Arthur Dudney: Languages of Everywhere and Nowhere: Persian as Premodern Lingua Franca

Home to more than a billion people, modern India is at once a thriving tourist destination, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a hive of social, religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Spend a few days in India and at various points you will probably encounter speakers of Hindi, English, Sanskrit, Bengali or perhaps even all of the above. Yet it would be practically unheard of to find a Persian speaker in India today, despite the rich cultural influence of Persian on the South Asian subcontinent. The forgotten story of Persianate India is part of a much bigger picture of the Persian-speaking world, which is far from being limited to just Iran. In its heyday, as the language of the Mughal Empire, Persian could be considered a lingua franca as much as Latin in the Renaissance or French in the 18th century. It united millions of people across a wide swathe of Central and South Asia, stretching from as far west as Turkey to as far east as the fringes of China.

On today’s episode of The Provocateur I talk to Arthur Dudney, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, to help me piece together the history of Persianate India. We start by talking about the idea of a ‘mother tongue’ and its relationship to the concept of a lingua franca, before exploring the context of Persian and its role in Mughal India. We also discuss the place of Persian in the wider history of lingua francas and the implications for the ways in which we might think about lingua francas and the politics of language today.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Dudney, A. (2015) ‘Introduction’ and ‘Chapter 1: Beginnings’, in Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History. New Delhi: Hay House.

You can contact me for a PDF of the above; Indian listeners may wish to purchase a hard copy via Amazon.in or Flipkart.com.

Ryan Nichols: The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and Its Cultural Aftershocks

Lisbon is probably best known today as one of the cultural capitals of Europe, but it is also remembered as the victim of one of the deadliest and most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in European history. The disaster struck on 1st November 1755, registering an estimated 8.5-9.0 on the modern moment magnitude scale. It triggered fires and a tsunami, in the end claiming as many as 100,000 lives. The catastrophe was not just a literal earthquake, though; it was also a cultural earthquake, as it brought simmering religious tensions to the fore, threw Portugal’s imperial ambitions into disarray and even arguably changed the course of the Enlightenment in the latter half of the 18th century.

Today on The Provocateur I interview Ryan Nichols, associate professor of philosophy at California State University Fullerton, to discuss the cultural aftershocks of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. We explore the historical context of Lisbon and Portugal before the earthquake; the immediate effects of the disaster on Portuguese politics and society; discussions of the earthquake by 18th-century philosophers including Voltaire and Rousseau; how Ryan’s research in the cognitive science of religion can help explain the aftermath of the quake; and the wider cultural reverberations of this episode for the history and philosophy of science.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Araujo, A. C. (2006) ‘The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 – Public Distress and Political Propaganda’, E-journal of Portuguese History 4(1), article 3.

Braun, T. and J. Radner (eds.) (2005) The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755: Representations and Reactions. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation.

Chester, D. K. (2001) ‘The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake’, Progress in Physical Geography 25(3), pp. 363-383.

Dynes, R. R. (2000) ‘The Dialogue between Voltaire and Rousseau on the Lisbon Earthquake: The Emergence of a Social Science View’, International Journal of Emergencies and Disasters 18(1), pp. 97-115.

Festinger, L. et al. (1956) When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the End of the World. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Gutscher, M-A. (2004) ‘What Caused the Great Lisbon Earthquake?’ Science 305(5688), pp. 1247-1248.

Kelemen, D. (1999) ‘Why Are Rocks Pointy?: Children’s Preference for Teleological Explanations of the Natural World’, Developmental Psychology 35, pp. 1440-1453.

Marques, J. O. A. (2005) ‘The Paths of Providence: Voltaire and Rousseau on the Lisbon Earthquake’, Cadernos de Historia e Filosofia da Ciencia 3(15), pp. 33-57.

Neiman, S. (2004) Evil in Modern Thought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (For a critique see Nichols 2014, below.)

Nichols, R. (2014) ‘Re-evaluating the Effects of the Lisbon Earthquake on Eighteenth-Century Minds: How Cognitive Science of Religion Improves Intellectual History with Hypothesis Testing Methods’, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82(4), pp. 970-1009.

Pereira, A. S. (2009) ‘The Opportunity of a Disaster: The Economic Impact of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake’, The Journal of Economic History 69(2), pp. 466-499.

Rousseau, J-J. (1967) ‘Letter to Voltaire, 18 August 1756’, in Correspondance Complète de Jean Jacques Rousseau, vol. 4, ed. J. A. Leigh, trans. R. Spang, 37–50. Geneva, Switzerland: Voltaire Foundation.

Voltaire (2000 [1759]) ‘Candide, or Optimism’, in Candide and Related Texts, ed. and trans. D.Wootton, 1–83. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing.

Kristy Leissle: The Cultural Politics of Chocolate

From its mysterious origins deep in the rainforests of Central America to the gluttonous foodstuff we all know and love today, chocolate (not to mention its parent cocoa) has been an integral part of human society for centuries. The Aztecs used cocoa in rituals and as a form of currency as well as for nourishment. In early modern Spain, Catholic theologians argued over whether drinking chocolate could be seen to break the ecclesiastical fast. Chocolate pioneers in the nineteenth century promoted it as an alternative to alcohol, in keeping with the temperance movement that was all the rage at the time. Even in the modern world it has provoked strong emotional perceptions, from innocent treat to sexualized indulgence to junk food. Chocolate is a symbol of global inequality, cultural mores and social anxieties about health, religion, morality, sexuality, race and gender.

This week on The Provocateur we are joined by Kristy Leissle, a lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell, to discuss the cultural politics of chocolate. We talk about the history of chocolate from the Aztecs to the present, the politics of chocolate branding (using some rather tasty examples) and the future of the chocolate industry in an age of global climate change. Hopefully after listening to this episode you will never look at a chocolate bar in the same way again!

You can listen to the podcast here: 

These are images of the chocolate bars discussed during the show, for reference:

Further Reading:

Allen, L. L. (2009) Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association.

Beckett, S. T. (2008) The Science of Chocolate. Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Coe, S. D. and M. D. Coe (2013) The True History of Chocolate, third edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Forrest, B. M. and A. L. Najjaj (2007) ‘Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain’, Food and Foodways 5(1-2), pp. 31-52. [See also the rest of this journal issue.]

Jones, C. A. (2013) ‘Exotic Edibles: Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Early Modern French How-to’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 43(3), pp. 623-653.

Leissle, K. (in press) Cocoa. Cambridge: Polity Press (in the ‘Resources’ series).

Mintz, S. (1985) Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking-Penguin.

Norton, M. (2006) ‘Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics’, American Historical Review 111(3), pp. 660-691.

____ (2010) Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Richardson, B. (2015) Sugar. Cambridge: Polity Press (in the ‘Resources’ series).

Robertson, E. (2009) Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Ryan, O. (2011) Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed Books.

Satre, L. J. (2005) Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Jordan Girardin: The Alps as Transnational Space (25th Episode) / Les Alpes comme un endroit transnational (25ème épisode)

French version below / Version française ci-dessous

The Alps might be most familiar to us as ‘the playground of Europe’ and indeed in modern times it is a vibrant hub for mountaineering, skiing and snowboarding. As many as 120 million people visit the Continent’s most famous mountain range each year and the tourism industry generates almost 50 billion euros in annual turnover, supporting around 10-12% of jobs in the Alpine economy. But this image of the Alps as a winter haven is a fairly recent invention. In the eighteenth century, the Alps were seen as a barren, even threatening, wilderness and it took many decades for the region to evolve into the tourist destination we know today.

This week on The Provocateur I talk to Jordan Girardin, who has just completed his PhD in History at the University of St Andrews, to explore the transnational history of travel in the Alps from the 1750s to the 1830s. We discuss the attitudes of both scientific explorers and leisure travellers to the Alps in this period; the varied and sometimes amusing reactions of locals to the new wave of mass interest in the Alps; and the implications of considering the Alps as a transnational space. The episode marks a mini-milestone for The Provocateur as the 25th show in the series, so I thought I’d stay true to the transnational spirit of the topic and record a French interview with Jordan as well, which you can hear below.

You can listen to the (English) podcast here: 

Version française

Dans l’image populaire, les Alpes sont ‘le cour de récréation de l’Europe’ et c’est vrai que, de nos jours, elles sont un centre dynamique de l’alpinisme, du ski et du snowboard. Chaque année, les montagnes les plus célèbres du Continent attirent jusqu’à 120 millions personnes et l’industrie touristique amène jusqu’à 50 milliards d’euros, ce qui soutient 10-12% des emplois dans l’économie de la région. Mais cette image des Alpes comme un paradis hivernal n’est qu’une invention assez récente. Dans le 18ème siècle, on perçevait les Alpes comme une étendue sauvage, même menaçante, et il fallait attendre des décennies avant que la région se soit transformée à la destination touristique du présent.

Dans cet épisode du Provocateur je parle avec Jordan Girardin, qui vient de finir son doctorat en histoire à l’Université de St Andrews en Écosse. Ensemble, nous allons explorer l’histoire transnationale de la voyage alpine des années 1750 aux années 1830.  On va discuter les attitudes aux Alpes des scientifiques ainsi que des passagers de loisirs durant cette période; les réponses variées, même drôles, des gens locaux à cette nouvelle vague d’intérêt aux Alpes; et les implications de la considération des Alpes comme un endroit forcément transnational. J’ai fait cet entretien bilingue anglais-français avec Jordan en vue du fait que ceci est le 25ème épisode du podcast!

Vous pourriez écouter au podcast (en français) ci-dessous:

Further Reading / Lectures supplémentaires:

Bourdon, E. (2011) Le voyage et la découverte des Alpes : Histoire de la construction d’un savoir (1492 – 1713). Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne.

Gugerli, D. & D. Speich (2002) Topografien der Nation: Politik, kartografische Ordnung und Landschaft im 19. Jahrhundert. Zurich: Chronos.

Mathieu, J. & S. Boscani Leoni (eds.) (2005) Die Alpen! Zur europäischen Wahrnehmungsgeschichte seit der RenaissanceLes Alpes ! Pour une histoire de la perception européenne depuis la Renaissance. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Pyatt, E. (1984) The Passage of the Alps: from Hannibal to the Motorway. London: Robert Hale.

Reichler, C. (2013) Les Alpes et leurs imagiers: Voyage et histoire du regard. Lausanne: Presses Polytechniques et Universitaires Romandes.

Ring, J. (2000) How the English Made the Alps. London: John Murray.

Viazzo, P. P. (1989) Upland Communities: Environment, Population and Social Structure in the Alps since the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.