Friday, May 1, 2020

Valerie Hansen's "The Year 1000"

Valerie Hansen teaches Chinese and world history at Yale, where she is professor of history. In the course of writing The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World-and Globalization Began, she traveled to some twenty different countries and was a visiting scholar at Xiamen University in China, University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and the Coll├Ęge de France in Paris.

Having lived in China for six plus years, Hansen has visited at least 300 temples, climbed the Great Wall multiple times (once during a lightning storm), and posed next to the Terracotta Warriors eleven times. (All this in the company of her husband and three children.)

Her books include The Silk Road: A New History, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1800, Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional China, Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1279, and Voyages in World History (co-authored with Kenneth R. Curtis).

Hansen applied the “Page 99 Test” to The Year 1000 and reported the following:
Multiple rulers in Europe, Africa, and Asia converted to world religions around the year 1000, and page 99 focuses on Vladimir of Rus, who weighed the pros and cons of Judaism, Islam, Roman Christianity, and Byzantine Orthodoxy. Vladimir rejected the Roman Christianity of the Ottonian kings of Germany, and this page explains possible problems with this source and why we should accept its version of events:
But even if the entire account is an invented story written to explain what happened—whose religion could Vladimir accept if not that of his immediate neighbor, the Byzantines?—it still shows the types of information about religion circulating soon after 1000, when the Primary Chronicle took shape. And we do have outside confirmation—from an Islamic account—that a Rus ruler named “Vladimir” sent four kinsmen to the ruler of Khwarazm asking for information about Islam. This external source shows that Vladimir actively sought information about the various belief systems of his neighbors as he wrestled with the decision of which one to convert to. [This passage is directly from p. 99]
One of the book’s major themes—the spread of religions—shapes page 99. Vladimir’s choice of Byzantine Orthodoxy is one of the best-documented instances of conversion around the year 1000. As rulers forged new alliances, many gave up their local deities and made the decision to convert to the belief system of a more powerful neighbor. Northern and Eastern Europe became Christian, the realm of Islam expanded east into Central Asia and west into West Africa, and Buddhism and Hinduism spread into Southeast Asia. Some ninety-two percent of the world's believers today subscribe to the teachings of these four religions, all of which gained ascendance in 1000.

Religious teachings were able to move around the world because of the pathways that opened up around 1000. Viking, Polynesian, and Chinese mariners crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans at the same time as new land routes connected the different regions in the Americas and Africa. For the first time, many of the world’s occupants realized that they had neighbors.

Along with religious teachings, merchants and objects traveled along these routes. In the Americas, for example, the Maya, based in the Yucatan Peninsula, traded chocolate and brightly colored macaw and parrot feathers (and the occasional live caged bird) for the turquoise of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, some two thousand miles away.

The ongoing demand for slaves in Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Baghdad, Cairo, and other cities resulted in the forced movement of over ten million people from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia—hundreds of years before the trans-Atlantic slave trade began.

Globalization really began in 1000. The changes of 1000 affected both those who went to new places (traders, explorers, slaves) as well as those who stayed home (religious change, riots, onerous labor conditions to produce goods for overseas markets).

Europeans didn’t invent globalization. They changed and augmented what had been there since 1000. If globalization hadn’t yet begun in the Americas, Asia, and Africa, Europeans wouldn’t have been able to penetrate the markets in so many places as quickly as they did after 1492.
Visit Valerie Hansen's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Silk Road.

--Marshal Zeringue