California: A Sum of its Parts

“Just as in the human body, where no atom or cell can act individually without affecting its surrounding elements, the history of nations has been written and shaped both by the most incongruous farmer and the exceptionally boisterous politician,” said Dr. Sam Otterstrom in his new book From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast. In it, he examines the growth of the Golden State, it’s migration and settlement patterns, and the people who forged it.

The Basics

To understand California at its most basic level, one has to start with the individual in the context of the following groups:

  • Family
  • Neighborhoods and communities
  • Counties/cities
  • Regional system

gold-ingots-golden-treasure-47047 The way that individuals acted in these settings determined how and where the state grew. For example, families would move to California in search of gold, forming rough mining communities. These were often short-lived however, as miners were continually on the move: looking for better opportunities or ways to escape their harsh lifestyle. Cities were formed around the mining industry, particularly Sacramento and San Francisco. “In this way, all of northern California was intertwined and interrelated in the nearly living regional organism that matured into and economically innovative and increasingly dynamic spatial system,” says Dr. Otterstrom.

 Individual People

“Amidst this mass of historical data is an intricately woven tapestry of interrelated people and events that literally created this dynamic state,” said Dr. Otterstrom. Who are these individuals? They included: 

  • people-vintage-photo-memories Samuel Brannon, a high-profile business man and leader of the Brooklyn, a ship sailing from Eastern America to California, and
  • John Augustus Sutter, whose 40,000+ acre ranch “became a key center throughout the 1840’s for Alta California and the focal point of the gold rush form 1848 on.” 

More often than not however, these trailblazers went unknown. In California, people had the opportunity to find gold and become wealthy; an ordinary man could transform his life almost overnight. Such seekers forever altered the land and forged California into the Golden State. 

Connection to Christ

One may find connections between the examination of California as a unique entity that is part of a greater whole and Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians regarding their particular value as part of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12: 12 reads: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body.”

Migration

This concept is further exemplified by California’s migration and settlement patterns. They can be broken down into four interdependent categories that mesh in a number of ways, as illustrated by the following venn diagram:

cali gold venn

While some mining towns faded from maps and memories, others developed into cities that still thrive today, despite constant and rapid in- and out-migrations. “The towns that survived and that have sizeable populations today were the ones that, very early on, fulfilled a variety of economic functions and thus were less dependent on mining,” said Otterstrom. Their resilience was due, in part, to their economic diversity, but also, he found to the number of post offices each town contained. Again, this demonstrates that, no matter where individuals found themselves geographically, they sought connection and viewed themselves, at least subconsciously as part of a greater whole.

The Sum of its Parts

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference,” said Jane Goodall. Nowhere is exemplified better than in Dr. Otterstrom’s From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast.  In it, one comes to understand the vital role of the individual in molding California into a singular state, one that is truly a sum of its parts.

 

The Gulag and its Relationship to Us

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Photo courtesy of goodreads

 BYU History professor Jeff Hardy recently published a book on a penal system of the former Soviet Union. Called The Gulag After Stalin, the book explains how punishment was meted out from the 1920’s to the mid-1950s in the Gulag, which was “…the system of…labour camps and accompanying detention and transit camps and prisons that…housed the political prisoners and criminals of the Soviet Union.” At the height of its existence, the Gulag housed 10 million people who felled timber, laboured on general construction projects (such as the building of canals and railroads), or worked in mines under the threat of starvation or execution if they refused. It is estimated that the combination of very long working hours, harsh climatic and other working conditions, inadequate food, and summary executions killed off at least 10 percent of the Gulag’s total prisoner population each year.

But why should this matter to us? How does a defunct Russian prison system from the mid 1900’s relate to our lives in 2017? Hardy points out that no one can decry the Gulag because, like them, we have never been able to eliminate incarceration as our primary form of punishment. When one examines the Soviet Union’s penal system, similarities within our own prison system become apparent.

Gulag American Penal System
Prisoners- with a few exceptions- were incarcerated. Prisoners are incarcerated and, in some cases, are locked in solitary confinement
Prisoners labored to industrialize their country. Prisoners labor, ex: chain gangs
Human rights abuses occurred, ex: work days exceeding 8 hours Human rights abuses occur, Ex: perp walks

Are there ways in which we can improve our own penal system? According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, we should institute various reforms regarding prison management and social integration. They recommend improving communication between the prisons and courts, creating new training curriculums for prison managers, instituting corrective measures inside prison communities, and formulating a health plan within the prisons, to name only a few. pexels-photo-143580

There is one issue, however, that the Gulag handled far better than we do: solitary confinement. According to Dr. Hardy, the Russian system valued communalism: “Whereas cellular confinement with one or two inmates per cell was typical of prison systems in the West…the Soviet Union preferred barracks that housed dozens of prisoners in common quarters. Inmates worked together, ate together, and generally moved freely within the confines of the camps, they were also organized into communal work brigades…This communal life in the Gulag was both a function of ideology and exigency.”

This is not how the U.S. penal system functions. Prisoners are typically two to a cell and solitary confinement is utilized as a punishment for acting out in prison. A recent Frontline piece relates the story of former inmate Kenny More, who ripped the hair out of his body, heard voices, and wrote messages on the wall of his cell with his own blood while spending five-and-a-half years in solitary confinement and nearly 20 years in and out of prison. In 2006, former Harvard Medical School faculty member Stuart Grassian conducted a study on the effects of solitary confinement. According to his report: “Of the forty-nine inmates I evaluated, at least seventeen were actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal and urgently in need of acute hospital treatment, and twenty-three others suffered serious psychopathological reactions to solitary confinement, including (in several cases) periods of psychotic disorganization.” pexels-photo-27967

Moreover, prisoners who were in solitary confinement were more likely to commit crimes once they were released. Former University of Washington professor David Lowell conducted a 2007 study that looked at recidivism rates for inmates held in supermax prisons– facilities where all inmates are in solitary confinement. He learned that “these offenders committed new felonies sooner and at higher rates than otherwise comparable nonsupermax offenders. Furthermore, they re-offended more quickly than otherwise comparable supermax offenders who weren’t released to the community directly from supermax.”

The Gulag was disbanded in 1957; evidence,  perhaps, of its ineffectiveness. Evidence shows that solitary confinement may not be the most effective option for the American penal system. While the Gulag was in need of critical reforms and is no longer present in our modern society we can still learn from it: how to better our own penal system and the lives of those in it.

Have you read Doctor Hardy’s book?

Huddling Together: Women in Polygamy Making a History of Their Own

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who coined the phrase “well-behaved women seldom make history,” recently discussed how well-behaved women in polygamist marriages in mid-1800s Utah benefited from and in fact brought benefit to the entire then-territory of Utah, making a niche in Mormon history all their own. At an event on campus in March, she spoke to many women and a handful of curious men about her exploration of the role women played in the early days of the Church. Through her research, she said that she found that she, like other modern women, “…could be a woman of faith,…activism and scholarship.”

In the early days of the LDS church, men and women worked together, she said. Early diaries affirmed that women spoke in the earliest LDS gatherings, and they testified. Other events took place in homes under the joint-leadership of men and women. When the saints moved to Nauvoo, the Relief Society was established. “Relief Society began as an individual initiative within a community of women,” Ulrich said. “Prophecies,” “prophetess,” “authority,” and “keys” were all words used in Joseph Smith’s establishment of the organization. Some of those words, such as “authority” and “keys” are more typically associated with men in modern LDS practice. But the Relief Society became an opportunity for women to have authority and to lead. Ulrich said it was a godly community where everyone had a place. In a painting of Joseph and Emma Smith, both held symbols of mastery and authority. Ulrich interpreted this as depicting their equality to each other.

When polygamy was first introduced, Ulrich said there were dissenters who claimed the Relief Society was where Joseph Smith found “harlots.” The Relief Society pushed back at these claims, and defended the prophet and the church, according to Ulrich. The women unified, “huddling” closer together. “There is so little known about early Mormon polygamy,” Ulrich said. But what is know is that there was not cohabitation around 1843 and it was not yet publicly announced, but there were plural temple sealings. About these, Emma was upset. Ulrich said that there is no biological or DNA evidence that Joseph Smith ever fathered a child, except with Emma.

There was a rumor that Mormon women were promiscuous, so Emma asked for a reformation of both men and women in their duty to uphold the moral values in the law. Ulrich said Emma met with the Relief Society twice a day. After Joseph’s martyrdom, there was tension between Emma and Brigham Young, second president of the Church, who had embraced polygamy. Because Emma was the leader of the Relief Society, Brigham Young was upset with the Relief Society, and said “damning” things about it and women. Ulrich said that this was probably a time where Brigham Young wished he could take back his words.

“What I think is very, very clear from her behavior first in her rallying of Relief Society in defense of the church…[is that] she cared about the church, and she cared about the survival of the church,” Ulrich said. Ulrich suggests that Emma was “terrified” of Joseph Smith’s behavior because she had to learn if it was adulterous or visionary, and Emma was terrified of what would happen. Despite these difficulties and the general lack of information, Ulrich noted, there is evidence that women were seen as equals during plural marriage. In an announcement of the plural sealing of Mary Ann to Brigham Young, Mary Ann was referred to as “presidentess.” In Ulrich’s recently-published book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism (1835-1870), she said: it could…have been described as an experiment in cooperative housekeeping and an incubator of female activism.”

Indeed, though many of the Mormon pioneer women indicated in their diaries that “they had not a clue what they were getting into,” they entered into the practice of plural marriage in faith and figured it out across the plains. When they arrived in Salt Lake City, the women gathered every other day. They were in constant contact. Men and women were still learning who should preside in a religious gathering in the home. Here again, was evidence that men and women were equals, Ulrich said. “Women sometimes stepped in when men failed in their duties,” Ulrich said. When the male leader decided to not come to a meeting, he would usually delegate the authority to the woman of the household to preside and conduct the meeting.

The Relief Society, which had been disbanded soon after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, was not fully functional again for about 20 years. “The reorganization came from individual initiative of women,” Ulrich said. When it was reestablished, the minutes from the original Relief Society were used as guides to address the women in society. The women at the time moved into the women’s rights movements. Ulrich said the women said this of Relief Society: “They believed there was something more Joseph was offering.” And indeed, perhaps because of that unification and activism, Ulrich said that Utah, which was then a primarily female state, gave women voting rights fifty years before it was federally mandated by the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “These women felt the Spirit of God in each other’s company. They were able to carry on because they were huddling together.”

Ulrich, an American historian and professor at Harvard University, said Mormon women’s history during this time is an “uplifting” and a “really sad” story, but that is shows something about the resilience of these interesting women. That resiliency is still something that modern women can take to heart.

 

Dead Queens Discuss Modern Women’s Issues

What is the role of women in society? This is a hotly debated topic that no one seems able to reach a consensus on. Recently, BYU’s History Department thoughtfully resuscitated four dead queens to teach us more about the topic: Empress Cixi of the Ching Dynasty; Hurrem Sultan; Joan of Arc; and Martha Ballard, queen of colonial midwifery. For an hour on March 1, these women debated various questions surrounding women’s involvement in politics, the work force, and life in general. Like the Dead Presidents’ Debate of last fall, it was an engaging and humorous look at history and its bearing on matters of importance today.

Women in the Workforce

The moderator asked in what capacity should women be involved in the workforce? The queens agreed that females were essential. Martha, who, as we mentioned here, was an 18th century midwife who is primarily known from Laura Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer-prize winning book A Midwife’s Tale, said that women had always worke,d while Joan declared women to be an “absolutely important economic force.” Hurrem had worked as her husband, Suleiman the Magnificent’s advisor, and Cixi, who ruled China on behalf of her son during the Qing Dynasty, termed herself “a professional politician.”

Women in Politics

Her proclamation perfectly segued into Professor Stratalacactus’ next query, which was: “What role should women play in politics?” On this question, the queens were divided. Both Hurrem and Joan supported the idea of females participating in politics. The latter said that women could be inspiring leaders, and Hurrem stated that women needed to be more involved.

Martha and Cixi, however, favored a more restrained role for females in politics. The midwife declared policy-making to be a man’s role and maintained that that was the natural order of things. Similar to this natural order was the “Mandate of Heaven” advocated for by Cixi. Even though lots of women are smarter than men, she said, women in politics violated the divine order. 

The Women’s March and whether not women’s involvement in politics was good or bad were the topics of the third question. As with the last query, the queens differed in their responses. Hurrem declared that while it was ok to protest officials, it was not ok to protest rulers. Cixi took this a step further by adding that “no one should have the right to demonstrate…Nobody should march- wrong.” She advocated that God appointed rulers, therefore, people should obey them. “You don’t have to think about it,” she said. “Just obey.” According to Martha, however, marching is a “good way for people to show support, not to protest.” Joan believed the opposite, saying that people need to “make their voices heard.”

Modern Women

 Next, the queens were asked if they thought modern women were better off than those in previous generations. Joan and Cixi asserted that they were, the former praising the fact that women could wear pants. Martha acknowledged that while modern times were better in terms of medical care, people spent too much time on their phones. “The old ways are the good ways.” Hurrem, however, pointed out the “big inequality in the world today,” of medical care.

Advice

Lastly, the queens were asked if they had any advice to women as they began their lives as BYU students. Joan admonished that it is “important to listen to what God wants you to do.” Hurrem said to overcome obstacles and that “you have to believe in yourself.” Martha encouraged women to keep journals, and Cixi offered sage advice: “Addiction is bad. Pursue your education.”

Hurrem, Martha, Cixi, and Joan debated many pertinent issues facing contemporary women. While they often disagreed, their varying answers provided perspective on the issues that could inform current students and modern women. All in all, the debate served as a fun way to learn more about women’s issues.

Each of the “queens” was interviewed by the professor in separate videos leading up to the debate, in parodies of Zach Galifianakis interview of Hillary Clinton: Joan of Arc here, Empress Dowager Cixi here, Hurrem Sultan here, and Martha Ballard here. We look forward to more fun history debates!

Did you attend the debate? What did you think?

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to Present on Early LDS Women and Polygamy

It was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich who originally said that “well-behaved women seldom make history,” a quote that has taken on a life of its own in American culture. The statement appeared in a 1976 article by her about Puritan funeral services, but she expounded on it in a 2008 book titled with that quote, in which she bemoaned the fact that people often misinterpreted it to mean that women should misbehave in order to be memorable. “She wrote those words,” says Kim Z. Dale on Chicago Now, “lamenting…the fact that so many women who made positive impacts on society are overlooked by history.” Ulrich, in various publications since then, has noted that some of those impacts took place because of the early polygamist practices of the LDS Church. In an upcoming BYU event, in fact, she will expound on how women in polygamist marriages benefited from and in fact brought benefit to the entire then-territory of Utah.

On March 14 in the Hinckley Center at 7pm, BYU Women’s Studies and the History Department will host Ulrich as she speaks on rethinking the position of women in early Mormonism. Of plural marriage, she said in her recently-published book A House Full of Females: Plural Marriage and Women’s Rights in Early Mormonism, 1835-1870: “it could…have been described as an experiment in cooperative housekeeping and an incubator of female activism.” Indeed, Ulrich defended the practice by reminding people that Utah, a primarily female state, had given women voting rights, fifty years before it was federally mandated.

 

Laurel-Thatcher-Ulrich-Digital-Signage

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Ulrich won the Pulitzer Prize for writing A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812. She has also written books on polygamy and women’s rights in the Church as well as notable female historical figures.

Students Seek Advice From Dead Presidents and Dead Queens

You think the current political scene is bad? How about adding President’s Lincoln, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, and Jackson to the mix. That should make it better, right? If you were in attendance at the History Department’s Dead Presidents’ Debate on October 5th, then you already know the answer: It only makes things messier.

The Debate

The professors−Grant Madsen, Karen Auman, Matt Mason, and Rich Kimball−truly personified the presidents they were representing: Eisenhower, Lincoln, Jackson, and Roosevelt, respectively.  Jackson blustered and said racist remarks; Lincoln parried with him. Roosevelt, ever taciturn, offered smart insults to all. And Eisenhower beat the Nazi’s, which he made sure to tell us in nearly every comment he made.

Edward Stratford acted as moderator. When asked for the impetus behind the event, he answered, “We wanted to create this format to help students understand that the past is the primary dimension that informs our perception of the present.” Did it? Were the presidents able to help us better comprehend the present political debates?

The presidents were asked varying questions regarding Trump and Clinton: their strengths, immigration and economic policies, and whether or not Trump was validated in  having hurt feelings. There were varying responses to all, with little agreement- reminiscent of the current political debates (still ongoing even after Trump’s win). In the end though, were Roosevelt, Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Jackson able to accurately able to predict our modern political atmosphere? The answer is best seen through History Professor Christopher Jones’ tweet: “This ended up being a lot of fun. But it also helped emphasize just how foreign the past is.”

Dead Queens’ Debate dq2

Continuing in the tradition of the Dead Presidents’ Debate, the Dead Queens’ Debate will be held on March 1st at 7pm in the Varsity Theater. The event is being hosted by both the Women’s Studies and the History Department.  Dr. Ed Stratford, who will be playing Professor Stratalacactus, has overseen the resuscitation of four historical queens: Empress Dowager Cixi, (Ching Dynasty) Joan of Arc, Hurrem Sultan, (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent) and Martha Ballard, “‘queen’ of colonial midwifery.” They will be discussing modern problems facing women. Playing the queens will be Dr. Diana Duan, Dr. Christine Isom-Verhaaren, Dr. Sarah Loose, and Dr. Jenny Pulsipher respectively.

When asked what the purpose of the event was, Dr. Stratford replied: “What we are interested in doing is providing a forum where historical viewpoints on current issues can be presented in an engaging way… We hope anyone who attends (students, faculty, or anyone from the community) will enjoy a consideration of [women’s issues] by some figures from the past.”

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From left to right: Joan of Arc, Hurrem Sultan, Martha Ballard, and Empress Dowager Cixi

 The Queens

Joan of Arc was a young girl from France who, during the Hundred Year’s War, led an army and defeated the English many times, most notably at Orleans. Furthermore, she succeeded in having Charles the Seventh crowned king of France. Joan believed God had instructed her to do these things. Several hundred years after her capture and execution at the hands of the English, Joan was Sainted.

Originally a member of Suleiman the Magnificent’s harem, Hurrem Sultan eventually became his wife. She oversaw the construction of universities and mosques and promoted female education

Empress Dowager Cixi ruled China on behalf of her son during the Qing Dynasty. Dubbed The Dragon Lady remained a force in government in the face of endless court strife.

Martha Ballard was an 18th Century midwife from Maine who is primarily known from Laura Thather Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Midwife’s Tale. Ballard kept a journal from 1785-1812 that “illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier.”

Which Queen do You Want to Meet?

Research Logs: Essential When Doing Your Family History

     8Y0EDX4VP9

These days, family history, as we’ve mentioned here, is less about finding information about people and more about organizing the amazing amount of information available to anyone who looks. Access to records has greatly increased in recent years, but it might be a challenge for some to keep track of the research they do to find a particular person or straighten out a particularly convoluted limb of the family tree, even with the many online tools and apps available. One tool that has proven useful for many in past years is logbooks. At their most basic level, logbooks are a simple means whereby people looking for their ancestors can record what searches have been done, what results have been found, and which documents are relevant to the question at hand. Peg A. Ivanyo, in her 2016 Family History Conference class for genealogy beginners said that they can contain notes, citations, stories, and even links to blog posts. But how exactly can they be helpful?

Research logs serve to make things easier. Jill Crandell, a history professor at BYU, says that research logs help to decrease duplication of effort and make one’s searches more efficient. Her own research log website, ResearchTies.com, serves to help people plan their research, catalogue their findings, and record their interpretations. Of research logs, she says, “[they] logs need to be detailed and kept consistently. If they are, the logs will prevent researchers from searching the same sources multiple times, documents will be organized and accessible, and research analysis will be higher quality. Find a research log format that works for you, one that you are actually willing to use to record your work, then use it.”

Many years ago, she was working on tracing a nomadic family who had lived in New York, Canada, and Scotland, with a common name. The man she was researching never identified his parents in any of his documents. To solve the mystery of who his parents were, Dr. Crandell turned to her research log. Through it, she was able to learn that this man had been traveling with other people who had moved to all of the same places as him. By studying the documents saved in her log, Dr.Crandell was able to further this genealogy.

The benefits of doing genealogy, to both the doer and the ancestor, are plentiful, and logbooks are some of the many tools available to anyone who has a desire to connect with those ancestors. Paul Cardall, the noted pianist who spoke at BYU’s most recent Conference on Family History and Genealogy, spoke of the relationship between family history and missionary work. As Mormons, we believe that families can be together after this life. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen relationships with all family members, both those who are alive and those who have died…for Mormons, genealogical research or family history is the essential forerunner for temple work for the dead.”

 

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What Tips to You Have for Doing Family History?

Faculty News: Dr. Sarah Loose: Historian and Humanitarian

loose-sarahAn examination of history—particularly medieval times, which were rife with war, famine, and plague—wouldn’t necessarily lead one to focus on practices of aiding the poor and other forms of charity, but to Sarah Loose, a new professor of History at BYU, they naturally go together. Poor relief and charity “[provide] a window onto a lot of different aspects of society,” she says. By studying them, she can research political relations, religion, social history, and how they all tie into each other.

Dr. Loose graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s in History in 2002, then a masters of Arts in European History in 2007,  and a Doctorate from the University of Toronto in the history of Late Middle Europe, 1050-1494 a.d., in 2013. Her dissertation described the network of charity that existed around a hospital in Siena, Italy during the sixteenth century. She has spoken, published, and written primarily about civic humanism and politics in Renaissance Italy. Because of these academic interests, Dr. Loose is fluent in Italian and can read in French and Latin. She is also a part of the Renaissance Society of America, the American Historical Association, the Canadian Society for Italian Studies, and the Sixteenth Century Society.

Before coming back to BYU, the historian taught a variety of Renaissance and medieval history courses from 2014-2016 St. Jerome’s University and the University of Toronto. Of her Alma Mater, Dr. Loose said, “BYU is in my family blood.” Truly, she is correct: her father is a competitive swimming coach at the university, three of the five children in her family are alumni, and both her grandparents and parents met at the Y.

Currently, Dr. Loose is teaching History 300, Early Middle Ages and History 201, World Civilization to 1500. Her “great experience as a student” at BYU contributed to her applying for the position of professor. She wanted to come back to her alma mater and be closer to her family that lives in Utah.  Her goals in the classroom are to “[help] students understand and see the past in a new way.” As they learn and gain these perspectives, she hopes to in turn learn from them.

 

 

 

 

De Lemar Jensen Lecture: The Ottoman Empire and How It Relates to Us

Despite what many assume, history is not just about the past. It’s about giving us the knowledge to understand the present and predict the future. This is exactly what Dr. Virginia Aksan illustrated through her presentation on October 27th.jensenlectureflyer_v4

BYU History Department Chair Eric Dursteler once said, “As historians, we look to the past to understand the present.” This served as the opening to the annual De Lamar Jensen Lecture, which is funded by and named after the esteemed former BYU professor.  This year’s distinguished lecturer was Dr. Virginia Aksan, who is a retired McMaster University History professor specializing in Ottoman History from the 1700’s to the early 1800’s. As such, her lecture was focused on that topic and how it relates to contemporary times.

History student Madelyn Lunnen attended the lecture. She says: “Dr. Aksan spoke passionately about the Turks and the Napoleonic War. Her eyes lit up as she expounded on their various rulers and changes made to the civilization.” Without a doubt, the Ottoman Empire is a very specific topic, one that will not appeal to everyone.

Modern Implications

However, that does not mean that it is not applicable to us today. The Ottoman Empire later dissolved into what is now known as Turkey and parts of several other nations. It may be argued that our relationship with the country is paramount, as they are a part of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the UN, and are being considered as a potential addition to the EU. The US State Department describes our relationship with the country thus: “The U.S.-Turkey partnership is based on mutual interests and mutual respect and is focused on areas such as regional security and stability, as well as economic cooperation.”

mena-ottoman-europe-colonies-1280
Map Courtesy of GeoPolitical Futures

Despite this positive depiction of our friendship with Turkey, their president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in an interview with 60 Minutes indicated the opposite: “Well, let me be very frank in my remarks. I wouldn’t speak the truth if I said I was not disillusioned, because I am disillusioned.” He spoke on the the US’s involvement in Syria. According to Erdoğan, the US’s actions in Syria have led to an increased number of refugees (almost 3 million) coming to Turkey, hindered his ability to guard his country, and created a threat on his Southern border.

Because of Turkey’s close proximity to Syria and the Middle East, the U.S. maintains military bases in Turkey. To the extent that the U.S. still actively seeks to counteract the international threat that ISIS poses as the perpetrator of 1,200 deaths, a mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey would enable the U.S to maintain its counter-terrorism efforts in that part of the world, and perhaps the alleviation of Erdoğan’s concerns regarding the number of refugees in his country.

Erdoğan, like Aksan, reveres the Ottomon Empire as one of the oldest and longest lasting in human history. He has, in fact, stated that he would like to take his country back to the time when they were the most powerful nation in the world, to the time of the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand what that empire was and its significance. This will aid us in repairing our relationship with Turkey and continuing our fight against terrorism.

Did You Attend the De Lemar Jensen Lecture?