By Neal Ascherson
In this research of the fateful encounters among Europe and Asia at the beaches of a mythical sea, Neal Ascherson explores the disputed which means of group, nationhood, historical past, and tradition in a area well-known for its dramatic conflicts. What makes the again Sea cultures distinct, Ascherson agrues, is the best way their comonent elements got here jointly over the millennia to form exact groups, languages, religions, and alternate. As he exhibits with ability and persuasiveness, Black Sea styles within the Caucasus, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Turkey, and Greece have associated the peoples of Europe and Asia jointly for centuries.
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Queen Victoria was not the only head of state to die soon after this century began. Nine months later, the president of the United States of America was murdered. That did not mean any fundamental change either. Yet something of an immediately recognizable difference was 3 An even more vivid evocation of a world that is gone, though, because of its far more medieval trappings, was the funeral procession, fifteen years later, of Franz Joseph, emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, and it, too, can be seen because recorded on film.
But the historian has to try to do better than record his personal impressions. Trying to achieve a reliable impression of what men and women inherited from the past as this century began, and could not shake off, is a possible starting-point. THE W E I G H T OF THE P A S T It is not hard to imagine life in 1901 if we are thinking of 'developed' countries (an expression that had not then been invented, incidentally). Many of us have talked to people who could easily recall it; there even are, after all, people still alive who were born before that year.
Long taken for granted in every civilization the world had ever known, slavery had first been denounced in Europe and then abolished by Europeans and nations of European origin overseas in their own possessions in the nineteenth century. The formal landmark of the completion of the process may be reckoned to be the emancipation of slaves in Brazil in 1888. By then, colonial governments and the British Royal Navy were pressing hard on the operations of Arab slave-traders in the African continent and the Indian Ocean; abolition was being imposed on the rest of the world by European force and diplomacy deployed in the good cause.