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A People's History of the World by Chris Harman - Free

700 Pages · 2008 · 2.42 MB · English

  • A People's History of the World by Chris Harman - Free

    A people’s history of


    the world A people’s


    history of the


    world


    Chris Harman


    London, Chicago and Sydney A People’s History of the World – Chris Harman


    First published 1999


    Reprinted 2002


    Bookmarks Publications Ltd, c/o 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE, England


    Bookmarks, POBox 16085, Chicago, Illinois 60616, USA


    Bookmarks, POBox A338, Sydney South, NSW 2000, Australia


    Copyright © Bookmarks Publications Ltd


    ISBN 1 898876 55 X


    Printed by Interprint Limited, Malta


    Cover by Sherborne Design


    Bookmarks Publications Ltd is linked to an international grouping of socialist


    organisations:


    (cid:2) Australia:International Socialist Organisation, PO Box A338, Sydney South.


    iso@iso.org.au


    (cid:2) Austria:Linkswende, Postfach 87, 1108 Wien. linkswende@yahoo.com


    (cid:2) Britain:Socialist Workers Party, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH.


    enquiries@swp.org.uk


    (cid:2) Canada:International Socialists, PO Box 339, Station E, Toronto, Ontario M6H 4E3.


    iscanada@on.aibn.com


    (cid:2) Cyprus:Ergatiki Demokratia, PO Box 7280, Nicosia. wd@workersdemocracy.net


    (cid:2) Czech Republic:Socialisticka Solidarita, PO Box 1002, 11121 Praha 1.


    socsol@email.cz


    (cid:2) Denmark:Internationale Socialister, PO Box 5113, 8100 Aarhus C.


    intsoc@socialister.dk


    (cid:2) Finland:Sosialistiliitto, PL 288, 00171 Helsinki. info@sosialistiliitto.org


    (cid:2) France:Socialisme par en bas, BP 15-94111, Arcueil Cedex. speb@mageos.com


    (cid:2) Germany:Linksruck, Postfach 304 183, 20359 Hamburg. info@linksruck.de


    (cid:2) Ghana:International Socialist Organisation, PO Box TF202, Trade Fair, Labadi,


    Accra.


    (cid:2) Greece:Sosialistiko Ergatiko Komma, c/o Workers Solidarity, PO Box 8161,


    Athens 100 10. sek@otenet.gr


    (cid:2) Holland:Internationale Socialisten, PO Box 92025, 1090AA Amsterdam.


    info@internationalesocialisten.org


    (cid:2) Ireland:Socialist Workers Party, PO Box 1648, Dublin 8. swp@clubi.ie


    (cid:2) Italy:Comunismo dal Basso, Leeder, CP Bologna, Succ 5. dalbasso@hotmail.com


    (cid:2) New Zealand: Socialist Workers Organisation, PO Box 13-685, Auckland.


    socialist-worker@pl.net


    (cid:2) Norway:Internasjonale Socialisterr, Postboks 9226, Grønland, 0134 Oslo.


    sarbeide@online.no


    (cid:2) Poland:Pracownicza Demokracja, PO Box 12, 01-900 Warszawa 118.


    pracdem@go2.pl


    (cid:2) Spain:En Lucha, Apartado 563, 08080 Barcelona. enlucha@hotmail.com


    (cid:2) United States:Left Turn, PO Box 445, New York, NY 10159-0445.


    left-turn@left-turn.org


    (cid:2) Uruguay:Izquierda Revolucionaria. ir@adinet.com.uy


    (cid:2) Zimbabwe:International Socialist Organisation, PO Box 6758, Harare.


    isozim@hotmail.com Contents


    Introduction i


    Part one: The rise of class societies


    Prologue: Before class 3


    Chapter 1 The neolithic ‘revolution’ 10


    Chapter 2 The first civilisations 17


    Chapter 3 The first class divisions 22


    Chapter 4 Women’s oppression 29


    Chapter 5 The first ‘Dark Ages’ 32


    Part two: The ancient world


    Chapter 1 Iron and empires 45


    Chapter 2 Ancient India 48


    Chapter 3 The first Chinese empires 54


    Chapter 4 The Greek city states 63


    Chapter 5 Rome’s rise and fall 71


    Chapter 6 The rise of Christianity 87


    Part three: The ‘Middle Ages’


    Chapter 1 The centuries of chaos 103


    Chapter 2 China: the rebirth of the empire 106


    Chapter 3 Byzantium: the living fossil 117


    Chapter 4 The Islamic revolutions 123


    Chapter 5 The African civilisations 136


    Chapter 6 European feudalism 140 Part four: The great transformation


    Chapter 1 The conquest of the New Spain 161


    Chapter 2 Renaissance to Reformation 172


    Chapter 3 The birth pangs of a new order 194


    Chapter 4 The last flowering of Asia’s empires 219


    Part five: The spread of the new order


    Chapter 1 A time of social peace 233


    Chapter 2 From superstition to science 237


    Chapter 3 The Enlightenment 242


    Chapter 4 Slavery and wage slavery 247


    Chapter 5 Slavery and racism 249


    Chapter 6 The economics of ‘free labour’ 257


    Part six: The world turned upside down


    Chapter 1 American prologue 265


    Chapter 2 The French Revolution 277


    Chapter 3 Jacobinism outside France 303


    Chapter 4 The retreat of reason 315


    Chapter 5 The industrial revolution 318


    Chapter 6 The birth of Marxism 326


    Chapter 7 1848 335


    Chapter 8 The American Civil War 345


    Chapter 9 The conquest of the East 355


    Chapter 10 The Japanese exception 365


    Chapter 11 Storming heaven:


    The Paris Commune 368 Part seven: The century of hope and horror


    Chapter 1 The world of capital 379


    Chapter 2 World war and world revolution 405


    Chapter 3 Europe in turmoil 430


    Chapter 4 Revolt in the colonial world 449


    Chapter 5 The ‘Golden Twenties’ 463


    Chapter 6 The great slump 469


    Chapter 7 Strangled hope: 1934-36 491


    Chapter 8 Midnight in the century 510


    Chapter 9 The Cold War 543


    Chapter 10 The new world disorder 577


    Conclusion: Illusion of the epoch 605


    Notes 621


    Glossary 663


    Further Reading 687


    Index 695 Chris Harman is the editor of Socialist Workerand a leading


    member of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. He is the


    author of many articles, pamphlets and books including Class


    Struggles in Eastern Europe, Explaining the Crisis, Economics of the


    Madhouse, How Marxism Worksand The Lost Revolution:


    Germany 1918 to 1923. Introduction


    Who built Thebes of the seven gates?


    In the books you will find the names of kings.


    Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?


    And Babylon, many times demolished


    Who raised it up so many times? In what houses


    Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?


    Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished


    Did the masons go? Great Rome


    Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom


    Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song


    Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis


    The night the ocean engulfed it


    The drowning still bawled for their slaves.


    The young Alexander conquered India.


    Was he alone?


    Caesar beat the Gauls.


    Did he not have even a cook with him?


    Philip of Spain wept when his armada


    Went down. Was he the only one to weep?


    Frederick the Second won the Seven Years War. Who


    Else won it?


    Every page a victory.


    Who cooked the feast for the victors?


    Every ten years a great man.


    Who paid the bill?


    So many reports.


    So many questions.


    ‘Questions from a Worker who Reads’ by Bertolt Brecht


    i A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE WORLD


    The questions raised in Brecht’s poem are crying out for answers. Pro-


    viding them should be the task of history. It should not be regarded


    as the preserve of a small group of specialists, or a luxury for those who


    can afford it. History is not ‘bunk’, as claimed by Henry Ford, pioneer


    of mass motor car production, bitter enemy of trade unionism and early


    admirer of Adolf Hitler.


    History is about the sequence of events that led to the lives we


    lead today. It is the story of how we came to be ourselves. Under-


    standing it is the key to finding out if and how we can further change


    the world in which we live. ‘He who controls the past controls the


    future,’ is one of the slogans of the totalitarians who control the state


    in George Orwell’s novel 1984. It is a slogan always taken seriously by


    those living in the palaces and eating the banquets described in Brecht’s


    ‘Questions’.


    Some 22 centuries ago a Chinese emperor decreed the death


    penalty for those who ‘used the past to criticise the present’. The


    Aztecs attempted to destroy records of previous states when they con-


    quered the Valley of Mexico in the 15th century, and the Spanish at-


    tempted to destroy all Aztec records when they in turn conquered the


    region in the 1620s.


    Things have not been all that different in the last century. Chal-


    lenging the official historians of Stalin or Hitler meant prison, exile


    or death. Only 30 years ago Spanish historians were not allowed to


    delve into the bombing of the Basque city of Guernica, or Hungar-


    ian historians to investigate the events of 1956. More recently, friends


    of mine in Greece faced trial for challenging the state’s version of


    how it annexed much of Macedonia before the First World War.


    Overt state repression may seem relatively unusual in Western in-


    dustrial countries. But subtler methods of control are ever-present. As


    I write, a New Labour government is insisting schools must stress


    British history and British achievements, and that pupils must learn


    the name and dates of great Britons. In higher education, the histo-


    rians most in accord with establishment opinions are still the ones who


    receive honours, while those who challenge such opinions are kept


    out of key university positions. ‘Compromise, compromise’, remains


    ‘the way for you to rise.’


    Since the time of the first Pharaohs (5,000 years ago) rulers have


    presented history as being a list of ‘achievements’ by themselves and


    their forebears. Such ‘Great Men’ are supposed to have built cities


    ii INTRODUCTION


    and monuments, to have brought prosperity, to have been respon-


    sible for great works or military victories—and, conversely, ‘Evil


    Men’ are supposed to be responsible for everything bad in the world.


    The first works of history were lists of monarchs and dynasties known


    as ‘King Lists’. Learning similar lists remained a major part of history


    as taught in the schools of Britain 40 years ago. New Labour—and


    the Tory opposition—seem intent on reimposing it.


    For this version of history, knowledge consists simply in being able


    to memorise such lists, in the fashion of the ‘Memory Man’ or the Mas-


    termindcontestant. It is a Trivial Pursuitsversion of history that pro-


    vides no help in understanding either the past or the present.


    There is another way of looking at history, in conscious opposition


    to the ‘Great Man’ approach. It takes particular events and tells their


    story, sometimes from the point of view of the ordinary participants.


    This can fascinate people. There are large audiences for television


    programmes—even whole channels—which make use of such mate-


    rial. School students presented with it show an interest rare with the


    old ‘kings, dates and events’ method.


    But such ‘history from below’ can miss out something of great im-


    portance, the interconnection of events.


    Simply empathising with the people involved in one event cannot,


    by itself, bring you to understand the wider forces that shaped their


    lives, and still shape ours. You cannot, for instance, understand the


    rise of Christianity without understanding the rise and fall of the


    Roman Empire. You cannot understand the flowering of art during the


    Renaissance without understanding the great crises of European feu-


    dalism and the advance of civilisation on continents outside Europe.


    You cannot understand the workers’ movements of the 19th century


    without understanding the industrial revolution. And you cannot


    begin to grasp how humanity arrived at its present condition without


    understanding the interrelation of these and many other events.


    The aim of this book is to try to provide such an overview.


    I do not pretend to provide a complete account of human history.


    Missing are many personages and many events which are essential to


    a detailed history of any period. But you do not need to know about


    every detail of humanity’s past to understand the general pattern that


    has led to the present.


    It was Karl Marx who provided an insight into this general pattern.


    He pointed out that human beings have only been able to survive on


    iii


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