That was a refreshing chaser: watching Michael Duncan on the pseudo-intellectual pretensions of Niall Ferguson--does Ferguson believe that Gibbon would have seen any parallels between the massacre at Paris and the sack of Rome by the Goths in 410? No. Gibbon would have sent people not to chapter 31 but instead to chapter 64 of his history:
History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Volume 6, chapter 64: "The conquest of Hindostan by the Moguls was reserved in a later period for the house of Timour...:
...but that of Iran, or Persia, was achieved by Holagou Khan, the grandson of Zingis, the brother and lieutenant of the two successive emperors, Mangou and Cublai. I shall not enumerate the crowd of sultans, emirs, and atabeks, whom he trampled into dust; but the extirpation of the Assassins, or Ismaelians of Persia, may be considered as a service to mankind. Among the hills to the south of the Caspian, these odious sectaries had reigned with impunity above a hundred and sixty years; and their prince, or Imam, established his lieutenant to lead and govern the colony of Mount Libanus, so famous and formidable in the history of the crusades. With the fanaticism of the Koran the Ismaelians had blended the Indian transmigration, and the visions of their own prophets; and it was their first duty to devote their souls and bodies in blind obedience to the vicar of God.
The daggers of his missionaries were felt both in the East and West: the Christians and the Moslems enumerate, and persons multiply, the illustrious victims that were sacrificed to the zeal, avarice, or resentment of the old man (as he was corruptly styled) of the mountain. But these daggers, his only arms, were broken by the sword of Holagou, and not a vestige is left of the enemies of mankind, except the word assassin, which, in the most odious sense, has been adopted in the languages of Europe...
But I should not let the ignorance of a Ferguson about what is actually useful and analogous in Gibbon's Decline and Fall distract me.
What I am here to do now is to continue my reread of David Graeber's Debt.
I need to finish this--someday.
Maybe I will be able to keep this up if I limit myself to once a month--for, as, IIRC, Daniel Davies once wrote in a somewhat similar situation: "F--- me! This is going to be more work than I thought!"
To the text:
This is unusual: a Kindle screen on which I don't think Graeber gets anything wrong.
Of course, all that is on this page is summary-and-quote from the well worth-reading Frey Toribio.
But still: Progress!
Can we get through a second Kindle screen without error?
Here we have another true dog's breakfast.
Graeber claims that "while humans... hav[e]... a proclivity to accuse others of acting like conquistadors, few really act this way themselves".
Is that true?
There are, of course, no endnotes. Thus there are no clues as to how Graeber came to this conclusion that the Spanish conquistadores of the early sixteenth century were an order of magnitude more brutal than the typical people we find elsewhere in our depressing history.
But we can note the existence of some people who would have challenged Graeber's claim that only "few" acted like the conquistadores. Among them, offhand: the city fathers of Carthage, the boule and demos of Melos, the inhabitants of thirteenth-century Baghdad when Hulagu Khan arrived, the remaining crusader settlements on the coast of what is now Israel when the Mamlukes arrived, the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the crusaders arrived, the inhabitants of Jerusalem yet again when Nabu-Kudurri-Usur arrived, the Gauls under Caesar, the sixteenth-century Koreans when Toyotomi Hideyoshi got adventurous, the Cambodians faced with Pol Pot, the Ukrainians faced with Josef Stalin, pretty much everybody faced with Adolf Hitler.
And many, many more.
Indeed, I do not see much difference between how the Spanish acted towards the Mexica and how the Mexica had earlier acted towards the inhabitants of the Place of Coyotes, the Soconusco Coast, of Otzoma, et cetera.
But, you may ask: Is this a mistake, in the same sense that Graeber's claim that the Federal Reserve is a bunch of private bankers with a single government appointee at its head is a mistake?
I say: Yes it is.
It is a mistake of the same nature--not bothering to do one's homework. Never mind that Graeber shows no sign of having bothered to learn about Hulagu Khan. Graeber does not appear to have bothered to learn about the bloody pre-Spanish Conquest history of the creation of the Mexica Empire.
The Mexica had certainly "acted like conquistadores": Why do you imagine Cortez found it so easy to recruit allies for his overthrow of Mocetezuma?
Well Worth Reading...