Saturday, 25 April 2015

Countries Involved in World War I...

Published: July 9 2007 on Helium

The countries involved in World War I, (1914-1918), were all there for diverse reasons. Some were there, fervently feeling a sense of nationalism, a new patriotic spirit awakening in the later years of the 19th century. Some were there defending imperialistic acquisitions or prospects. Some were there to test land and sea military strength. Some were there supporting an empire or mother country. And some were driven to war with varying degrees of all three agendas, plus, perhaps, a sense of fear.

The war was triggered by a Bosnian revolutionary's assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on 28th June 1914. But the major players in the war used this event as a catalyst to vent long term imperialistic and political tensions. In short, many countries joined for either their own particular grievances or a sense of duty bound up in colonial ties. Only the U.S. (originally neutral) entered the war under provocation. Finally, in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson committed the U.S. to the Allies because cargo boats were consistently attacked by the Germans. Germany "needled" the U.S. into the war.

The two major, opposing powers were known as the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.

The Triple Entente, formed in 1907, became known, in the course of the war, as the Allies. The countries initially involved were Britain, France and Russia. Britain was regarded as having the strongest naval power. France had a credible land army. The United States joined this group in 1917. The Triple Alliance, formed in 1882, became known as the Central Powers. Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy were initially involved. Germany and Italy were newly unified in the late 19th century. It seemed they wished to "test" their power on a world scale. On the outbreak of war, Turkey joined this group, while Italy crossed over to the Allies.

Other countries involved in the war joined or supported one of these two groups.

On the Allies side, Britain was supported by her far reaching empire of British territories in Africa, Atlantic Islands, Australasia and Pacific Ocean, Canada, Falkland Islands, Singapore, Cyprus, Malta, Indian empire; Indian Ocean Islands -Andaman , Cocos, Mauritius, Nicobar, Seychelles; Middle East Arabia(protectorates), Kuwait, Oman, Newfoundland; West Indies. France was supported by her smaller empire including Morocco, Algeria, New Caledonia and Guadeloupe. Italy was supported by her African colonies of Italian Somaliland, Eritrea and Tripoli. Japan joined the Allies, but only played a small role in east Asia. Belgium and Portugal, originally wanting neutrality, reluctantly joined the Allies when surrounded by warring factions. (Amazingly, Spain remained neutral throughout the war!)

On the Central Powers side, Germany was supported by her empire including Cameroon, German East Africa, South West Africa (Namibia), Togoland; Bismarck Archipelgeo, Carolina Islands, Mariana Islands, Marshal Islands, Palau Islands and Samoa Islands. Of note, the German empire was only acquired late in the 19th century, well after the main imperial players Britain and France. Colonial support was a somewhat unknown, untested factor.

In total, over 100 countries were involved in this war. But not all countries were directly involved in the fighting. Some of the colonies, for example, acted as a source of military supply of armaments or as a reserve force. Other European countries, such as Poland, Belgium and Luxembourg, were drawn into the war because they were occupied by the Germans; but they also acted as a "corridor of escape" for the Allies.

Africa, being the great imperialistic vision of the major European powers in the 19th century, was divided by the war. Only Ethiopia and four small Spanish colonies were neutral.

Then, when the United States joined the war in 1917, most of the Central American countries followed. Brazil, in South America, independently declared war on Germany in 1917. Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia severed ties with Germany but did not get involved in the war.

The larger powers were involved in World War I because they wanted to vent nationalistic superiority, test military strength and assert imperialistic claims left over from the 19th century. Many of the smaller countries were drawn in to the war because they either had a sense of duty to a mother country or, being surrounded by "the heavies", felt impelled to take sides to protect their own safety.


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Overview of Emperor Qin's Terra Cotta Army...

Published: August 5 2001 on Helium

Many consider Emperor Qin's terracotta army, silently waiting in battle lines, should rank as the 8th ancient wonder of the world. Here was a man so proud of his achievements, (unifying chaotic China in this life), he wished to maintain them in the next. Life-size warriors, numbering about 8,000, and chariots with horses, all made of terracotta, symbolically accompanied Emperor Qin, the first emperor of China, into the afterlife. They were created by more than 700,000 workers between 246B.C and 209B.C. Not until 1974 was this amazing army unearthed. In 1987, Emperor Qin's mausoleum and army were listed by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site.

Such a remarkable artistic feat signifies the emperor must have had great power and respect. Emperor Qin was only 13 when he came to the throne in 246B.C. By 222B.C., he had defeated the warring states and united China for the first time in history. By the time of his death in 210B.C., he had linked his country with a network of roads and canals. Feudalism was eliminated; provinces were led by governors. Written language was standardized. Monetary currencies were standardized. And he created the first version of the Great Wall of China. Such a phenomenal range of national achievements in one lifetime could warrant an unusual, grand scale monument in death.

And indeed this army was part of a grand scale mausoleum. Think of a large "underground city" or city of death. It includes an underground palace. The workers were buried alive in this palace so no secrets were told. This is the mausoleum complex covering about 2.18 million square metres. The emperor's tomb, beneath a mound of earth 40 metres high, (still not opened because the entrance can't be found), covers about 220,000 square metres. The army covers an area of about 20,000 square metres, linked by 3 large hallways (referred to by archaeologists as Pits 1, 2 and 3).

But it is the unique terracotta army that has attracted world attention. Pit 1, discovered in 1974, covers 14,000 square metres and contains 6,000 warriors. Infantry men, archers and chariots are here. 10 walls or partitions separate the rows of soldiers at the front. Rearguards have crossbows and chariots are at the back. The horses have bronze bridles. 10,000 metal weapons and the largest, bronze, horse-drawn chariot are also here. It was opened to the public on China's National Day in 1979.

Hundreds of cavalry, 90 wooden chariots and archers are in Pit 2. It was discovered in 1976 and opened to the public in 1994. Pit 3, also discovered in 1976, has 68 army commanders and staff. It seems to be an army headquarters and includes beautiful pieces of pottery and jewellery. The public could view this from 1989.
The human figures, once brightly coloured but now faded. Cavalry men are approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall. The commanders are over 6 feet tall. All have individual facial expressions. Some figures are in a standing position while others kneel with real swords drawn. Most wear tunics but some are dressed in armour.

The picture overall is one of an army waiting for the order to attack. The positions suggest aggression not defense. To enforce that perspective, when the army was discovered, weapons were still sharp. Arrow heads contained a deadly high percentage of lead, guaranteeing lead poisoning of a wound. This was not just a depiction of an army waiting for battle. It was a very real scenario.

Why did the Emperor feel the need to go to such lengths? Perhaps, he realized his subduing of China was fast, and maybe rash and desperate? Perhaps speed may not be a guarantee of lasting stability. Perhaps he felt insecure and needed a warning to all who challenged him. Perhaps he believed the after life was just an extension of the present.

As immense as these discoveries are, it is believed there are more pits to be found. Xiaoneng Yang describes Emperor Qin's ambition:
"Ample evidence demonstrates the First Emperor's ambition: not only to control all aspects of the empire during his lifetime but to recreate the entire empire in microcosm for his after life."

The terracotta army of Emperor Qin is symbolic of one man's dream to make a lasting difference in his world, even beyond the grave.

Sources (Xiaoneng Yang's quote)