Historic recurrence

Historic recurrence

Historic recurrence is the repetition of similar events in history.Fact|date=February 2007 In the extreme, the concept hypothetically assumes the form of the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence that was described by Heinrich Heine and Friedrich Nietzsche.Fact|date=February 2007

While it is often remarked that "History repeats itself," in cycles of less than cosmological duration this cannot be strictly true. That was appreciated by Mark Twain, who commented: "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

The contemplation of historic recurrences tends to induce a peculiar sense of "convergence" or "resonance," or perhaps "déjà vu".Fact|date=February 2007 This sense is best conveyed by examples, three of which follow. Each juxtaposes paired events, widely separated in time and geography, which might not have been set side by side before the advent of the Annales School and of more recent historiographies such as "Big History," "World History" and Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel".

Kings kill bishops, create saints

Conflict between church and state is an ancient theme, with exemplars found in civilizations as widely scattered in time and space as ancient Egypt (as with Akhenaten), medieval Europe and Japan.

In 1071, Stanisław of Szczepanów became one of the earliest native Polish bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, as Bishop of Kraków, and an advisor to Bolesław, Duke of Poland. Bishop Stanisław's achievements included re-establishing a metropolitan see at Gniezno. This was a precondition for Duke Bolesław's coronation as King of Poland, which took place in 1076 — the first Polish coronation held at Kraków, the country's capital from 1038.

Over the next three years, relations between Bishop Stanisław and King Bolesław II the Bold soured over a dispute concerning Church property and over the Bishop's criticism of the King's conduct in office. Eventually the Bishop excommunicated the King. The King retaliated by accusing the Bishop of treason and in 1079 — when the King's henchmen dared not touch the Bishop — personally slew him as the Bishop celebrated mass.

Bishop Stanisław's murder stirred outrage throughout Poland and led to the dethronement of King Bolesław II the Bold, who was forced to seek refuge in Hungary. In 1253, 174 years after Bishop Stanisław's martyrdom, he was canonized, becoming Poland's first native saintSt. Stanisław Szczepanowski.

Nine decades after the martyrdom of Saint Stanisław, in 1170, something eerily similar happened in England.Fact|date=February 2007

Thomas Becket had carried out important missions to Rome for Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, who subsequently recommended him to England's King Henry II for the post of Lord Chancellor. Upon his appointment, Becket became a boon companion to the King and enforced the Danegeld taxes, creating resentment among affected English churchmen.

After Becket's patron, Archbishop Theobald, died in 1161, the clergy were coerced by King Henry into electing Becket as his successor. But no sooner had Becket been installed as England's primate than, to the astonishment of King and Country, he switched loyalties and became as zealous in protecting the privileges of the Church as he had previously been in enforcing King Henry's prerogatives.

The King sought to subject the clergy to secular law in secular matters, and seized some Church property. The Archbishop in return threatened to excommunicate the King. The growing tension between them culminated on December 29, 1170, in the Archbishop's murder by four of the King's knights at Canterbury Cathedral as Becket attended Vespers.

Henry II, unlike Poland's King Bolesław II the Bold, did not lose his throne over the Archbishop's murder. Becket came to be venerated as a martyr, and within three years had been canonized a saint. In 1174, during the Revolt of 1173-1174, King Henry humbled himself with public penance at Becket's tomb. In 1189 the King was defeated in battle by his own son, Richard the Lionheart, and died two days later.

Islands repel invaders, hurricanes defeat fleets

Two island monarchies, Japan and England, have often been characterized as insular, xenophobic, reserved and formal. Both these countries have been the first to industrialize, off the coasts of their respective continents. Both have experienced invasions, have been threatened by formidable empires, and have gone on to establish their own empires.

In 1266, seven years after becoming Emperor of China, Kublai Khan, grandson of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, demanded that Japan submit to Mongol rule. Having met with rebuffs, in 1274 he sent out a fleet of 300 large vessels and perhaps 500 smaller ones, carrying 15,000 Mongol and Chinese, and 8,000 Korean, warriors. On November 19 they landed at Hakata Bay on the Japanese island of Kyūshū, and next day fought the Battle of Bun'ei, also known as the "Battle of Hakata Bay." The Mongols, though outnumbered, held out all day but that night were persuaded by a storm to retreat.

In the spring of 1281, Kublai Khan made a second attempt to conquer Japan. After a poorly-coordinated false start, in the summer the combined Korean and Chinese fleet captured Iki-shima and proceeded on to Kyūshū. In several skirmishes known as the Battle of Kōan, or the Second Battle of Hakata Bay, the Mongol forces were driven back to their ships. A massive typhoon — the famous "kamikaze" ("divine wind") — now assaulted Kyūshū for two days, destroying much of the Mongol fleet.

Three centuries later, storms again intervened to seal the fate of an attempt to subjugate an island monarchy at the opposite end of the Eurasian landmass.Fact|date=February 2007

Spain's King Philip II was intent on stopping English depredations against his treasure fleets from Mexico and Peru, and English assistance to Dutch rebels against Spanish rule in the Netherlands. The Pope, in Rome, gave his blessing to an undertaking that promised to restore England to the Catholic fold.

On May 28, 1588, the Spanish Armada of 130 ships began sailing from Spanish-controlled Lisbon for the English Channel. The Armada's charge was to protect a fleet of barges that were to carry 16,000 invasion troops to England. At midnight of July 28, as the Armada lay at anchor off Calais, not far from the Spanish army at Dunkirk, the English set eight pitch- and gunpowder-filled ships alight and sent them downwind among the tightly-packed Spanish fleet. Many Spanish ships cut their cables in order to escape. The 55 lighter, more maneuverable English ships, armed with new longer-range artillery, could now engage the scattered Spanish ships individually.

On July 29, the English attacked. In the wake of the ensuing indecisive Battle of Gravelines, the Spanish, unaware that the English were short of ammunition, sailed north, pursued by the bluffing English fleet. The English followed the Armada well up the Scottish coast before disengaging for lack of ammunition.

The Spanish fleet sailed on around Scotland and Ireland into the North Atlantic. There it ran into a hurricane, which scattered the fleet and drove two dozen ships onto the Irish coast. Ultimately 67 ships — a mere half of the original Spanish Armada — survived to limp back to Spain.

The Spanish army never crossed the English Channel to invade England. Much as Kublai Khan might have, King Philip lamented: "I sent my ships to fight the English, not the elements."

Gods return, civilizations fall

The peoples that inhabited areas of the world outside the three conjoined continents of Africa, Asia and Europe had not partaken in the peaceful and warlike exchanges of people, goods, technologies and ideas that had been going on for thousands of years in the "Old World." Hence these peoples, isolated from the tri-continental system, were particularly vulnerable to conquest and devastation by guns, germs and steel. There was, however, yet another factor that added to their vulnerability: their religious beliefs.

The Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés set sail from Cuba on January 18, 1519, against the orders of that island's Spanish governor, bound for Mexico in search of gold and empire. In Yucatán he found two interpreters — one, the Doña Marina who has come down in Mexican history as "La Malinche", and who was to play a crucial role in Cortés' career.

Landing next at what was to become known as Veracruz, Cortés was greeted with gifts from local Totonac tribespeople, who were ruled by the great lord in the city of Tenochtitlán. Soon ambassadors arrived from the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II himself, who hoped to keep Cortés at bay with gifts of gold. Cortés subsequently claimed to have learned at this time that he was suspected of being the feathered-serpent god Quetzalcoatl or an emissary of that legendary god-king, who was predicted to return one day to reclaim his city in a "One-Reed year" of the Mexica calendar (which year chanced, in that particular 52-year period, to be the current year, 1519).

To ensure the loyalty of his expedition's members, Cortés scuttled all but one of his ships, then led his band inland toward the fabled Tenochtitlán, at that time one of the greatest cities on earth.

Ultimately, aided by his polyglot political adviser La Malinche, by the Aztecs' vassal tribes which Cortés terrorized into lending him military support, by his European firearms and other steel weapons, by his horses and war dogs, by smallpox previously unknown to the Western Hemisphere, and by his own ruthless perfidy, Cortés conquered Mexico. For Moctezuma hesitated until too late to act decisively against the pale-skinned, bearded supposed god Quetzalcoatl, was taken hostage by Cortés, and was killed by his own people as but one of the first victims of his country's conquest.

Two and a half centuries later, a similar story would begin to play itself out in Polynesia.Fact|date=February 2007

In Hawaiian mythology, the fertility god Lono had descended to Earth on a rainbow to marry the fertility goddess Laka. Lono was also the god of peace, and it was in his honor that the annual four-month Makahiki festival was held, during which war was "kapu" (taboo). Lono eventually left Hawaii, promising to return on a floating island.

The first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands, Captain James Cook, in the course of his third great voyage of exploration, chanced to arrive at the "Big Island" of Hawaii in 1778 during the annual Makahiki peace festival. His ship, "HMS Resolution" — more particularly, its mast formation, sails and rigging — put the Hawaiians in mind of their god Lono returning on a floating island. Moreover, Cook's counterclockwise route around the island before making landfall resembled the counterclockwise processions that took place around the island during the Lono festival. Consequently the Hawaiians took Captain Cook for the returning god Lono, and fêted him and his men accordingly.

Departing Hawaii, Cook proceeded to explore the coast of North America, from California to the Bering Strait. In the course of this leg of his expedition, the heretofore humane Cook began to show irritability and at times even irrationality, perhaps due to a dietary vitamin deficiency. The change in his behavior proved to be Cook's undoing when he returned to Hawaii in 1779, this time during the "war" season. On February 14, some Hawaiians made off with one of his small boats. Cook responded in an irrationally vindictive manner against a crowd of Hawaiians gathered on the beach, and in the ensuing skirmish was clubbed and stabbed to death.

Cook's "discovery" of the Hawaiian Islands led before long to their colonization, first by men of the cloth who came to do good, then by their brethren who came to do well. The guns and steel, and above all germs, that they brought displaced and devastated the natives, eventually bringing about the destruction of their sociopolitical system and the near-wiping-out of the Hawaiian people.


*David Christian (historian), "Maps of Time: an Introduction to Big History", University of California Press, 2005.
*Jared Diamond, "Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies", new ed., W.W. Norton, 2005.
*Marshall G.S. Hodgson, "Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam, and World History", Cambridge University Press, 1993.
*Fred Spier, "The Structure of Big History: from the Big Bang until Today", Amsterdam University Press, 1996.
*"Stanisław zwany ze Szczepanowa" ("Stanisław 'of Szczepanów'"), "Encyklopedia Polski" (Encyclopedia of Poland), Kraków, Wydawnictwo Ryszard Kluszczyński, 1996, pp. 636-37.
*David Knowles, "Archbishop Thomas Becket", 1949.
*George Sansom, "A History of Japan to 1334", Stanford University Press, 1958.
*C. Martin and G. Parker, "The Spanish Armada", 1988.
*William H. Prescott, "History of the Conquest of Mexico", 1843.
*Michael Dougherty, "To Steal a Kingdom: Probing Hawaiian History", Waimanalo, Hawaii, Island Style Press, revised 4th printing, 1996.

ee also

*List of independent discoveries

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