5 Examples of Fine Mughal Architecture you must Know About.

Thank you for visiting Historyland today. I am delighted to share with you this post about Mughal architecture by fellow blogger, Richard Marrison from the HistoryTen website.

Richard Marrison is from Budapest, Hungary. He has an MBA in Cultural Anthropology and loves history. His love and passion for history got him to indulge in creating content on history-related topics

Introduction

The Mughals developed a style of Indo-Islamic architecture, the Mughal architecture, in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries as their empire expanded throughout the Indian subcontinent. The styles of earlier Muslim kingdoms in India evolved as a combination of Islamic, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Indian architecture.

This style of architecture has giant bulbous domes, thin minarets at corners, massive halls, large arched doorways, and exquisite ornamentation with a consistent pattern of construction and character. Some examples of the style may be encountered in modern Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan.

After Babur’s victory at Panipat in 1526, the Mughal empire was created. Babur took a keen interest in buildings during his five-year reign. However, few have survived. His grandson Akbar constructed much, and the style flourished under his rule.

Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri Fort, and the Buland Darwaza were among his achievements. Jahangir, Akbar’s son, commissioned the Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir.

, Mughal architecture achieved its pinnacle during the rule of Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal – one of the World’s Seven Wonders, the Jama Masjid, the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore – one of the greatest inventions of Indus Valley civilization, the Wazir Khan Mosque, and reconstructed the Lahore Fort. Aurangzeb, the last great Mughal architect, created the Badshahi Mosque, Bibi Ka Maqbara, Moti Masjid, and other structures.

Mughal inlay art is a notable aspect of Mughal architecture in India, and overlay art was a vibrant expression tool throughout the Mughal Empire’s golden period. The Monuments of Agra (India) depict the many stages of the evolution of Mughal Inlay art from the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries, as practiced by Akbar (r. 1556-1605), Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), and Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658).

One of the most beautiful and popular Mughal art developed indigenously in India is marble inlay, also known as ‘Pachchikari’ or ‘Parchinkari.’ It is thought to be of Italian origin.

However, some argue that it is actually of Indian origin. Combining Hindu, Persian, and Islamic themes, the Mughal architecture mainly features large bulbous onion domes, frequently flanked by four smaller domes. White marble and red sandstone are also frequently used.

Other attributes of Mughal architecture also comprise delicate ornamentation work, such as Pachin Kari ornamental work and jali-latticed screens. Monumental structures are enclosed on all four sides by gardens. Mosques also feature expansive courtyards. Likewise, inscriptions in Persian and Arabic calligraphy also include Quranic verses. Moreover, Mughal architecture also inspired later Indian architectural designs such as the British Raj’s Indo-Saracenic style, the Rajput style, and the Sikh style.

Here are some of the most celebrated Mughal Architectures of all time.

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore

The Shalimar Gardens are a Mughal garden complex in Lahore, Pakistan. The gardens date from the Mughal Empire’s artistic and aesthetic zenith and are today one of Pakistan’s most famous tourist sites. Designed as a Persian paradise garden, the Shalimar Gardens depict an earthly ideal in which humans coexist in perfect equilibrium with all aspects of nature.

The gardens’ construction began in 1641, under the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, and was completed in 1642. The Shalimar Gardens were included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1981 because they represent Mughal garden design at its pinnacle.

Mughal Gardens were inspired by Timurid gardens created between the 14th and 16th centuries in Central Asia and Iran. A high brick wall elaborately ornamented with complex fretwork encloses the location, allowing for the development of a Charbagh paradise garden – a perfect illustration of earthly heaven.

The Shalimar Gardens are architecturally shaped in the form of a rectangle with a north-south axis, measuring 658 meters by 258 meters and covering an area of 16 hectares. Each terrace level is 4–5 m (13–15 ft) taller than the one before. The gardens’ highest terrace is Bagh-e-Farah Baksh, which translates as “Bestower of Pleasure.” The second and third embankments are the Bagh-e-Faiz Baksh, which translates as Bestower of Goodness.

Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi

The Humayun’s Tomb is the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, India. Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum) commissioned the tomb in 1558, and it was created by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad, Persian architects chosen by her.

It was the earliest garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It is located in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, India, near the Dina-Panah Citadel, also known as Purana Qila (Old Fort), which Humayun discovered in 1533. It was also the first skyscraper on a large scale to use red sandstone. The tomb was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and has since undergone substantial repair work, which has now been completed.

The complex includes the main tomb of Emperor Humayun, which contains the graves of Empress Bega Begum, Hamida Begum, and Dara Shikoh, Humayun’s great-great-grandson and son of the later Emperor Shah Jahan, as well as the graves of numerous subsequent Mughals, including Emperor Jahandar Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Rafi Ul-Darjat, Rafi Ud-Daulat, Muhammad Kam.

It was a breakthrough in Mughal construction. It established a precedent for succeeding Mughal architecture with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens but had never been seen in India previously. It is viewed as a significant divergence from his father, the first Mughal Emperor, Babur’s humble monument in Kabul, known as Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur) (Afghanistan).

Lahore Fort

The Lahore Fort is a fortress in the Pakistani city of Lahore. The stronghold is positioned at the northern extremity of Lahore’s walled city and covers an area of more than 20 hectares. It is home to 21 famous monuments, some of which date back to the reign of Emperor Akbar. The Lahore Fort is famous for being virtually entirely constructed in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire was at its apex of splendor and opulence.

Though the Lahore Fort site has been inhabited for millennia, the oldest trace of a fortified structure was an 11th-century mud-brick fort. The contemporary Lahore Fort was built in 1566 by Emperor Akbar, who gave the fort a syncretic architectural style with Islamic and Hindu influences.

Shah Jahan’s period additions are distinguished by sumptuous marble with inlaid Persian floral designs. At the same time, the fort’s grand and famous Alamgiri Gate was built by Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughal Emperors, and confronts the renowned Badshahi Mosque.

The Tomb of Jahangir in Lahore

The Tomb of Jahangir is a 17th-century tomb constructed for Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The mausoleum was built in 1637 in Shahdara Bagh, near Lahore, Pakistan, along the banks of the Ravi River.

The site is noteworthy for its interiors, which are highly painted with frescoes and marble, and its exterior is richly ornamented with pietra dura.

The mausoleum, along with the nearby Akbari Sarai and the Tomb of Asif Khan, is part of an ensemble that has been proposed for UNESCO World Heritage classification.

The tomb was built in the Mughal style, influenced by Persia’s Safavid-style architecture. The mausoleum is designed as a takhtgah, or a mausoleum built on a pedestal that acts as a Takht, or “throne.” Except there is no takhtgah on the podium, and it does not appear to have ever been erected.

Jahangir’s mausoleum, like Akbar’s, lacks a central dome because the Emperor is said to have expressly forbidden the erection of a dome over his tomb. Domes were also initially utilized in Mughal funerary architecture at the Tomb of Humayun and were revived by Shah Jahan.

The Taj Mahal

And finally, perhaps the most famous example of the most exemplary Mughal architecture in the world, the Taj Mahal (translated as the ‘Crown of the Palace’), is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the right bank of the Yamuna river in Agra, India.

It was built in 1632 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628–1658) to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses Shah Jahan’s tomb.

The tomb is the focal point of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex containing a mosque and a guest house. It is placed in traditional gardens surrounded by a crenelated wall on three sides.

In 1983, UNESCO declared the Taj Mahal a World Heritage Site for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the globally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

Many consider it an outstanding example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich past.

The Taj Mahal receives about 6 million tourists every year[3], and it was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative’s winners in 2007.

The Taj Mahal includes and develops on Indo-Islamic and older Mughal architectural design traditions. Specific inspiration came from successful Timurid and Mughal buildings such as the Gur-e Amir (the tomb of Timur, the progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, in Samarkand), Humayun’s Tomb, which inspired the Charbagh gardens and hasht-behesht (architecture) plan of the site, and the Itmad-Ud-Tomb Daulah’s (also known as the Baby Taj).

Shah Jahan Earlier Mughal structures were mainly made of red sandstone, but Shah Jahan encouraged the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones. Buildings built under his patronage attained unprecedented heights of refinement, as seen on the Taj Mahal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the most significant feature of Mughal architecture?

The inflated dome structure found in every building was the primary characteristic of Mughal architecture. The roof of the dome is hemispherical.

What distinguishes Mughal architecture?

The Mughal era saw a remarkable renaissance of Islamic architecture in northern India. Persian, Indian, and diverse regional styles were combined under the patronage of the Mughal emperors to extract works of remarkable quality and finesse.

Conclusion

With its ideal blend of Islamic, Turkish, Indian, and Persian components, Mughal architecture has created masterpieces that never cease to astound visitors.

During their 300-year reign in India, the Mughals built a lot of magnificent first mosques, tombs, and palaces, leaving their imprint on the country’s heritage splendor.

The sheer aesthetic brilliance and grandeur of these creations continue to elevate the country’s tourism. Millions of people visit India and Pakistan to see the grandeur and splendor of Mughal structures today.

Book Review: An account of the Military Campaign of the Year 1812 : Edited and translated with additional notes and commentary by Jimmy Chen

  • Format Paperback | 102 pages
  • Dimensions 152 x 229 x 6mm | 159g
  • Publication date 25 Dec 2018
  • Publisher Independently Published
  • Language English
  • Illustrations note Illustrations, black and white
  • ISBN10 1983002119
  • ISBN13 9781983002113

Maligned as the cautious, wily, German General in War and Peace, forgotten as just another Fabian General who should’ve been behind a desk in St Petersburg who feared to oppose Napoleon, by historians, Field Marshal Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly was one of Russia’s foremost soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars, but due to these perceptions and a multitude of factors people are quick to discount him. 

” … never has a commander-in-chief of any army found himself in such an unfavourable position as I did” noted Barclay de Tolly, remembering the warm days of mid summer in 1812 as the 1st and 2nd Western Armies at marched to combine at Smolensk.

Barclay de Tolly was not a coward, nor was he, in the early months of the campaign disinterested in opportunities to strike at Napoleon’s monstrous array as it trudged towards the heart of the Russian empire, but he knew what later would become clear to the allied planners who formulated the Trachenberg plan; that glamorous maneuvers were not the only way to win wars. In his own words to the Tsar he plainly argued that during these first months of marching and fighting, in war the state was the army and as went one so would follow the other.

“would not a fanciful attempt at glory by handing the fate of the Empire to the powers of blind fate amount to a betrayal of the fatherland? Were such dreams of glorious maneuvers necessary at that time, when the aim of the war was to destroy the enemy, the enslaver of Europe?”

In his account Barclay made no secret of his opinion that he had followed the logical course to keep the army moving unless certain victory was at hand, and attributed the chaos of Borodino to General Bennigsen , who redistributed the staff officers of the army after the amalgamation under Kutuzov and thus ‘The commanding generals themselves were left with no staff officers who could report to them’ and was “sufficient to undermine the direction of the army as established by the new procedures, and amounted to the nullification of the commander-in-chief’s power.” 

Though only a few names are mentioned, Barclay is very careful not to mention his issues with Grand Duke Constantine for instance, and took great care to state his case concisely. The procedures Barclay spoke of were of course his own reforms as minister of war, that in great part had prepared the Russian army for the complicated and dangerous maneuvers they had undertaken so far, reminding us that his main object in writing this account was to present a record of his services.

Wether or not, as Barclay noted ‘the commanders-in-chief of the two armies were made completely redundant,’ in the leadup to Borodino therefore reflects a bias or reality, the ruinous performance of the Russian staff at the battle is plain to see, helping us to see Barclay’s point of view, and as such readers will benefit from some foreknowledge of the campaign.

The style is terse and factual, though not onerously laboured with military minutia or theory, laced throughout is instead a forceful appeal to see things as Barclay saw them. In these pages his exhaustion through physical and mental fatigue, the veritable slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and the strain of opposing Napoleon are plainly laid out.

This is not to say that the account is dry entirely, a novelist or man of letters Barclay de Tolly may not have been, but he did pick out some excellent moments of interaction that form colourful vignettes especially the council of Fili, and his summations come through with the greatest force, for in the end history did bear him out, because as it proved, neither Smolensk, Moscow nor even the very soil occupied by Napoleon’s horde constituted Russia in 1812, and so long as the army survived so too would the country.

The book is rounded out by a short biographical introduction and an index of names for those figures highlighted in the text as well as notes and a commentary section. This edition has one picture of Barclay, and at this time no maps. 

Such as being the case this summary of the operations of the 1st western army (and to some degree the second) translated into English for the first time, giving insight into the political infighting in Russian headquarters alongside an outline of Barclay’s intentions, is a vital aid to research, and will help improve our understanding of this pivotal event in the Napoleonic Wars.

Book Review: Sex & Sexuality in Stuart Britain by Andrea Zuvich.

“a highly informative picture, both raw and wry, of human relationships in 17th century Britain”

Date Published :September 2020
Publisher :Pen and Sword
Illustration :50 black and white illustrations Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781526753076 Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Pages : 232

I’m going to preface this review by observing that, along with violence and to some extent political intrigue, the goings on behind bedroom doors, and beneath the privacy of a bedcover, is a prime reason historical fiction remains popular.

Visual and print entertainment thrives on arousing the passions of it’s audience with ever more gratuitous and graphic depictions of violence and sex. Going where those languid portraits of silk and satin swathed beauties and formal victorious-general battle scenes merely hinted at …

I don’t think I really need to name names here but … ahem, I’m looking at Versailles. (For the 17th century anyway) …

So, given the immense amount of books detailing the reality of historical violence, which I may say I myself have contributed to, it is only right that scholars and authors should also make factual reality available for the romantic side of popular interest. 

Gentle Reader; so Andrea Zuvich begins her book,  following in the tradition of 17th century epistles to the reader. The author has a calm, comforting tone, wry and amusing in the right places, but firm where needed, she holds the reader’s hand, not in a patronizing way, but in the way a friend does for another.

Stringent on period niceties, the author bravely opens herself to all manner of criticism for refusing to pander to modern values and determinedly strives to allow the reader to understand her subject in the way it was understood at the time.

Promising to tread carefully on her reader’s ears and sensibilities, the book, though softly couched, squares its shoulders and carries the burden of its intimate subject without blinking. It is far from pornographic, nor is it by any means elicit, and to those who are titilated (to use a favoured phrase from the pages) rather than amused, an icy bucket of water awaits you in the section regarding diseases. Bringing to mind the story of how a pubescent Nicholas II was brought to view to a syphilis ward to ensure the youth remained relatively chaste. The second half of the book, leaves the general subject behind in favour of explorsironsninto the love lives of the Stuart monarchy 

Fear not either that just because the title is bold it is necessarily a gleeful rampage through smut and scandal. The book covers with encyclopedic thoroughness all manner of things from premarital affairs, to marriage customs and legalities, medical considerations, contraception, romantic and political factors, gender roles, divorce, and a host more practical and unusual topics that make the Stuart’s seem at once familiar and at the same time distant. I appreciated that in the chapter on same sex relationships the author cautions her readers and makes clear that perception of homosexuality and actual homosexuality are not the same thing. 

The book is based in large part on a great many contemporary works that are either outright erotic in nature, (the primary purpose being to arouse), scientific, or sort of self help, alongside with the more preachy pamphlets and sermons admonishing uncleanliness in a less godless time. These not only speak to glamorous liaisons and powerful marriages in the Stuart Court, but to everyday people attempting to negotiate life and love. The result is a highly informative picture, both raw and wry of human relationships in 17th century Britain.

Nepal: The Latest Battlefield of the New Silk Roads.

Current events of the US/China rivalry for emerging markets coincide with the anniversary of the last major Battle of the Anglo Nepalese War.

A curious historical poetry attends the looming conclusion to the current political crisis in Nepal.

Although largley unreported outside of Asia a political divide in the Himalayan nation looks to highlight the struggle for economic influence in this part of the world between China and the United States, and the role of developing country’s in the competition between the two superpowers.

In the last 10 months, the process of ratifying of the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) agreement, a $5M grant for Nepal’s energy infrastructure, agreed to between the USA and Nepal in 2017, has gone from a blink and you’ll miss it business investment deal to a political football that has split the 5 party coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba

Sources inside Nepal say that although work paid for by the grant had already begun, an ideological tussle about wether to accept the money and what that might mean has hijacked a the stability of the government, but also said that these melodramatic schisms are par for the course in Nepalese politics.

The far left parties, have asked what America wants in return for the money; voicing objections on the grounds that ratifying the compact will threaten the sovereignty of Nepal. Protesters, stirred up, we are told, by the various parties have been taking to the streets of Katmandu, where violent clashes with the police have been seen, deepening the issue.

With delays and deadlock in Katmandu the United States issued a carefully worded but undoubtedly pointed ultimatum to the effect that if the agreement wasn’t ratified by the 28th of February, the grant could be withdrawn and ties with Nepal re-evaluated, a move readily condemned by Beijing. 

Katmandu 2020, photograph by Shadow Ayush

By some accident, this date has an echo in Nepalese history. Over 200 years ago, in early 1816, the country, which was ruled by the Gorkha monarchs of the Shah dynasty and their powerful ministers, faced another crisis. During the Anglo Nepalese war, having survived two years of conflict already, the Gurkhas opposed the might of the East India Company alone. At this time neither the independent states of India, such as the Marathas and the Sikh Khalsa, nor the exterior nations on the periphery of British influence, Burma (Myanmar), Bhutan, or even the mighty Empire of the Qin (China) could be convinced to join the Nepal to resist the British. 

Without allies, and facing the march of over 35,000 men and over 80 guns from all fronts, their only hope lay in a miraculous military victory or ratifying a treaty that at first glance seemed quite generous, but all in the Gurkha ruling class, feared the loss of Nepali sovereignty if they tamely accepted. 

Amar Singh Tapa. Wikipedia.

Negotiations had been droning on for much of 1815 regarding a treaty which would remove much of Nepal’s recently acquired territory, and settle land grants and pensions on those who accepted. The Nepalese government was especially split over the question of wether land in the fertile Terai region should be retained in lieu of promised British pensions.

The so called Living Lion of Nepal, Amar Singh Tapa, her greatest hero, was staunch on the matter of rejecting the treaty if the British would not assent. The delay in signing the Nepalese copy as the factions argued meant that Governer General Hastings was obliged to render their arguments moot, and ordered that the matter be resolved with force.

His field commander, Major General David Ochterlony marched in hopes of peace however, and rather than drag out an already protracted war, he was ready to entertain lenient terms which were at odds with Hasting’s wish for an unconditional surrender from the Nepal Durbar. 

In late February 1816, after entering Nepalese territory, Ochterlony was assured that the treaty had been ratified and would be handed over at Makwanpur (Makwanpurgadhi). Unsure as to the veracity of the information, the British general continued his advance and halted at that place on the 27th, in view of the fort and the valley, where the Karara river bisected the pastures and forest below the undulating ridges. 

Elephants in the rear of the British force attacking the ridge and fort of Jytock. J.B. Fraser. British Library

As it happened no further diplomatic overtures followed the arrival of the British and on the next day, the 28th of February, a bitter battle took place as the Gurkha forces attempted to drive the British back in the difficult terrain. Despite the bravery and skill of the outnumbered Nepalese, led by courageous Subas like Krishna Bahadur Rana, the British were able to force them to retreat. Militarily speaking nothing now could stop the invaders reaching Katmandu, and with news of other reverses coming in, the Nepal Durbar conceded defeat on 5 March 1816.

America’s choice of the date by which Nepal must ratify the MCC therefore is eerily evocative, being the anniversary of the Battle of Makwanpur. It superficially chimes in rhyme with past events (which we must doubt Washington is at all aware of) and cannot fail to have great significance for those who oppose the compact. Speaking to the India based news agency WION, one of the anti MCC protestors marching in the streets of Katmandu some weeks ago, declared that the MCC was nothing more than the beginnings of a new East India Company coming to loot the country.

Nepal is proud of having avoided direct annexation and retaining almost complete sovereignty during the British period, where the country was treated as a valued, albeit dependent, ally. Unlike places such as Delhi, or Seringapatam there was to be no looting of Katmandu. Of course the issue today it is not so simple as an enemy army at the gates, indeed a wider game is being played here quite apart from the squabbling in the capital.

As a developing nation in a critical part of the world, Nepal is not short of interest parties and America is not alone in applying pressure. China has made little secret of the fact that it feels the MCC is a poorly disguised arm of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and thus a direct strategic challenge to the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), of which Nepal is a member.

The United States has been similarly blunt in condemning the so called Chinese misinformation campaign which is cited as being at the heart of the anti MCC movement. Equally the Chinese Foreign Ministry recently branded the American ultimatum an insult and a threat to Nepalese sovereignty, and neither side can be condemned for thinking the other is not stirring the pot. Indeed it seems painfully obvious that a great deal of stirring is going on.

Nepal’s majority congress party is the main proponent of the pact, and the communists and socialists oppose them. But despite them being the larger in the coalition, Nepal, historically has remained sceptical of the United States and pliant to China. If China is spreading misinformation it has a ready ear in the communist party which is naturally ready to believe the intentions of the Americans are by inclination negative. 

The International Convention Centre. Meeting place of the Nepalese Parliament.

It certainly cannot be denied that the grant would see unavoidable foreign interest grow in Nepal, likely through the hydroelectric industry, but the US assures Nepal, the grant has nothing to do with the Indo-Pacific strategy and is a decision for the Nepalese alone, this despite having representatives previously blurt out that it is essentially an arm of the IPS.

For those who oppose the pact, this tallies with what China has been warning about. But is China the only side that is spreading misinformation here?

Accusations from northern Nepal of encroachment by the Chinese across the passable border points seem to hint at something unsettling and at the same time absurd. These accusations, spread through an apparently leaked Nepalese Government report are denied by Beijing, and indeed the Nepalese government itself has not confirmed lodging a complaint. Pro China voices in Katmandu are pointing the finger at the BBC for printing the story to spreading false rumours to stir up anti Chinese sentiment. 

Essentially, two can play the misinformation game, as the reported protests against encroachment show, people on the ground are always eager to listen to authoritative voices. And the fate of the MCC will perhaps be a telling indicator as to who is winning the economic race in Asia.

As of the 21st the compact has been tabled in the Nepalese Parliament, and headway has apparently been made by the pro MCC Prime Minister, in the political deadlock but much still seems uncertain, if not painfully fragile.

Sir David Ochterloy. (c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

For Nepal in 1816, the Gurkhas were fortunate that David Ochterlony was the man they were dealing with directly, he being a rare breed of British officer and EIC administrator who had no wish to prolong a war for profit and thus was not inclined to be heavy handed in treaty demands. His men were sick, and his pay-chest light, and he wanted the war to end. 

Nepal was never annexed, Katmandu never looted, and British interference thereafter was much more limited than say it was in Punjab. Nepal’s sovereignty remained intact throughout the British period and despite the obvious blow in the cession of territory in the short term, the Himalayan kingdom’s close relationship with the British during the height of their power in South Asia could be said to have remained mostly beneficial until the 20th century.

It cannot be said that this was any more obvious to the Gurkha elite in 1816, arguing over wether to fight to the last or sign the treaty, than the outcome of the MCC crisis of the 21st century is to the current government. What is highlighted here is not just the weakness and factionalism within the Nepalese parliament, but an example of the greater competitive economic struggle between China and the United States for control of what is essentially supply of the building blocks of day to day life. Access to housing, energy, commerce and communication. This high stakes contest is being played out in developing countries across the east, unseen for the most part, and the nations themselves are the playing pieces.

We might hope that if the MCC passes by the anniversary of Makwanpur it will benefit the people of Nepal. But the question is can Nepal indeed keep its head afloat and benefit from being amongst the many developing nations currently being tugged too and fro in the scramble for what Peter Frankopan has called the new silk roads.

The Ottoman Wahhabi War

The destabilisation of the Ottoman Empire through internal issues, Russian expansionism in the Caucuses and Balkans not to mention direct French intervention in Egypt and Syria between 1798-1801 created opportunities for ambitious leaders like Muhammad Ali Pasha and Saud Al Kabeer (the great) to carve out nations from the flesh of the empire.

In 1811 the Ottoman Sultan Mahmoud II ordered Muhammad Ali Pasha (the supposed Wāli in Egypt) to redouble efforts to pacify Arabia, where in 1802 the House of Saud had gone on a conquering spree under the expansionist, Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Al Kabeer) Emir of Diriyah netting the holy city of Mecca as a prize.

Though ostensibly on the job since 1807, Ali had other things on his mind than fighting in Arabia, (such as massacring Mamelukes to secure his power-base) but he was content to let Istanbul believe the fiction of Egyptian fealty. He dispatched his son Tusun Pasha with 10,000 men, but Saud Al Kebeer defeated him at Al-Safra in 1812.


Despite stubborn Saudi resistance, Tusun Pasha was reinforced with another 10,000 men & was able to recapture Al Medina and Mecca. The Saudi Emir then died in 1814. Tusun was also ailing and agreed to a treaty with Abdullah bin Saud in which Hijaz was surrendered & vassalage offered.

Neither Ali nor the Sultan ratified the treaty with the House of Saud. In 1816 Tusun Pasha died and with mutual distrust rampant, the war resumed with Ali’s other son, Ibrahim Pasha taking command & driving the Saudi Emir and his fanatical “Wahhabis” (more properly Salafis) into the desert of Nejd.


Ibrahim Pasha was leading a reinvigorated Egyptian army, newly reformed and reorganised against the Emirate’s Wahhabi die-hards. The “Wahhabi’s” being adherents of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, a Sunni scholar who wanted to reform what he saw as Islam’s decedent devotion to saints and rituals. His puritanical followers dealt harshly with their “unclean” Co-religionists as a result and the objection to the veneration of Muslim saints extended to banning the name of the Ottoman sultans in Friday prayers. The Saud Emirs of Diriyah were the greatest champions of Abd al-Wahhab’s teachings.


Therefore, nothing short of totally subjugation would be tolerated by Istanbul & Cairo, after Wahhabi, massacres, desecrations of orthodox holy sights and direct insults to the Sultan.
In 1818 Ibrahim brought his forces, now swollen to 30,000 men to the gates of Diriyah, having marched across the desert and ruthlessly massacring the male population of Dhurma to sap the heart of the rebels. However, the great fortress held out for six months with huge loss of life on both sides.


Outnumbered & starving, the Wahhabi defenders surrendered Diriyah on 9 Sept. Abdullah bin Saud was taken to Cairo & protected for a time, but despite promises to spare the the city, Diriyah was sacked, & the emir himself was reluctantly sent to Istanbul & beheaded in 1819.


The fall of the Diriyah Emirate also known as the 1st Saudi State, brought an end to the period of Sunni Islamist “Wahhabi” expansionism though did not wipe it out & neither the faltering power of the Sultan nor the rising power of Egypt managed to assert dominance over Arabia, and the Saudi state would rise again.

Book Review: The Armies of Sir Ralph Hopton by Laurence Spring.

General – Pages : 220 | Images : 25 b/w illustrations, 9 b/w maps, 8 pages colour plates, numerous tables

Paperback – Date of Publication : December 2020 | Size : 248mm x 180mm | ISBN : 9781913336516 | Helion Book Code : HEL1277

https://www.helion.co.uk/military-history-books/the-armies-of-sir-ralph-hopton-the-royalist-armies-of-the-west-1642-46.php?sid=57b28c0c5b1dd0dc71ca13fbf33bfea9

One (or perhaps we should say three) of the the most important armies that ever took the field for King Charles between 1642 and 1646 was that which included they famed regiments of Cornish infantry.

Renowned as both disciplined and fierce, the dogged westerners won fame in several important battles, and some go so far as to say that as the Cornish armies under Sir Ralph Hopton declined, so too did Royal fortunes dwindle. Perhaps only the little army commanded by Montrose in the north has as great a reputation as Hopton’s flinty West Country regiments.

Laurence Spring has gone a long way to creating the ultimate reference for the armies of Ralph Hopton, and indeed a very useful book to own about 17th century soldiering in Britain generally. Perhaps geared towards serious students than general readers, the book is not entangled in jargon, presenting a clearly thought out and carefully constructed presentation of the makeup of the western royalist forces.

Speaking as someone with only basic knowledge of how the civil wars in England, Scotland and Ireland were conducted, I found this book extremely enlightening. It is packed with detail drawn from allot of contemporary or near contemporary sources.

Those old stalwarts, the muster rolls and other administrative minutiae are consulted to form a picture of the type of men who served the King in the West Country. Everything from recruitment to weaponry, rates of pay and life on campaign is gone into with the same investigative thoroughness.

The author is not content either to find a convenient bottom line to present the reader for the sake of a neat paragraph, but presents a whole range of anomalies and contributing factors to each section. In the 17th century, exceptions tended to prove the rule, and this is especially obvious when he looks at how the royalist regiments were raised, trained and equipped.

The recruitment and commissioning of men and officers shows us how the struggled insinuated itself at all levels of society, and how seriously (and not so seriously) some gentry and nobility took their service. Readers more seasoned to military history will find it as no surprise that there was a degree of mixing in terms of the rank and file, and for instance, not every Cornish Regiment was made up of Cornishmen.

As noted above, although this is an invaluable insight into the workings of the royalist armies of Cornwall and Devon due to its deep level of research, but it’s also a good general work on ‘soldiering’ in the period, which we come to see somewhat less as a profession as in many cases a group of men who have mastered the use of arms for a fixed period. As such even those who are pursuing a wider impression civil wars, rather than just people specifically studying the western royalist forces, will find its many observations and findings of interest.

Happy Reading!

Josh.

Book Review: The Danish Army of the Napoleonic Wars 1801-1814 by David Wilson.

(Vols 1 & 2)

Amongst aficionados and buffs of military history, not least the majority of academics, the shores of the Baltic are a backwater of the Napoleonic Wars. The scene of moderately interesting special operations (Evacuation of the Romana Divison), a place of backstory for Wellington and Nelson (Operations against Copenhagen) and the scene of highly abbreviated campaigns over territorial possessions that were surprisingly influential in the tangled web of Napoleonic politics, (Russo-Swedish and Dano-Swedish Wars and the founding of the house of Bernadotte).

As a result very little time is given to the military forces of the Norse kingdoms of Denmark-Norway and Sweden (and Finland), dismissed as Bernadotte’s toy soldiers in the latter case and a nonentity of militias in the former. But the makeup and administration of the Danish army of the Napoleonic Wars will carry the reader beyond the field of discarded Clogs that is conjured whenever the Battle of Køge (1807) is mentioned. 

Much as surveys of the minutiae and material culture of military history may be dismissed as mere rivet counting, David A. Wilson highlights the importance for military historians to be aware of the intricacies of the military machines at work in his excellent 3 volume series of books on the organisation, uniforms and equipment of the Danish land forces of the period.

In an age of reform, Revolution and innovation, there is much to observe in the armies of what we might term the lesser powers, and a look at the organisation of their armies, the challenges they faced and the ambitions of their leaders can greatly inform the popular narrative of this war. 

Far from a pathetic rabble of militias, Wilson points the reader directly to a few home truths about the Danish army in a succinct and direct historical overview before digging into a breathtakingly detailed summary of uniforms and trappings that all writers of fiction, war-gamers and serious military historians wanting some basis in English for the war in the Baltic. 

In 1802 the Danish army was looking to the future and trying to create a strong military deterrent to a host of enemies. Indeed few countries can have been as luckless as Denmark between 1802 and 1814. That being said they had taken steps to secure their position after the upheaval of the 1790’s. Entering the league of armed neutrality and introducing sweeping reforms had taken hold of their armed forces and created a national army of conscripts, well equipped and well trained according to military thinkers like Von Huth, and led by capable generals like Carl of Hessen. 

The importance of a slew of German military thinkers on the kingdoms of Europe cannot be understated in the development of warfare at the end of the 18th century. Wilhelm Heinrich Von Huth, Who was an artillery commander under Frederick the Great, made reforms that braced Denmark’s armed forces for the trials to come and indeed were the bedrock of their effectiveness up to 1850. His innovative use of all available European improvements created a singular Danish model for the kingdom, which though unlikely to sweep away the other systems was more than suitable for the aggressive tactical doctrines that came to typify the kingdom.

A large national army, well equipped and trained with intelligent, well educated, if not brilliant officers emerged where they could, as an unusually aggressive and capable army. Hordes of skirmishers advanced before the infantry battalions who moved in lines rather than columns, light artillery rushing forwards, impelled by the doctrine to get into action and aim well, as there was no shame in losing a gun that had been well served. Trotting behind came equally waspish squadrons of horse, who showed considerable dash and elan when called to drive off inumberble Cossack and irregular columns after Leipzig.

As a military force, in 1813, the Danish division impressed even the iron marshal Davout during the siege of Hamburg, the infantry and cavalry showing great potential, displaying a marked mastery of light infantry warfare and all arms cooperation with startlingly aggressive cavalry, as the Russians, Swedish and Prussians found out as the French allied forces retreated from Northern Germany in the winter of 1813. Some might have heard of the defeat at Copenhagen and Køge, but few will have heard of the Battles of Boden and Sehested where Prince Hessen’s men proved why Davout had bend moved to declare that ‘I march as happily with them as I would with any French veterans.’

These books bring home the fact that Europe was in the throes of another military revolution even before the Napoleonic Wars broke out, and it is fascinating to see how Denmark prepared for the tumult ahead, creating a progressive and modern army that made them, (or should have made them) an attractive ally for the enemies of Napoleon. I am sure these books will be the start of many people’s investigations into the Norse and Baltic theatres of the Napoleonic Wars.

Content wise books are startlingly through, covering organisation, equipment, tactics, rations, recruitment, colours, horse tack, service, weapons and a multitude of uniform details and variations for infantry, technical branches, artillery, staff and cavalry and their various evolutions between 1802-1814. Each is illustrated by the author, who works under the name Jackdaw, and offers incredibly detailed and indeed charming uniform plates that will be a great boon to modellers and reenactors.

Volume 1 gives a general introduction and then focuses on the staff and infantry. Volume 2 progresses to the Cavalry and Artillery and Volume 3 will cover the forces in Norway and the militia. These are large format softcovers, almost A5 in size and will probably be very handy for direct visual reference when painting the Perry Miniatures range.

The weaknesses of the series remain in the lack of foot or end notes, relying for reference on a through bibliography. There are a few tactical diagrams but the majority of the images are those created by the author and among the interesting appendixes can be found a list of images that can be looked up. A lack of index is perhaps also a little frustrating but as the books are well structured navigating them for reference isn’t a problem.

Works like this in English are to be applauded not just for the thoroughness, as for many the Baltic theatre of the war remains illusive due to the language barrier,  I eagerly look forward to the Norwegian and militia volume.

Thanks for reading!

Josh.

Book Review: The Life and Tryals of the Gentleman Pirate, Major Stede Bonnet by Jeremy R. Moss

  • Köelher Books
  • 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-64663-149-0
  • https://www.koehlerbooks.com/writer/jeremy-r-moss/
  • https://www.authorjeremymoss.com

If you’ve ever read about pirates, you might have heard of Stede Bonnet especially if I’m your reading you’ve seen something about Blackbeard. But if you’ve only heard of him then you might well be puzzled. This was what author, Jeremy Moss found when he began his search to find out the truth about the ‘Gentleman Pirate.’

Though rather obscure today, Bonnet was better known than some in the 18th century, indeed he was known in his day as one of the more infamous pirates of the Atlantic and Caribbean. But is this deserved?

Amongst student of maritime crime, Bonnet is known as a bit of a joke, and Moss’ critical eye for detail makes him perfectly suited to act as his biographer. Bonnet was a wealthy gentleman who seemingly had a midlife crisis and joined the 18th century equivalent of a biker gang, only he bought all the bikes and hired all the riders to form his gang. 

“the author brings the reader into constant contact with important contemporary sources, such as trial records, later history and collections of state papers. Not enough pirate history does this”

Though it is true that he learned a great deal from being the prisoner of Blackbeard, and associations with others like Charles Vane, by the time of his capture he had learned how to act like a pirate, cruising and capturing passing craft casually from a secluded inlet, and puffing and blowing about taking revenge on ships from Carolina, and threatening to shoot any of his crew dead who refused to fight. As Moss brings us through the story of his unusual life, one even begins to wonder who was conning who when it came to Blackbeard. 

This book highlights very well the difference between the wannabe apprentice pirate captain Bonnet and ‘real’ pirates, who acted according to codes and traditions and considered themselves a loose brotherhood, hence they felt entitled to act in certain ways depending on who had done what in disregard of the rules. We see this when Moss looks into his motivations in turning criminal. Jacobite sympathies (a popular affectation by certain captains) mixed with, mid life crisis & literal dementia is an original hypothesis, and one that is actually borne out by the available sources. 

When I read the book, I loved how the author brings the reader into constant contact with important contemporary sources, such as trial records, later history and collections of state papers. Not enough pirate history does this, and it will really enable a serious student to do some proper digging. *doffs cocked hat*.

Stede actually got off to a good start but he wasn’t a typical pirate as he literally owned his ship & the crew had bounties, but he revealed he was no sailor and then got hammered by a Spanish Man O’ War.

The hero, for all his faults is treated kindly, for instance Bonnet is thought by the author to have likely remained faithful to his wife. I suspect the author is trying to make Bonnet out to be less than the figure of fun that he is commonly ascribed. And it’s true Bonnet isn’t implicated with women in the record.

Apart from a few small things, mostly cosmetic to do with naval terminology and weaponry, which gave me no pause to doubt the overall narrative, there were no speed bumps. A highly detailed coverage of the trial of the pirates takes up part two of the book, offering day by day narrative of the proceedings, yielding many interesting points for studious readers, and some are also amusing, such as Chief Justice Alein becoming irritated when he could get no straight answer as to wether or not Bonnet was, as he called it ‘commander in chief’ of the pirate ship. 

This wonderful moment of anecdote shows us not only the singularity of the semi-diplomatic nature of pirate crews, but we can also see the novelty of it at the time, as the confused Chief Justice becomes increasingly irate at the mention of the power of the pirate quartermaster exceeding that of Bonnet.

Excellent appendixes round out the book, which is in sum highly readable and supremely informative. I look forward eagerly to Moss’ future work.

Book Review: The story of China by Michael Wood.

The Story of China was a book I was not looking for but in a way I had been waiting for it since at least 2014. In late 2020 I found myself remembering that Michael Wood had not only made an appearance on twitter but that he had written a book on China. The subject of Chinese history is not a small one. From my own brief divergences into the subject of Qing military affairs, for which I read Lovell’s book on the Opium War in 2014, and my reading of Jung Chang’s biography of Empress Dowager Cixi in 2016, I was aware of the daunting scale of the ground I would have to cover in order to better my understanding of one of the world’s great civilisations.

Everything that is united will fall apart and everything that is fallen apart will come back together again. So it has always been.

When during the brief breath between UK lockdowns in the autumn of 2020 I saw the golden eyes of the sinuous, wild haired jade dragon, coiling up through the gilt clouds that frame the title, in a bookshop window I realised that if I was ever to step towards a better understanding of how to interact with Chinese history, Michael Wood would be the author I would trust to guide me.

My confidence in Wood stems from when, again, many years ago, I had reached out and pulled from a bookshelf in Waterstones Inverness a reprint of Wood’s Conquistadors. I then consumed as many of his documentaries as I could, including the documentary on China, which I watched for inspiration after I had been persuaded to review Frank Dikotter’s book on the Cultural Revolution. For all this I felt reassured in purchasing it, not only for the rare beauty and quality of the production of the hardback, but because Wood knows how to write grand history of great complexity with great accessibility. 

Having finally found the time between pressing projects to finish it, I can happily say, my faith has been rewarded. The Story of China is the history of a civilisation from a grassroots perspective. In this book we look at Chinese history from a different perspective, not that of a philosophical or intellectual one, but a demographic, sociological one.

Wood focuses not so much on the story of China as a nation but as a civilisation. Thus you will often find yourself not in the courts of emperors but in Han peasant farms, Qin magistrate courts and Tang watchtowers. Indeed only once we reach the age of the Great Qing, (and dare we say it the 20th century ‘dynasties’), can it be said that the Story of China lends more weight to the Emperors themselves as much as his subjects, and even then the occupants of the dragon throne, for all their glamour, are only ever the framework to Wood’s main argument. That the story of the Chinese civilisation can be interacted with through the people who experienced it. And I think he is right.

The wars, laws, social, economic and political movements are revealed through the experiences of the people who were effected by them. With considerable skill, Wood ensures that the vast array of ever changing characters who appear in this book, who have shaped and coloured Chinese history, even those who play only the most fleeting part in it, appear so that they can echo the great themes of the civilisation right down to the end. 

A slave who could turn his hand to five trades, soldiers on lonely outposts asking friends to give them news and procure them clothes and shoes, female poets, travel writers, revolutionaries and a true life police procedural murder mystery with the Qin Empire’s version of Hercule Poirot. All have something to say about the historical edifice of China, and in doing so allow the reader to place a more human face upon it. These of course drift along in a narrative, with the famous and legendary, that shifts between geography, culture, biography and story with seamless ease.

In terms of dynasties, Wood primarily examines their political and cultural aspects, one or two emperors of the crop from each is covered, which is simple enough with the Qin, but more difficult with longer lived ones and the Qin, Han and Tang empires feature prominently in the first third of the book.

Events here are both critical and incidental to the people who lived through them, as they left glimpses of what it was like to be a part of the rise and fall of dynasties but it is their experiences that are presented in the most detail. As such more time is given over to mini biographies of people most westerners will have never heard of, but who could be said to be as influential in their own sphere as Samuel Pepys or Jane Austen.

As a result, Wood is just as likely to shun the gilded halls and soft furnishings of palaces, the battlefields, siege works and councils of war, to examine the rude thatch and homespun of the villages nearby, because what is decreed at the top will eventually reach the roots, and it is indeed at a grassroots level, as much as a higher one, that Wood wants us to experience the story China.

As he narrates each dynasty, Wood brings us to the world of the village and the family. Central to the heart of Chinese History is the family histories, lovingly curated and preserved through many calamities and still treasured by many today. With each upheaval and political change comes the ‘View from the Village,’ which is a peak into what was going on outside the imperial court, and the provincial governments. I found myself eagerly anticipating each coming view as the chapters wore on.

Wood has given the reader a thorough introduction to the great themes and debates of Chinese civilisation.

Within this framework, individual lives are used to carry the story forwards, and Wood places special emphasis on the arts as a focal point of culture. Rather than court intrigue or decisive battles, Wood seeks different propulsion for his story. Celebrating economic, scientific, military and architectural achievements are commonplace in most histories of empires and nations, but the Story of China is very much a work that is built around literature and poetry and the people who created it. As a result equal time is given to high and low characters; the famous and the obscure travel together and men share the limelight with women in a equitable light that does not pander.

By the end, though I am admittedly unread in the great expanse of Chinese historiography, it seems that Wood has given the reader a thorough introduction to the great themes and debates of Chinese civilisation. Most of all the continuing balancing act of Confucian moral government and centralised despotism set against the tableau of one of the richest literary and material cultures in the world. More than anything I believe this book wonderfully shows how successive dynasties have tried to espouse the Mandate of Heaven, in whatever form would keep them in power, and how that influenced the people over whom the mandate gave power.

I admit that I might need to ask forgiveness for my delight in finding the portion of the book devoted to the ‘modern dynasties’ from 1911 to 2019, somewhat more concise than the sections of the great imperial dynasties. Or perhaps my bias for those more distant things allowed me to drift more quickly over the upheavals that followed to fall of the Qing: The Civil War, the struggle against the Japan and the progress of Communism.

But therein as I closed the book, I found myself considering the collective eras of Mao, Deng and Ji, (the former two, still within the reach of living memory for people living under the latter) against those of the Tang, Song, and Ming and thinking how new this China, or perhaps I should say, this image of China, we have all come to accept, respect and fear, really is. As I write this the words of the Ming writer Luo Guanzhong, written in the first chapter of his Romance of the Three Kingdoms drifted softly through my mind: ‘Everything that is united will fall apart and everything that is fallen apart will come back together again. So it has always been.’

Thanks for reading. Josh.

Book Review: British Light Infantryman by Robbie MacNiven.

Author: Robbie MacNiven. Illustrator: Stephen Walsh Short code: ELI 237 Publication Date: 18 Feb 2021 https://ospreypublishing.com/british-light-infantry-in-the-american-revolution

They were known as bloodhounds. Because the relentless way the British Light Infantry would attack and pursue their patriot foes bred a chilling similarity to a pack of hunting dogs in full chase. 

With their sleek and cut down uniforms, garish feathers and distinctive bugle-horns blaring behind them as they went into battle, these were probably the most feared infantry in the British Army Serving in North America during the Revolution.

As author Robbie MacNiven shows us in this book, this was a reputation that the light infantry battalions consciously adopted and cultivated. They bred an elite culture within their ranks and at every opportunity encouraged an aura of capability, toughness and mercilessness that is reminiscent of special forces today. 

Even in defeat they were dangerous and Patriot commanders learned to be weary of them on the battlefield. Their fighting spirit was such that they became mutinous at the mention of making peace with the rebels. Their officers, no less spoiling for a fight than the men, would write home of how fighting the Americans was much like fox hunting. 

A steely eyed breed of short, stocky, active and dangerous men was born within these light companies. Men adept in the art of movement and concealment, of ambush and encirclement. They asked for no quarter and gave none, and they pursued their enemy relentlessly until they stopped kicking. 

The author reveals this elite force with great descriptive skill and academic verve. Not only in battle but on campaign and in camp, giving good descriptions, visual and textual of the dress and training of the units. Also including information on loyalist forces and some little known areas of light infantry history as well. One of the most interesting is the rarely explored subject of the 1776 ‘contract rifle’ which was issued to five men in every light company.

The reader will be able to begin to get an image in their mind as to the esprit de Corps of the light infantry battalions, some of their terminology and traditions, and a sense of warfare in North America in general too.

Here warfare was dominated by who could deploy the most flexible infantry, and as a result this book builds on what other Osprey authors such as Stuart Reid have written about the so called ‘American scramble.’

An open order firing line able to act by company as well as by battalion, a theory which came to dominate practical linear warfare in the 19th century .

The book expands every now and then to observe that the British Army did not just stumble upon the light infantry doctrine at Shorncliffe camp in the early 1800s. A circular pattern emerged from 1755 to 1803 where as needs required light troops would be authorised and disbanded, but always enough residue would remain to ensure that the next time war loomed the light corps would return stronger than the last time. So by the start of Britain’s Napoleonic epic, fully authorised permanent light infantry battalions would be ready as a result.

With excellent accompanying images by Stephen Walsh this title is highly recommended.

Josh.