January 16, 2016


To fight Isis we need to learn from the era of Calvinism : What Syria is going through at this time is no worse than what Germany experienced in the Thirty Years War that ended in 1648 (Andreas Whittam Smith, 16 December 2015, The Independent)

As I learn of fresh Isis atrocities, I cannot help reminding myself that Europe was once in a similar situation to that in which the Middle East finds itself today. I am referring to the period of the Reformation, which started soon after Luther nailed his 95 theses to door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Saxony, in October 1517. Luther had denounced what he saw as the corrupt practices of his Church. Before long, his followers, who later became known as Protestants, broke away from the authority of the Pope in Rome.

This Protestant versus Catholic division - our version of Islam's Sunni versus Shia - was replicated all over Europe. In Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany, what started as disagreement and protest later morphed into religious persecution and then, often enough, into civil war.    Only when these conflicts came to an end in the mid-1600s was this nightmare, which lasted 140 years, brought to a close.

What Syria is going through at this time is no worse than what Germany experienced in the Thirty Years War that ended in 1648. The historian Norman Davies describes the post-war scene thus: "Germany lay desolate. The population had fallen from 21 million to perhaps 13 million. Between a third and half of the people were dead. Whole cities like Magdeburg stood in ruins. Whole districts lay stripped of their inhabitants, their livestock, and their supplies. Trade had virtually ceased."

Nor is the Syrian calamity any more disastrous than the English Civil War, which petered out in 1651. Read what the Cambridge historian, Robert Tombs, has to say about the conflict: "The Civil War was the most lethal conflict England had suffered since the Conquest. A recent estimate suggests around 86,000 killed in combat, nearly all soldiers; another 129,000, mostly civilians, succumbed to the diseases that accompanied war; and infant mortality reached the highest level ever recorded. These losses, in a population of 4-5 million, are proportionately much higher than those England suffered in the First World War."

From a historical perspective, the remarkable thing about the WoT is its rapidity and lack of mass death.
Posted by at January 16, 2016 11:47 AM