Category Archives: History

Summer YILDIZ Park Tour

This post contains images from one of the walking tours that I have learned to make from our flat on the European side of Istanbul.

When the Covid-19 pandemic got going, and there was nowhere in particular to go, I would wander aimlessly, just for the exercise. Then I figured out that, in about two hours, I could walk down to Ortaköy (“Middle Village,” Μεσαχώριον) by one route, coming back by another. I could also pass through the wall around the garden of one of the Ottoman sultans, then exit by another.

The particular route below takes in as much greenery as possible, including several named parks:

Ihlamur Parkı is different from the nearby Ihlamur Kasırları, “Linden Pavilions.” Though it contains two Ottoman stelae, the park does not seem to have a name posted on the ground; its name on the list above links to the Twitter account of a group formed to resist its being built over.

Ayşe and I walked the route below, Sunday morning, August 2, 2021, during a heat wave.

Down into the valley

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Law and History

I learned about Peter Turchin recently through his profile in the Atlantic by Graeme Wood. I had learned about the Atlantic article from historians on Twitter such as James Ryan, who does “Turkish history and other stuff,” according to his own Twitter profile, and who tweeted in response to Wood’s article,

This is really interesting research, but, uh, it is only history in the way that a particle physicist does history.

In response to that, a thread began:

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On the Idea of History

Note added, March 10–11, 2021. The bulk of this post concerns race in the theory of history, particularly the theory attributed to Johann Gotfried Herder (1744–1803). Not having read Herder for myself, I rely on the accounts of

  • R. G. Collingwood in § 2, “Herder,” of Part III of The Idea of History (1946),

  • Michael Forster in “Johann Gottfried von Herder,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (summer 2019).

Somebody like Herder may introduce race as an hypothesis to explain history, but ultimately the hypothesis fails, by denying us the freedom that is essential to history as such. Nonetheless, Forster defends Herder as having

an impartial concern for all human beings … Herder does also insist on respecting, preserving, and advancing national groupings. However, this is entirely unalarming,

because, for one thing, “The ‘nation’ in question is not racial but linguistic and cultural.”

Change Collingwood’s word “race” to “linguistic and cultural grouping” then. I think his conclusion remains sound: “Once Herder’s theory of race is accepted, there is no escaping the Nazi marriage laws.”

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NL XLIV: The Turks

Index to this series

The last part of Collingwood’s New Leviathan (Oxford, 1942) is “Barbarism.” The first chapter of the part is “What Barbarism Is”; the remaining chapters describe examples of barbarism in turn. The fourth and last example is the one that Britain is fighting as Collingwood writes.

Sun behind mosque on cover of The Ottoman Centuries (Lord Kinross, a.k.a. Patrick Balfour) Continue reading

NL XLII: The First Barbarism: The Saracens

Index to this series

Executive summary: The barbarians who overran the Western Roman Empire were not barbarists in Collingwood’s technical sense. However, “in the seventh century a movement inspired by hostility towards everything Roman … and everything Christian, flared up on the south-eastern frontier of the Roman world” (42. 22). This movement was therefore barbarist. Failing to conquer Europe, either from the east at Constantinople, or from the west at Tours, the movement settled down and ceased being barbarist—by the account in Chapter XLII, “The First Barbarism: The Saracens,” and later, in Collingwood’s New Leviathan. I check this account against more recent sources; it is barbarist to think that the “movement” in question, or indeed any movement, must always be barbarist; I look at the “civilization” of the British Empire as portrayed in a story of Maugham, and I compare a character of the story to Collingwood.

Collingwood’s historical account of barbarisms is a minefield, if one wishes not to sound like a barbarist oneself. The four examples will be

  1. the Saracens,
  2. the “Albigensian Heresy” (or the Bogomils),
  3. the Turks, and
  4. the Germans.

The very formula “the X”—definite article followed by national or quasi-national adjective—this has a barbaric use in branding a people with indelible features. A retort then is “not all X,” as in “not all men.” Collingwood issues such a proviso himself:

45. 68. Please observe, Reader, that I am not talking about all Germans. I do not say that all Germans are liars. I know of some who are not; those heroes, for example, who continue in spite of everything the Nazis can do to run their secret wireless station and keep on printing Das Wahre Deutschland.

Das wahre Deutschland, from a Swiss antiquarian bookshop, Antiquariat Peter Petrej

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NL XXVII: Force in Politics

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 12, 2018): When persons cannot rule themselves, they are ruled by force, as a duty, by other persons, for the benefit and pleasure of all. Force includes fraud and deceit; but their use must be limited, if those persons who are being ruled by force now will one day join the ruling class themselves. If a liberal and a conservative party take up respectively the ideals of democracy and aristocracy discussed in the last chapter, the parties must understand that each needs the other, in order to engage in the dialectic that aims for the best society. If somebody thinks the two parties waste energy, either in pretending to be in opposition to one another, or in actually being opposed, then that person is effectively wishing for tyranny.

In my last post on the New Leviathan (which was my first for this year), I said Collingwood would discuss the British parliament in Chapter XXVII. That chapter is now my subject.

The ruling class must incorporate new members from time to time, whether anybody thinks about it or not (27. 75). Anybody who does think about it may take up one of two goals (27. 77).

27. 79. To hasten the percolation of liberty throughout every part of the body politic was the avowed aim of the Liberal party; to retard it was the avowed aim of the Conservative party.

27. 8. The relation between them was consciously dialectical. They were not fundamentally in disagreement. Both held it as an axiom that the process of percolation must go on. Both held that given certain circumstances, which might very well change from time to time, there was an optimum rate for it, discoverable within a reasonable margin of error by experiment.

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Eastern Black Sea Yayla Tour

Here are some photos from our recent tour (July 21–29, 2018), in chronological order. More then ten times as many photos, along with a verbal account, not always in chronological order, are on a page of this website (as opposed to a post, like the present one); the page is called Karadeniz, which is the Turkish for Black Sea.

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Şişli Tour, July 2018

When I lived in Ankara, I tried to build up a collection of photographs about life in different cities. I was exercised by the Ankara mayor’s utter disrespect for pedestrians, as shown for example in his narrowing of sidewalks (by widening roads) so that bus shelters would have to block them, and the sidewalks themselves might disappear into the walls surrounding the adjacent embassies. I took photographs of such situations and started putting them on my webpages (I didn’t have this blog then). I looked for similar situations when we visited Europe. Such visits were usually for conferences, and I prepared webpages about Barcelona, Besançon, Berne, and Istanbul.


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Samatya Tour, July 2018

This is about a solo walking tour on Sunday, July 1, 2018. I was mostly around the Seventh Hill of the old walled city of Constantinople, ultimately in the quarter called Ψαμάθεια in Greek, and in Turkish Samatya.

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Çarşamba Tour, April 2018

Ayşe and I toured the northern part of the old walled city of Istanbul—including the religiously conservative district of Çarşamba—with our student Abdullah and his brother Yusuf on Sunday, April 8, 2018. At another site I documented a similar tour in March, 2015. Now I do not try to be so thorough. I did not try to document the whole trip photographically, but here is a selection of pictures that I did take. We saw Byzantine and Ottoman structures. For the former, I have since found a comprehensive reference: The Byzantine Legacy.


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