The decline of genocide and the rise of rents

About half a decade ago Steven Pinker wrote The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. There were many criticisms of the book, but on the whole, I think it pushes forward an argument that is a reasonable description of reality: descriptively, violence has declined over the Holocene.

Why? Carl von Clausewitz asserted “war is a continuation of politics by other means.” I think this gets at an important aspect of the “modern way of war”, and the instrumental use of state and social violence: they exist to reinforce a particular social order. And order tends to go along with peace.

I do not think Clausewitz would have correctly described the world 10,000 years ago. In War before Civilization, the author describes a world of great brutality during the early Neolithic. Peter Turchin has criticized Pinker on these grounds, arguing that violence peaked during the early Holocene, during the transition from a world of hunters and gatherers, to a world of farmers. During the Neolithic, war is often best understood not as diplomacy, but pure eliminationist competition. Animal conflict between rival troupes.

Neolithic farmers, who probably had tribal confederacies, engaged in violence against hunter-gatherers. But except for the more dense societies of the coastal fringes, on the whole, the relationship was probably similar to that between European settlers and Australian Aboriginals: they perceived the indigenous European Mesolithic people as vermin or pests, not as other societies which could be bargained with, or absorbed (though the latter did occur). This probably explains the relatively long period of genetic segregation, as there were strong barriers between mixing between the two populations.

As we come closer and closer to the modern age, war became less about elimination, and more about diplomacy, co-option, and absorption. War was a preamble to the next stage of negotiation.

When Genghis Khan conquered northern China he wanted to turn it into pastureland. This would mean a famine to remove the human population of the region. His Khitai advisor, Yelu Chucai, who was stepped in Confucian learning, argued that taxation of the native population would be much more profitable than the Mongols and their allies engaging in primary production through pastoralism. The key to preventing genocide was convincing warlike elites that rents were easier and more profitable than acquiring more land which one had to toil oneself. That is, acquire people, not just land.

I write this in the context of trying to understand the genetic history of India. Why is it that Indo-Aryans contribute at least ~15% of the ancestry on the Gangetic plain, while the later Turco-Muslims contribute almost none? The answer here ventures into ideologically fraught territory because many Hindus take the word of Muslim chroniclers at their word that the predations upon the local population were marked by great brutality and killing.

The northwestern fringe of southern Indian was quite populous during the Indus Valley Civilization period. It was far larger in territory than Mesopotamia or Egypt. In contrast, the Eurasian heartland was always thinly populated. Then, and now. The number of Sintashta descended Indo-Aryans was originally small. It was always reasonable to suppose that their demographic impact was very small. Perhaps like that of the Magyars in Hungary. Ten years ago when the first evidence emerged that India was reshaped by Holocene admixtures I simply refused to believe it at first due to the demographic heft of the region.

So what happened? I think we need to understand that it is likely the early Sintashta warriors did not have Yelu Chucai whispering in their ears. They were horse-warriors par excellence, while the Eurasian oikoumene was relatively underdeveloped compared to what it would be later. There is evidence from Europe that early farming societies underwent massive demographic collapse due to endogenous forces (and perhaps exogenous climate shocks). There is no reason this could not be true elsewhere. Second, aside from the cultural toolkit of farming practices being underdeveloped, ideological justifications for social cohesion were primitive.

When the original Indo-Aryans arrived as agro-pastoralists into a semi-barbarized post-Indus Valley village society I believe they saw pastureland for their cattle and horses! Though some sort of priesthood probably survived, and transmuted into Brahmins (who assimilated many Indo-Aryan priests and shamans), there were no learned advisors handing out ancient traditions of yore. The Indo-Aryans saw an animal battle for resources, and despite their small numbers they “squeezed” the local peasantry (the mtDNA indicates very few Indo-Aryan females, so these were muarading males). This was not an organized ideological genocide, it was simply niche displacement.

In contrast, 2,000 years later when the White Huns arrived from Central Asia, they established themselves as the warrior elite of an already organically elaborated society, with a clear and distinct ideology of self, and local sub-elites which were in place to extract rents from the populace. The Indo-Aryans were more like the Dark Age Greeks, with Odysseus, a “king” still doing some of his own farming and shepherding.

The Turco-Muslims were different in that they had another alternative ideology. They were not uncooked barbarians, they had already been cooked by Islam. They were not absorbed into India because they maintained connections with Iran and Turan, and were part of the broader Dar-ul-Islam. They were in India, but not of India. But, the institutional structures of India were useful for the purposes of extracting rents. India was rich, which for most of history meant rich in people.

The Turco-Muslims came out of a milieu where they were originally slave soldiers of Iranian rulers who lived richly in sumptuous cities. Eventually, they invariably overthrew their masters and moved into the palaces themselves. Unlike the Mongols or their own ancestors, these were not people who had just come out of the tents. They did not have to be educated in the fact that maintaining the mechanisms of the old order would be more profitable than creating from anew.

All this is relevant because some people, Muslim and Hindus, assert that the Turco-Muslims engaged in massive killings and persecutions. The Turco-Muslims themselves claimed to have engaged in incredible violence against the unbelievers, styling themselves ghazis, warriors for the faith. Modern South Asian Muslims implicitly agree with the decimation when they assert that their ancestors were West and Central Asian. Both these contentions are false. The Turco-Muslims, like the Teutonic Knights and Sword Brothers in the Baltic, were proximately motivated by a desire for wealth and leisure. This is clear because the same people spread west out of the fringes of Khorasan, taking over Iranian and Arab polities one after the other through violence. But in the westward movement, there was no religious rationale given, because the Turks were Muslim, and those whom they conquered were mostly Muslim (though the Seljuqs presented themselves as protectors of Sunni Islam, overthrowing the Shia Buywids).

Obviously, this was not the case in India. An idealistic rationale presented itself to mask their avaricious behavior, and they promoted that rationale.

Second, genetically the data is clear that very little ancestry in South Asian Muslims is exogenous. Almost all the ancestors of South Asian Muslims were residents of South Asia 1,000 years ago. Many of the upper-class Muslims who claim West Asian ancestry actually descend from upper-caste Hindus. This is clear when you look at the true Y chromosomal lineages of Syeds, those who claim paternal descent from the lineage of Muhammad’s clan.

From the perspective of Hindus, 30% of the people of the Indian subcontinent are now Muslims. This is a traumatic fact for them. Additionally, between 1200 and 1750 AD Muslims were dominant across most of the subcontinent, and engaged in a project of cultural imperialism and hegemony which left psychic scars on the Indian elites, and physical scars on the architectural landscape. To be entirely frank, a project of coercive, brutal, and violent, conversion to Islam by Turks is in some ways more reassuring to many Indian elites than the fact that there was a softness to the support for native Indian religious views in many parts of the subcontinent. As it is, Hinduism remained the overwhelming religion in the heart of Turco-Muslim power in the upper reaches of the Gangetic plain, with Islam made particular headway in the margins and fringes of South Asia.

The bigger picture here is that human societies and cultural systems evolve, and become more robust. The gap between the Han and  Suit-Tang was more than 300 years. The “handoff” between the Ming and Ching (Manchus) was nearly immediate. The Chinese ideological system of rule became more efficient, more effective, over time. The ideological system of domination and control was perfected. The Manchus placed themselves on top of machinery that they inherited roughly intact from the Ming. This is not to say that they could not employ genocidal brutality. The Oirat Mongols were the last great nomadic polity. To “solve” this problem the Manchus in the 18th century engaged in a program of extermination against the Oirat led Dzhungar confederacy. By some estimates, 90% of the Dzhungars died, whether through direct slaughter, or, more often, starvation.

Of course, the Manchus were not ideologically oriented toward genocide. It was simply an instrument. Nor do I believe that the peoples of the Neolithic and Bronze Age were ideologically oriented toward genocide. The question would not make any sense. Rather, the extermination of other groups was simply an instrument of existence in their lives. They died. Or their enemies died.

The interests of the German peasant-warrior flooding into the Roman territories were to drive off the local peasants and their landlords. The interests of the tribal elite was to increase the number of people whom they ruled and could extract rents from, as well as maintaining the position of some of the older elites as service nobilities and candidates for positions within the Church. Similarly, the English settlers in the New World consistently behaved in a more brutal manner toward the native peoples and attempted to push into the interior far more vigorously, than anything the British crown wished to countenance. In an economic and political world of stability, the British crown would do better, but the interests of the American colonists was toward more aggressive dynamism.

It was the emergence of complex multiethnic imperial systems, along with class stratification and divergence of interests, that the reflex toward genocide declined. A “flat” world is a violent world.

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31 thoughts on “The decline of genocide and the rise of rents

  1. It’s a reasonable conjecture – we really need better population estimates to work it out. I don’t really have a lot of trust in these estimates that go “Well, we know there are a lot of people there now, and we know that at some point there were big cities, so populations must have been large in between…”.

    I would slightly disagree with the idea that there would have been a sort of revolution of reasoning and ideas where at some point people became able to suddenly conceive of becoming a ruling group (the birth of the idea of hierarchy), and I guess of the idea (if it is one) that migrating Indo-Aryan speaking groups and local communities had insufficiently hierarchical societies for “moving in at the top” to be possible. I suspect it’s more about trade networks being there or not; if you’re a sort of elite military group living in NE Asia in the first millennium AD, you can sort of trade your skills across Central Asia (and steal when that doesn’t work), and then you can buy local allies and so on, and there is common coin and language that allows this to happen.

    It’s not so clear that this would be plausible or preferable in the late Bronze Age, and so I’d guess that meant they took their “commoners” with them on their “Volkerwanderung”, and that then “helps” with demographic impact. I think their leaders (and they did have chiefs for sure) would’ve fully been able to conceive of the idea of taking over at the top (and there was a hierarchy they could’ve taken over), but that actually doing that would’ve been impossible with the means at their disposal. That’s just my guess though; functioning trade networks mean “elite only” migrations can work, while dysfunctional and sparse ones meaning bringing lots of slaves and servants and subordinate cousins, and so lots more displacement.

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  2. This sounds a lot like Mancur Olson’s idea of the “roving bandit” and “stationary bandit”, from 2000’s Power and Prosperity.

    from wikipedia:

    “… a ‘roving bandit’ only has the incentive to steal and destroy, whilst a ‘stationary bandit’—a tyrant—has an incentive to encourage some degree of economic success as he expects to remain in power long enough to benefit from that success. A stationary bandit thereby begins to take on the governmental function of protecting citizens and their property against roving bandits.”

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  3. @Razib: I think you are basically right, but you made up a contradiction where there is none.

    The Muslim conquests by the Turkic dynasties were almost everywhere very brutal and cruel, in many instances, I can report from Europe, exceptionally so. I want to make a first distinction between being brutal and cruel, gruesome, not sure my English is sophisticated enough to make that point, but I try.

    The prehistoric tribals were brutal, they often killed their enemies with brute force. Sometimes torture was involved, but this was no elaborated method usually, though there are known cases of such sophisticated tortures too.

    So killing people is brutal, but not cruel if its done quick. Yet the Medieval states, and among those the Turkic dynasties, were known for being particularly nasty about their ways of bringing people to their death. They made this an art and they had no mercy.

    What did the Turkic, Ottoman conquest mean for the demography in many parts of the world, especially Central and South Eastern Europe? Whole swaths of land were depopulated, thousands and thousands were killed. Babies put on lances or cut out of their mothers wombs. People were flayed alive and burned, mutilated and those which survived brought into slavery. These are no horror stories, they are proven and the depopulated regions had to be repopulated from elsewhere, because the whole stretches of land were uninhabitated. Almost no one survived. And I’m speaking of really large zones, not just some villages. These are the “deserta” in the chronicles.

    But their demographic impact was small to non-existent and only people which wanted to convert did, also because the Ottomans could tax. The tax for the non-believers might have been a motivation, but another one was the fear of uprisings and that there were external threats to their rule. They wanted peace in their realm, because it was hard to keep even if making concessions.

    The main difference to many other situations with the Turkic rule in Europe and India was, that with some exceptions, there was simply no mass settlement of Turkic people. They were occupied with getting their core zone under control and spreading their genes, rather than moving on.

    Yet that doesn’t mean the Indian view on the cruelty of the conquest is wrong. Because it was a very brutal and cruel conquest. But what did it mean if they killed millions even?

    If in the Neolithic period one tribal alliance killed 1.000 young males in battle and then moved on to kill another 1.500 “civilians” and taking 500 young women with them, this could change the whole genetic landscape.

    But if the Turkic conquerors eliminated whole cities, murdered complete clans and tribes, even tried to get their grasp on the people, they might have left still enough that they were 100 times their soldiers numbers. And these soldiers didn’t even stay, but moved on usually, because they were just on a campaign, not there to get a wive and settle down.

    For some places of in Eurasia, if just 50 percent of population measuring millions would have survived the onslaught, it would still be too much to digest for the few thousands of Turkic soldiers, which went on anyway.

    The exceptional cruetly was part of a policy too, because the extreme cruel treatment of the Mongols and Turks was soon known everywhere and every commander of a fortified city, of an army, or ruler of a state, would have known what the fate of his kin would be if they would resist. They sent a message with their inhumane violence: You want to resist us? That’s what we are doing to you too!

    There is primarily one reason why Indians largely survived the attack genetically: They were so many then already and the Turkic initial attack left enough alive, which were brought under their rule later, when the organised resistance was broken, that the newcomers were just a drop in the sea.

    I’m writing this because the way you were saying sounded to me as if you would make a statement for the “cooked Turkic” to have been more humane even, less brutal, not as genocidal. But I don’t think that’s the right way to describe them.

    But I fully agree with you that the ultimate reason was the administration and taxation of a farming society. Because they could have tried to hunt the locals down, killing them for generations, making it their life-task to murder the whole native population. With quota of killings every Turkic soldier should try to achieve and rewards for doing so.

    Yet they were just soldiers, they didn’t fought for their clan, for a new pasture for their family, they didn’t wanted to stay and after the initial onslaught, they just followed orders and if the order of the dynasty was to tax the locals rather than killing them all, they did so, most of the time.

    But I don’t think the historic accounts were wrong at all. I can’t tell for sure for every region in India, but I know it from various places in Europe and the Near East for certain. The “stories” were real. Its just that killing and torturing masses of people to death still is a relative thing. 1.000 people in the Neolithic would have had a much bigger impact than 100.000 in medieval times.

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  4. @ Obs

    Regarding Turkish atrocities/depopulation, are you alluding to Hungary in particular? I believe I’ve heard in genetic discussions that modern Hungarians are hardly distinguishable from their (mostly) Slavic neighbors, which is due massive resttlement of peasants from the surronding regions to the Pannonian plain after massive destruction resulting from the Ottoman-Habsburg wars.

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  5. I wonder how this would link up with Timothy Synder’s “Black Earth” on the Nazis.

    Basically Hitler wanted a return to neolithic patterns of human conquest, view the jews as inventors of human rights, and so had to kill the jews to enable conquest and population removal.

    Synder is a very good author, but I do think he let the subject run a bit too far here. However it does match up with a lot of the views expressed here.

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  6. “To be entirely frank, a project of coercive, brutal, and violent, conversion to Islam by Turks is in some ways more reassuring to many Indian elites than the fact that there was a softness to the support for native Indian religious views in many parts of the subcontinent. ”

    The problem with the whitewashing of the islamic invasions of India is that first, nobody does that with the christian invasions of sub saharan Africa and even more so, central and South America and secondly, the genocides did not stop in the past.

    I wonder how much of what the author wrote applied to the European conquests of central and south america where the aim was clearly to slaughter and convert.

    As far as South Asia is concerned, the last genocide does not date back to the 17th century but to 1971. In 1971, during the Bangladeshi war for independence, the Muslim Pakistani army sent its soldiers giving them orders to paint yellow “H”s on the houses of Hindus so as to better identify the women to be raped and the families to be slaughtered.

    2.4 million Bengali Hindus died in the worse industrial genocide since the Holocaust.

    Hindus made up 20% of the population of East Pakistan at the time of partition now barely 9% of the total Bangladeshi population. In the same time period, the percentage of Muslims in the Indian state of West Bengal increased.

    The population replacement helped by occasional genocides still allow Islam to further its way in the heart of India. The expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley of Kashmir was just the latest occurence of the onslaught.

    The author can’t analyse history by being oblivious to developments that are still playing out to this day.

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  7. Spaniards/Criollos became latifundia “Californios”, as over the course of generations they lorded over the Pacific littoral’s native Americans. Remaining isolated and pre-industrial, the Californios reckoned wealth as the extent of a Mission/Don’s grazing grassland, and as late as the 1840s, the man who could provide the occasional anchored ship with several thousand cowhides was the man who was the pinnacle of society for a one-hundred mile radius, until you got down the lightly-peopled coast to the next Padre/Don. (Cf. “Two Years Before The Mast”).

    Then circa 1848 the ascendant industrializing United States strode in and usurped that system in a pinkies-out takeover: https://www.sfchronicle.com/chronicle_vault/article/War-in-the-Bay-Area-Why-native-Californians-14965154.php

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  8. The problem with the whitewashing of the islamic invasions of India is that first, nobody does that with the christian invasions of sub saharan Africa and even more so, central and South America and secondly, the genocides did not stop in the past.

    you’re a total moron. there were no Christian invasions of ss Africa moron. there was quinine in the late 19th century that allowed for real European colonization. and the conquistadors didn’t want to kill all the natives in the new world, they wanted to rule them and live as men of leisure (destroying the local nobility in most places). the deaths were mostly due to disease.

    you’re a moron.

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  9. @Mick:
    Yes, Hungary was hit particularly hard, but not just that. You can make a very long list of villages, even towns which were completely destroyed and depopulated. In Austria for example large portions of the country were destroyed and the locals killed. It was the Habsburgs which did begin to resettle a lot of regions with Germans, Slavs and other people from their sphere of influence. But even in places less known in Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria etc. we have a high level of destruction.

    @Razib: I don’t just assert, because I have sources for Europe, the Near East and India. I can give you the compliment back and say you just assert, because you said (analogous) that there are all these descriptions of violence, destruction and genocide, both from the Muslims and the Hindus, but tell us it wasn’t that bad, because the genetic impact of the Turkic in the modern South Asian people, even Muslims, is generally low.

    I just explained that differently, by the sheer mass of people which lived in South Asia even then and the fairly low number of Turkic soliders, of which a lot of were no actual Turks (!) and which left the country soon after. We know from the Huns, Avars, Hungarians, Turkic and Mongols, that a large portion of their mobile armies, and even more of their stationary, occupying forces, were made up of allies.

    Of which people did the Muslim armies of the conquerors consist anyway? Obviously they weren’t all pure East Asians any more.

    And why should both sides, Muslims and Hindus, overstate the cruelty of the conquest?

    I might just quote from the most common sources:
    “Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims. This is the reason, too, why Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benares, and other places.”

    “Fire and sword, havoc and destruction, marked his course everywhere. Gandhar which was styled the Garden of the North was left at his death a weird and desolate waste. Its rich fields and fruitful gardens, together with the canal which watered them (the course of which is still partially traceable in the western part of the plain), had all disappeared. Its numerous stone built cities, monasteries, and topes with their valuable and revered monuments and sculptures, were sacked, fired, razed to the ground, and utterly destroyed as habitations.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_conquests_in_the_Indian_subcontinent#Ghaznavid_Empire

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  10. Of which people did the Muslim armies of the conquerors consist anyway? Obviously they weren’t all pure East Asians any more.

    right, but Iranians would be distinctive genetically. not as much obv, especially in PK, but there are Iranians in places who stayed endogamous.

    And why should both sides, Muslims and Hindus, overstate the cruelty of the conquest?

    i already explained in the post

    1) Muslims are supposed to make war on kufars and convert them. it is compulsory to kill or convert pagans. what are hindus? why are you not killing them if they do not convert?

    the Turks were cruel everywhere. but in the Muslim world their incentive is to promote that they weren’t cruel. in the non-muslim world the converse was true! especially pagans like hindus

    2) for the hindus the converse is true. why are there so many Muslims? either they are aliens biologically, which is implausible just looking at the Indian Muslims. or, the Muslims were so cruel and evil that these are people who were forced to convert at the point of a sword, not people who really changed their identity for some reason that might have to do with the attractiveness of Islam vis a vis hinduism

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  11. I dealt with a lot of original sources in my lifetime already and I came to the conclusion that most of the accounts which are not obviously forged, with a great, almost criminal energy behind it, are true and in most cases more true than highly artificial new interpretations by historians craving for recognition or being biased by their more modern ideology.

    You said it yourself: “the Turks were cruel everywhere”. That’s the truth. And they made heaps of bodies everywhere.

    Obviously the idea that all muslims must be foreign is a common propaganda topos. We find it everywhere, not just in South Asia, but also in Bosnia and Albania in Europe.
    Yet, even if the difference is small, muslims quite often have, even if their tribes converted deliberately, at least some small genetic contribution from other muslim groups, especially the one which initiated the conversion, that many of their non-muslim neighbours lack. Its exceptional if that is not the case.

    Yes, you can see many accounts of destruction and mass killings (I only use genocide if the purpose of the action is really to exterminate a people) as propagandistic exaggerations, but then again, I come back to my original argument: The original sources and their authenticity.

    Whenever it was possible, oftentimes its not or was not done until now, to prove such “horror stories” extensively, the story was for the most part true. Like if in the sources a people were “utterly destroyed with their few remains trying to find shelter among their neighbours”, as a rule, these people disappear from the historical record. And if there is archaeological evidence, they disappear from the physical record. If there is genetic data, they largely disappear as a distinctive population.

    Like always, there is propaganda from both sides, but I don’t think the original accounts were pure imagination and exaggeration at all. The experience from all regions which suffered from Turkic Muslim conquest and destruction seems to be pretty much the same.

    As for the ancestry, even the founder Mahmud of Ghazni was most likely more West Eurasian and wouldn’t have sticked out too much in various places of North India. Even less so his foot soldiers. But I’m not arguing for a great replacement among South Asian muslims at all, that would be absurd. I’m just stating that Islam was introduced to India with fire and sword, lots of death and destruction.

    But from the Muslim perspective they were even merciful, since Hindus are not even among the originally accepted book religions. So they were more tolerant than they had to be, mostly for the reasons you brought forward.

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  12. even the founder Mahmud of Ghazni was most likely more West Eurasian and wouldn’t have sticked out too much in various places of North India.

    his mother was Iranian, his father was a Turk of the steppe (one generation away from the tent). he would have been distinct. these people WERE distinct from the local people. akbar looked east Asian despite his persian mother. the elite Turks and persians called themselves ‘white’ and native converts ‘black’. there are still a few ashraf families who marry only amongst themselves and not the darker convert families.

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  13. like the Teutonic Knights and Sword Brothers in the Balkans

    You mean the Baltic region, not the Balkans?

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  14. Among my Bengali Hindu relatives, it’s a common trope that most Bengalis who converted to Islam were low caste Hindus. On the one hand it’s a put down to the Muslim community as just a bunch of Dalits or whatever, and on the other hand a very clear acknowledgment of “push factors” away from Hinduism. I don’t personally know any Hindus who deny that low castes have it bad and had it much worse before, and hence had an incentive to convert to another religion, Islam or for that matter Christianity under the British or after.

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  15. Among my Bengali Hindu relatives, it’s a common trope that most Bengalis who converted to Islam were low caste Hindus.

    the genetic data is clear that a broad swath converted. unlike w bengal caste stratification in the data is not clear, aside from a few brahmins and a few AASI (probably dalit?) shifted individuals.

    bangladeshis look a lot like w bengal kayasthas, but more east asian. i know this because i’ve looked at the data, and very few ppl besides me have.

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  16. When Genghis Khan conquered northern China he wanted to turn it into pastureland. This would mean a famine to remove the human population of the region. His Khitai advisor, Yelu Chucai, who was stepped in Confucian learning, argued that taxation of the native population would be much more profitable than the Mongols and their allies engaging in primary production through pastoralism.

    Who was right in the long term? Genghis Khan was said to have bemoaned his progeny becoming rich and decadent on the account of his struggles and triumphs. Turning north China into a pastureland would have increased the number of Mongols – and Mongol warriors – and kept their lifestyle (and facility with mounted warfare) intact all the while dramatically reducing the population and productive capacity of the Chinese. Would there even have been a Ming or something similar under that scenario?

    I think that easy riches for the dominant elites is the (long term) bane of their peoples and, eventually, the gain of another group of alien elites. There is a lesson in this for America.

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  17. I thought it was a good article. But I am a bit confused as to Razib’s arguments wrt the views of “Indian elites.” Most of the Indian elite are left-leaning cosmopolitans that would no doubt prefer Hinduism disappearing in favor of Islam.

    Then there are the nationalists. Mostly when they talk about Muslim numbers, they worry about future demography (and alleged political ramifications thereof) rather than the past. In fact, the Indian Left relitigates Partition via editorial pages far more often than does the Right (on which RSS makes some pro forma comments about a united India, and everyone else just shrugs. People have moved on.)

    There is a core of truth to the “Wounded Civilization” position, but I honestly think it’s quite overstated, and it’s usually not the main thing on people’s minds.

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  18. Most of the Indian elite are left-leaning cosmopolitans that would no doubt prefer Hinduism disappearing in favor of Islam.

    i doubt that’s true. but do you know these people personally? my exp. is a lot of ‘left-leaning’ elites are two-faced. they think Islam is fucked up privately, but virtue signal in public for various reasons.

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  19. Can’t say I’ve met one personally.

    My extended family have not been in INC’s good graces since we broke from them in the 1990s, so we won’t meet one anytime soon.

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  20. “i doubt that’s true. but do you know these people personally? my exp. is a lot of ‘left-leaning’ elites are two-faced. they think Islam is fucked up privately, but virtue signal in public for various reasons.”

    Isn’t that the truth almost everywhere? I can tell for some individuals at least, because I know how they argued about the issue before the Left became the protector of Islam and “politically correct” in the American style. When they were talking about all the negative aspects of Islamic culture from their rather Marxist point of view, especially women’s rights and emancipation, but much more than that. Now they won’t talk about it that much and being more concerned about discrimination of women wearing a scarf or veil. But in private they still know that their 1968 ideology and lifestyle is not compatible with a more Muslim society. They would be too stupid otherwise.

    Originally, a large portion of the Left was very, very critical of Islam in general. In my school time it was still more of a leftist topic than a right one. So there is not even any sort of contradiction about this. Rather, its the other way around, they contradict “Leftist” values when defending even conservative Islam.

    There is of course a big difference between criticising Islam or just some sects and groups within this religious framework and people of muslim descent in toto. What would you say about the Indian situation in this respect? Of course the line can be blurred, because if you don’t want the ideology to spread, you can’t be too fond of the numbers of formal muslims to increase either, because there is an obvious correlation and recruitment base. That is even more true in the Indian context, with such a long history of a group conflict, which can always radicalise people which wouldn’t care too much about religious dogmas otherwise, especially in places like Kashmir.

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  21. @Twinkie, fascinating alt history possibility.

    I suspect in that parallel the Han would’ve held the south, with some sort of reduced population (but still hugely in excess of the Mongol pop), while the Mongolized North probably wouldn’t have been too stable, and would have faced challengers from other pastoralist groups (Turks) etc, if maintaining internal stability. There’s also the fairly heavily mobilized agrarian “barbarians” of the Jurchen to the Northeast to deal with (who’d already produced one North Chinese dynasty, the Jin).

    Another point is that they’re trying to hold agricultural land; steppe Asian groups survive expansions of the Han in large because they’re holding pretty marginal land that is resistant to having Han civilization build a real beachhead into it. Once the Mongols try to pastoralize the north Chinese plain, that isn’t really the case; they’re on territory the Han can fight into and will hold.

    Finally, there’s a good deal of dietary isotope evidence building up that steppe empires of this time were quite dependent on grain in the diet, possibly which they gain through trade with the sedentary world (or some small farming by people on the steppe itself). They weren’t pure meat and milk consumers. Killing all the farmers who trade you that grain probably doesn’t do much good for your numbers, and may leave you worse off. (Even before we get into tax, they’re sort of dependent on trade; food imports.)

    IMO the most likely scenario would probably have been a Han equivalent of the Reconquista.

    Guys like the Mongols can maintain high levels of cavalry mobilization and lurk in the dry steppes and deserts where farming isn’t feasible (like wolves in the woods just beyond the village) for a while, and then emerge when civilizations have their periodic crises that prevent them pulling their full numbers to bear in defense in decisive battles (crises like famines, succession crises, religious and cultural civil wars, economic disunity, plagues, Malthusian immiseration, etc.).

    But the sedentary world will react, and even at relatively low levels of mobilization there is a power and fury in their numbers that the steppe can’t match, and this kind of increases through history with more advantage and stability and numbers on the sedentary side. The Han have dealt with population reduction before (large population downswings occur frequently on dynastic change, and they usually rally). The Mongols’ card was IMO kinda marked, at least for being what they were without change.

    A strategy with more chance of success might’ve been to try and absorb the Northern Han into Mongol and Inner Eurasian language or culture; like the Saxons did in Britain, or the Turks in Anatolia and so on. But that would’ve taken some effort, and I don’t think they had an interest in it (Mongol conquest was about the riches of the sedentary world, not a cultural project).

    4+
  22. Re Turchin v. Pinker, I’d guess that the earlier hunter-gatherers could be just as genocidal/pogromish as early farmers when a tribe is growing beyond its resource base (i.e., most of the time absent sufficient violence) and they think they can push out the neighboring group. Also, the population density and poorer health of farmers will give them more opportunities to die of something else besides warfare. So I’d give this one to Pinker.

    Tangential, but the one thing that always bothered me about War Before Civilization is the assertion that bows were more effective than guns until (IIRC) the mid-1800s, and that people preferred guns for psychological reasons. I highly doubt that.

    I also found Pinker more persuasive on the “what” issue of less violence over time than on the “why” issue. I don’t think we have a good answer yet as to why. Maybe Razib’s right that hegemons just got more effective both administratively and ideologically – I’m not sure.

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  23. “you’re a total moron. there were no Christian invasions of ss Africa moron. there was quinine in the late 19th century that allowed for real European colonization. and the conquistadors didn’t want to kill all the natives in the new world, they wanted to rule them and live as men of leisure (destroying the local nobility in most places). the deaths were mostly due to disease.

    you’re a moron.”

    Thank you for calling me a moron. What a great argument to further your point.

    European powers who colonised Sub-Saharan Africa did so at a time when Portugal, Spain, Britain and France were christian nations. The invasions were as much motivated by greed as by the quest to convert the subjugated people to the “one true religion”.

    The Conquistadors had a clear plan to wipe off the population and used disease as biological warfare. Smallpox were gifted to mesoamericans through infected blankets and just usual contact.

    The Valladolid debate within the Catholic Church is the definitive proof that Christendom needed to know if the natives had a soul to be converted or not. The Invasions were rooted in deep religious fanaticism. Not only the Incas were to be wiped out but all their temples and codexes were annihilated.

    The Aztec temples of Mexico City were torn down fervently by the Christians of Spain who couldn’t stand any form of paganism.

    Ghazni bragged about building walls with the skulls of Hindus but somehow the accounts of islamic commentators who were eye witnesses to the invasions don’t count anymore.

    You’re a negationist. No different from those who watching Nazi propaganda will still claim that they had no aim to wipe off Jews and Romani from all of Europe.

    You have been masquerading as an intellectual so far but your pathetic rebuttal speaks more today about your credentials than anything you’ve written so far

    2+
  24. “Who was right in the long term? Genghis Khan was said to have bemoaned his progeny becoming rich and decadent on the account of his struggles and triumphs. Turning north China into a pastureland would have increased the number of Mongols – and Mongol warriors – and kept their lifestyle (and facility with mounted warfare) intact all the while dramatically reducing the population and productive capacity of the Chinese. Would there even have been a Ming or something similar under that scenario?”

    Lots of the Mongol gains came from cities quietly surrendering to them rather than fighting it out. Causing mass famine in that way would have led to resistance against them becoming far more vigorous. If surrendering meant death, why surrender?

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  25. As owner of both farmland and ranchland, I know that farmland is about 10 times more profitable than ranchland in USA. Certainly the soil quality is determining factor followed by climate factors. Farmland is about 10 time more expensive than ranchland.

    In inner mongolia, any region with soil quality good for farming will be farmed by mongols themselve. Mongols also know farming more profitable than ranching. It is the soil quality again. Most mongolia soils are sandy type. Sandy soils have very little clay to retain nutrients and so are not fertile. It can only grow very short grass.

    One acre farmland can feed entire human family with plenty left over. One acre grassland can only feed a single cattle. The economical effect is too obvious to be ignore by mongols themselves. Mongols claim that genghis khan had IQ at 200.

    1+
  26. @Varoon: In a lot of African countries, Europeans were the first to build hospitals and schools. It was as much about spreading civilisation as it was about religion. If they would have ever wanted to wipe out the indigenous people in most regions they colonised, they could have done it. But like Razib said, the main cases of genocidal activities were done by small groups of European people which fought for land and resources for their kin and families, not by the state or church.

    “The Valladolid debate within the Catholic Church is the definitive proof that Christendom needed to know if the natives had a soul to be converted or not.”

    Wait, what do you think the colonisers would have done with the Indians if the decision would have been they had no soul? It was the adventurers and small groups of settlers in particular which would have been much happier if they were found to be soulless creatures, see the explanation from above.

    The Catholic church destroyed a lot in America, the pagan culture, but they also saved a lot of Indians with their decisions and urge to save every human soul.
    Christians of the later modern period were usually the most lenient people around, especially considering their options and military power. The few cases of real “genocides” were mostly caused by cruel guerilla wars which inevitably lead to cruel behaviour on both sides and genocidal strategies of the better organised and stronger side, to elminate the roots of the resistance – unless they don’t care if they win or lose.
    That’s different from coming in and starting your presence with huge scale massacres and mass tortures of people which begged for peace & mercy, which were ready to subject themselves anyway.

    There were such incidences too, but they are usually also well known, because they are quite rare and exceptional in modern occidental history.

    The cruelty of Azteks exceeded everything the Spanish did by the way…

    2+
  27. I have no access to the library due to COVID-19. As far as I remember, Yelü Chucai’s episode supposedly happened during Ögedei’s reign, not Chinggis Khan’s. He was only an astrological adviser to Chinggis. His role in the empire is greatly overrated partly because his son and grandson held high positions in Khubilai’s Chinese administration and had a chance to rewrite history for their Chinese audience.

    1+
  28. Small number converted and demography did the rest.

    Conversions really began after Shah Jahan & peaked with Aurangzeb in Panjab.

    Christianity in Rome was similar.

    You can look at old census of Bengal and Panjab to see the few% increase every decade till partition.

    Turks (turkey) had numeric parity and lower tfr than Greek Armenia till ww1. Today 8x more,

    http://yugaparivartan.com/2016/02/17/demographic-seize-of-al-hind/

    Hindus were there from Indonesia to Armenia.

    Probably by 2050ad will just be hated minority in India.

    35% of newborns in India already Muslim. More in cities.. Only Hindu migration from countryside has prevented full slide to civil war with outside support by Abrahamic powers.

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  29. This isn’t a question of reconquest at this point, but survival.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/eruditeobserver/status/1243003811423117312

    https://twitter.com/EruditeObserver/status/1257474932436418560?s=20

    1/2)Interesting tid-bit: Islam has achieved *THE* fastest-ever growth of any religion in human history. No other religion got THIS big, THIS global, & THIS widespread in this less of a time. It took Christianity 2000 yrs to reach 2 billion followers. Islam did it in just 1400 yrs.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/eruditeobserver/status/1259451322408955904

    This poster claims Islam already largest religion of under 30 and Muslim & Christian together outnumber Hindus 2 billion to 60 crore.

    Post 2000’s, the naturally falling birth rates in the Muslim world stabilized around 2-2.5ish or in many cases, the TFR reversed the falling trend & INCREASED upwards

    The above has been the case in most major Muslim countries

    This is uniquely a Muslim trend (bar few exceptions)

    https://twitter.com/EruditeObserver/status/1237613360742420480?s=20

    Kind of sucks for Melechas that Khalsa exists though. ‍♀️

    ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕਾਖਾਲਸਾ।।ਵਾਹਿਗੁਰੂਜੀਕੀਫਤਿਹ।।

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