three key cultural and political spheres – the Latin west, Byzantium and the Islamic world from Central Asia to the Atlantic – roughly from the emergence of Islam to the fall of Constantinople. These spheres drew on a shared pool of late antique Mediterranean culture, philosophy and science, and they had monotheism and historical antecedents in common. Yet where exactly political and spiritual power lay, and how it was exercised, differed. This book focuses on power dynamics and resource-allocation among ruling elites; the legitimisation of power and property with the aid of religion; and on rulers' interactions with local elites and societies. Offering the reader route-maps towards navigating each sphere and grasping the fundamentals of its political culture, this set of parallel studies offers a timely and much needed framework for comparing the societies surrounding the medieval Mediterranean.
I discuss two episodes in India’s history that attracted significant attention worldwide. The first is the Great Revolt of 1857. I show possible links to contemporaneous events such as the European revolutions of 1848–9 and the Tai-ping rebellion in China to be largely speculative. Repercussions in the Islamic world are attested, but would need further research. The impact of the Revolt on the British Empire is well documented, although its consequences are uncertain, and was greatest at the level of representations as it inspired ‘sepoy ballads’ in Irish Fenian circles and a flurry of popular novels in different languages. The Partition of British India in 1947 attracted less attention worldwide at the time, but it became a staple of later analyses of partition by political scientists as a way of solving problems of territoriality and ethnicity. I explore the links of India’s Partition to the earlier Partition of Ireland and the contemporaneous Partition of Palestine through a survey of the literature, and end with an interrogation of the possible influence of India’s Partition on later episodes of decolonisation in the British Empire.
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