the Albigensian crusadeNot many people have heard of the Albigensian Crusade, but if you have, you know that this event was much like a real-life episode of Game of Thrones. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the Albigensian Crusade.

    1. The crusade began in 1209
      The Albigensian Crusade was a 20-year-long endeavor, lasting from 1209 until 1229.
    2. Pope Innocent III started the crusade against the Cathars
      The Cathars were a religious group that rejected the traditional Roman Catholic Church. They committed themselves to the Cathari religious movement, which dominated southern France in the 1200s. The Cathars believed in a dualistic cosmology that partially adapted Catholic thought into a religion of their own and was thus considered heretical.
    3. The Albigensian Crusade took place in southern France
      The geographical scope of the crusade stretched across southern France: Avignon, Castelsarrasin, Termes and Toulouse.
    4. Catharism was virtually eliminated
      The crusade eventually eradicated Catharism by the end of the 13th century.
    5. Crusaders were instructed to have no mercy and no discretion
      During the capture of Béziers, a key Cathar territory in southern France, the papal legate was asked how to distinguish between Cathars and Christians, and allegedly responded “Kill them all. God will know his own.” Everyone in the south of France was at risk of being considered a heretic simply because of where they lived.
    6. Crusaders believed in “crusade indulgence”
      It was believed that “crusade indulgence” officially absolved sins and ensured that no punishment would be issued in the afterlife. The Albigensian Crusade was very popular among soldiers because they believed their sins would be forgiven for taking part in the crusade.
    7. The crusades morphed into a holy war
      By the 12th century, crusading was dedicated to removing religious diversity. The Roman Catholic Church considered the practice of other religions a threat to human salvation. Crusades branched out from those against Muslims and pagans in the Baltic region to the perceived threat of the Cathars.
    8. Pope Innocent III started the crusade but didn’t finish it
      After spearheading the crusade, Pope Innocent III was murdered while trying to recruit an ally. It is generally believed that the count of Toulouse, Raymond VI, murdered the pope after he tried to recruit the count to join the war effort.
    9. Royal intervention ended the crusade in 1229
      Despite papal inception, King Louis VIII brought the Albigensian Crusade to an end in 1229 after officially restoring control over the region.
    10. There were over one million deaths
      It is estimated that at least one million innocent lives were lost throughout the course of the 20-year crusade. Some Cathars were even burned at the stake.

Even though the Albigensian Crusade came to an end in 1229, it led to further persecution of heretics in the following century, including the infamous Spanish Inquisition and various other crusades. Though they occurred many centuries ago, these persecutions and deaths are part of the numerous human rights violations that have taken place throughout history.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Google

Civil wars are scattered throughout world history as power struggles that have torn governments apart. From the U.S. in the 19th century, to Spain, Korea and Vietnam in the 20th century, the division of power in a country is nothing new. Usually, that division is split between two sides, north and south. Going back almost 2 thousand years, the Three Kingdoms’ War was unique for featuring a three-way tie for power. Here are 10 facts about the Three Kingdoms’ War:

    1. The Three Kingdoms’ War took place in China, ultimately driving the country into three warring regions as they engaged in a makeshift civil war.
    2. The Three Kingdom’s War took place between the Han Dynasty and the Jin Dynasty, starting in the year 220 AD and lasting until 280 AD.
    3. Although the Three Kingdom’s War lasted for a period of 60 years, the origins of the conflicts go back further than 220 AD, to 189 AD. At that time, the Han emperor died and a young emperor was placed on the throne.
    4. Many generals were unhappy with the new emperor and were dismayed at the influence that eunuchs had in the role of government. The young emperor was eventually ousted and replaced, but the fighting and political tension continued to grow. Civil wars broke out and divided the country into three kingdoms.
    5. The Three Kingdoms were the Wei Kingdom, the Shu Kingdom and the Wu Kingdom. The Wei Kingdom was led by Cao Pi, who controlled the northern part of China; the Shu Kingdom was led by Liu Bein, who controlled the southwestern part of China; and the Wu Kingdom was led by Sun Quan, who controlled the southeastern part of China.
    6. Of the Three Kingdoms, the Wei Kingdom had the strongest military. Located north of the Yangtze (Yellow) River, the Wei Kingdom was unable to conquer the other two kingdoms. The two kingdoms in the south, the Shu and Wu, formed an alliance out of military strategy to keep the Wei contained to the north.
    7. The Wei Kingdom was overthrown as the Jin Dynasty emerged in 265 AD. After conquering the north, they turned their sights south and gradually took over the Shu and Wu kingdoms, declaring victory in 280 AD. The Jin dynasty lasted until 420 AD.
    8. This period of fighting was responsible for one of the deadliest periods in China’s history. During the Han Empire, China boasted a population of 54 million, but during the Jin Empire, their population fell to 16 million. This population loss was a result of ongoing fighting and internal displacement brought on by war.
    9. Despite the fighting and death tolls, innovation thrived. This period is credited with the invention of gunpowder for weaponry. Additionally, irrigation systems were updated while shipbuilding increased to meet the demands of the trade from the growing Silk Route.
    10. The history of the war was immortalized in the book The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This popular historical fiction was written by Luo Guan Zhong. The exact publication year is unknown but is speculated to have been written between 1279 and 1644.

Jeffery Silvey

Photo: Flickr

War is often not discreet, pretty or humane. War tends to ravage countries, level cities and devastate families. War is abusive, destructive, and aggressive; but war looks for solutions. War is the last means to an end, the final attempt to solve a problem that no other solution has been able to solve. That being said, war involves everyone, from soldiers and sailors to mothers and children. The death toll can be high. Here is a list of the 10 largest wars fought on Earth based on the number of people who gave their lives fighting.

  1. The American Civil War from 1861 to 1865. This war was fought between the North (Union) and the South (Confederacy) based on issues surrounding slavery and extending the U.S. westward. According to a recent study by the Civil War Trust approximately 850,000 soldiers died due to “combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War.”
  2. The Soviet War in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. The Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan and attempted to support a pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. By means of taking over cities and highways, the Soviets quickly took control but the rebellion was immediate and widespread. During the course of the nine-year occupation an estimated total of nearly 1,125,000 Afghani civilians and troops, Mujahideen fighters and Soviet soldiers were killed.
  3. The Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975. The Vietnam War began as a result of the U.S.’s strategy to contain the spread of communism throughout the world during the Cold War. It is estimated that between the U.S. and its allies 64,000 lives were lost, between North Vietnam and its Communist allies 1.1 million lives were lost. As for civilian casualties, the official estimate is 2 million people. Totaling the death tally at just fewer than 3.2 million lives.
  4. The Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1815. Fought during Napoleon Bonaparte’s imperial rule over France as a means to extend his empire, this war resulted in over 6.5 million people dead.
  5. The Thirty Year’s War from 1618 to 1648. Based off of its name, this war raged on uninterrupted for thirty years, making it the longest continuous war in modern history. In total including civilians, the death toll was 8 million.
  6. Taiping Rebellion from 1850-1864. The Taiping Rebellion was a “radical political and religious upheaval that was…the most important event in Chino in the 19th century.” And according to Britannica, it claimed at least 20 million lives.
  7. The Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945. This war fought between China and Japan before and during World War II resulted in nearly 23 million lives.
  8. World War I from 1914 to 1918. After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand set off a chain of events that lead to the “Great War,” the end result in lives lost on both Allied and Central Powers sides was 37 million.
  9. The Mongol Conquests from 1206 to 1368. This war resulted in not only the significant expansion of the Mongol Empire but also the loss of 60 million lives.
  10. World War II from 1938 to 1945. WWII touched every corner of the Earth. That is why it is number one on this list of 10 largest wars. Every continent and ocean were involved in some way or another resulting in the staggering death total of 72,468,900 lives lost.

War can positively bolster the economy and national pride. Larger empires can exploit its gains to solve political issues. However, the notion of war is a dark one and this list of the 10 largest wars demonstrates that even if there is light at its end, the devastation and loss of life are unfortunate consequences to achieve peace.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Worst Wars in History
War is a terrible phenomenon and one can uncover multiple layers of evil when evaluating just how bad a war is. One way to compare wars in history is to look at the loss of life during each war. Using that calculation, the worst wars in history become horrifically obvious.

Top 7 of the Worst Wars in History:

1. The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) – Between 3.5 and 6 million people were killed in the wars Napoleon Bonaparte waged in the early 19th century. The Napoleonic Wars were some of the worst wars in history partially because of the widespread use of mass conscription, which was applied at an unprecedented scale during this war.

2. The Russian Civil War (1917-1922) – Some five to nine million people died in the Russian Civil War, which took place in the years that followed the collapse of the Russian Empire and the death of the last Russian Czar.

3. World War I (1914-1918) – An estimated 20 million people were killed in the first World War, then also known as the Great War. Erupting in Europe after the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, World War I is one of the worst wars in history partially because it was among the first wars to have been fought using modern warfare tactics. Up until then, no one had ever seen a war of such scale, and the resulting trauma rippled through several generations.

4. A Lushan Rebellion (755-763 AD) – The An Lushan Rebellion happened in the Chinese Tang Dynasty when a Tang general established a rival dynasty in the North. Despite some disagreements about the reliability of the census system during the time, experts estimate between 13 and 36 million casualties.

5. Qing Dynasty Conquest of the Ming (1618-1683) – The Qing Dynasty is known for being the last of the old Chinese dynasties before the beginning of the Republic, but an estimated 25 million people died in the Conquest of the Ming before the Qing Dynasty began.

6. Taiping Rebellion (1850) – During the Taiping Rebellion, a convert to Christianity named Hong Xiquan led a rebellion against the Manchu Qing Dynasty, during which anywhere between 20 to 100 million people (mostly civilians) were killed.

7. World War II (1938-1945) – With a death toll between 40 and 85 million, the Second World War was the deadliest and worst war in history. Experts estimate with such a high death toll, about three percent of the world’s population at 1940 died.

While the wars listed above are some of the worst wars in history, one must be careful not to forget that deadly wars are being fought today all around the globe as well. These may be the worst wars in history, but who’s to say that the worst war of all isn’t one being fought right now?

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr

Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 – but the story of European “discovery” and subsequent conquest of the Americas is much more complex than a children’s nursery rhyme can convey. Although America today is seen as the land of the free and the brave, one must remember that the Americas were free and brave long before the clash of the “Old” and “New” worlds. Here are seven facts about the conquest of the Americas:

  1. One of the most famous encounters between the “New” and “Old World” occurred in 1533, when the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, led 168 of his men into the highlands of Peru to seize the Inca Empire. Pizarro captured and then ransomed the Inca emperor, Atahualpa, forcing the Incas to surrender.
  2. Although war and conquest do account for a large number of indigenous peoples’ deaths during the conquest of the Americas, scholars estimate that thousands more died from exposure to diseases brought over by Europeans for which the indigenous population had not had the chance to develop antibodies or immunity. Such diseases included smallpox, influenza and malaria.
  3. Scientists and experts are at odds with each other over the question of whether or not horses are an indigenous American species. Common knowledge holds that horses were not present in North America until the mid-1500s when Christopher Columbus and the numerous Spanish voyages of conquest introduced them to the continent. But more recent research places ancient horses in North America as recent at 7600 BCE. Whatever the correct answer, one cannot deny that having horses gave the Europeans significant advantage.
  4. People often credit Christopher Columbus with “discovering” America, but more recent scholarship says otherwise. In actuality, a band of Viking explorers led by Leif Eriksson reached what is now Newfoundland as early as 500 years before Columbus ever set foot in America.
  5. Like Pizarro, Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez reached present-day Mexico in 1519 and encountered the indigenous Aztec people. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, welcomed Cortez and his men into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Cortez, however, captured Montezuma and forced the Aztecs to surrender to him, further solidifying the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
  6. It goes without saying that wherever the European conquerors landed, there was a devastating blow to the indigenous population there. When Columbus met the Taino Indians on the island of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic), the indigenous population fell from 600,000 to 60,000 in only twenty years. In Mexico, the indigenous population fell from 25 million to one million in just a hundred years.
  7. The conquest of the Americas didn’t stop with the Spanish conquest, however. After settling in North America, the Europeans who stayed there eventually broke off with Europe and formed the United States and pushed ever westward following the ideals of “Manifest Destiny.” Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado estimates that the indigenous population of North America fell from 12 million in 1500 to 237,000 in 1900. Although the “American Indian Wars” definitely contributed to this significant drop, experts agree that the biggest blow to the population was in the form of economic and social upheaval.

The meeting of two worlds came with both good and bad consequences. It is important to remember the consequences of the conquest of the Americas in order to move forward positively as a nation. With hope, future discoveries and explorations will lead to improved, rather than strained, relations.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr


8 Facts About the Mongol Empire and Mongol Conquests
While not known as a major player on the global political stage, once upon a time, Mongolia was the largest contiguous land empire in the world. The Mongols originated their empire in the steppes of central Asia when Genghis Khan unified the nomadic clans of Mongolia and led a years-long campaign of conquest in the 13th century. At its prime, the borders of Genghis’ empire stretched from Central Europe and Siberia to the eastern Chinese coast and Arabia. Here are eight facts about the Mongols, their culture and their conquests:

  1. Kublai Khan ordered two campaigns to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281. The campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful, however, as the Mongol fleet met with a powerful typhoon during both campaigns, which wiped out between 60 and 90 percent of their forces. This massive upset became an important event in Japanese history and suggested that despite the strength of the empire, Mongol conquest had its limits. The intervention of nature during these battles became known as kamikaze, or “divine wind”, a concept that the Japanese turned to once again in WWII.
  2. Scholar and writer of The Secret History of Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford says that as Genghis Khan built his empire, he solidified Mongol Empire control over conquered territories by securing strategic marriages for his daughters. For example, his daughter Alaqai married into the Onggud tribe while Al-Atun married a prince of the Uighurs. Upon marriage, Genghis made sure his daughters became their husbands’ principal wives.
  3. Medieval Mongol Empire warfare relied mostly on mounted archers. Mongolian cavalry favored the Mongol recurve bow when riding into battle. This type of bow has limbs that curve away from the archer, allowing the bow to lend more potential energy and speed to the arrow. Being smaller than other bows, the Mongol recurve bow was also a less-cumbersome weapon for a soldier on horseback. Scholar Jeanine Davis-Kimball also points out that horseback riding and archery were martial arts that could be easily learned by both men and women, making Mongol society a bit more egalitarian.
  4. The Battle of Xiangyang in 1273 was a key victory for Kublai Khan’s Yuan Mongols, one that gave the Mongols, even more access to the Southern Song heartland. The Song eventually surrendered to Kublai Khan’s Mongol forces in 1276, and the incorporation of the Chinese into the empire resulted in some sinicization of Mongol culture, meaning that the Mongols adopted some Chinese customs and values such as the reinstation of the Civil Service Examination.
  5. After Kublai Khan conquered the Song Dynasty and declared the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty, he moved the capital of his empire from the Karakorum in Central Asia to Khanbaliq, the site of present-day Beijing.
  6. In 1231, Genghis’ son Ogodei ordered a campaign of conquest on the Korean Peninsula, which was then known as the Kingdom of Goryeo. The campaigns continued until 1270 when the king of Goryeo signed a peace treaty with the Mongols and Korea became a Mongol vassal state.
  7. Genghis’ grandson, Hulagu became the Great Khan in the kurultai of 1256. As Great Khan, Hulagu ordered a series of campaigns in the Middle East. Under his rule, the Mongols captured Baghdad in 1258, and the Abbassid Caliphate became a part of the growing Mongol Empire.
  8. The Mongols, along with other nomadic central Asian cultures of the time, practiced sky burials or the practice of leaving the bodies of their dead out in the open to be exposed to the elements and eaten by carrion birds. The ritual is a part of a branch of Buddhism practiced by the Mongols known as Vajrayana. According to Vajrayana Buddhism, death is simply a transmigration of the spirit, therefore corpses are merely empty vessels that ought to be disposed of in a generous way, such as decomposition or as food for birds. The custom is still practiced today in parts of Mongolia and Tibet.

These are just a handful of fascinating facts about the Mongol Empire, but the story of the Mongol people didn’t end with the fall of the empire. Today, Mongolia is a fast-growing economic frontier full of sprawling steppes and desert, rich with minerals. They’ve since abandoned their military campaigns of conquest and transitioned to democracy and a market economy. Though Mongolia is not known as the most outspoken state today, one wonders when and how Genghis’ people will next stun the world.

Mary Grace Costa

Photo: Flickr