Battles of Panipat

Battles of Panipat
Battles of Panipat

There were three battles fought at Panipat, located 70 miles northwest of Delhi, the strategically important city in northern India and capital of many dynasties. The first one was in 1526 between Ibrahim Lodi, Afghan ruler of the Kingdom of Delhi, and Babur from Ferghana in Central Asia via Afghanistan.

The second battle was fought between Akbar’s (grandson of Babur) forces and those of the grandson of Sher Shah (who had driven Humayun, son of Babur, from India). The third battle took place in 1761 when the Afghans under Ahmad Shah defeated the Maratha Confederacy.

First Battle of Panipat

A fugitive from his birthplace Ferghana, Babur led an army variously cited as 12,000 or 25,000 men from Afghanistan into India and met Ibrahim, ruler of the Lodi dynasty (originally from Afghanistan) that ruled north-central India.


Ibrahim headed a much larger army reputedly 100,000 strong with either 100 or 1,000 elephants. At Panipat, Babur prepared for battle by lashing together 700 carts with leather thongs to form a barricade and placing his matchlock men behind them.

Just as Ibrahim’s charging troops were stopped at the barricade and mowed down by the gunfire of Babur’s men, they were set upon on both flanks by arrows from Babur’s cavalry. In the ensuing rout, 20,000 of Ibrahim’s men died, he among them. Babur ordered Ibrahim buried where he fell; his tomb still stands at the site.

That afternoon Babur sent his eldest son, Humayun, to the Lodi capital at Agra to secure its treasures while he marched to Delhi, where he proclaimed himself emperor, founding the Mughal (Mogul, Moghul) dynasty in India.

Second Battle of Panipat

Akbar died in 1530 soon after establishing the Mughal Empire in northern India. His son and successor was Humayun, whose heavy drinking and opium eating habits rendered him unfit to rule. Driven out of India by an able general of Afghan origin, Sher Shah, he found refuge in Persia.

It was only after Sher Shah’s death and with his descendants fighting among one another for the succession that Humayun was able to return to India in 1555, with Persian aid, to restore his fortunes. He died a year later.

On November 5, 1556, Akbar, Humayun’s 13-year-old son, and his mentor, Bairan Khan, met the forces of Hemu, a powerful Hindu general, at the second Battle of Panipat. Hemu was injured, captured, and executed. With that victory Akbar entered Delhi. This battle resurrected the fortune of the Mughals in India.

Third Battle of Panipat

Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707) was a devout Muslim and persecutor of Hindus. Hindus of the Deccan rallied around a charismatic leader named Shivaji who was proclaimed king of the Marathas in 1674.

His movement continued to gain momentum after his death in 1680, reaching its zenith in the mid-18th century when the Marathas Confederacy controlled lands extending from Hyderabad in the south to Punjab in the north. But the quest for a restored Hindu empire in India came to an end in 1761 when the Marathas were badly defeated by Afghan forces under Shah Durani at the Third Battle of Panipat.

Although the Afghans retreated from India, the Maratha Confederacy never recovered. The British East India Company was the beneficiary and gradually supplanted the by-now-defunct Mughal Empire and the warring Indian factions.

Ottoman-Safavid Wars

Ottoman-Safavid Wars
Ottoman-Safavid Wars

The protracted conflict between the Ottomans and the Safavids was based on territorial and religious differences. Both great empires sought to control vast territories in present-day Iraq, along the Caspian and their mutual borders.

As Sunni Muslims, the Ottoman Empire also disagreed with the Shi’i Safavids over basic religious tenets and practices, similar to the disputes between various Catholic and Protestant powers in Europe.

In 1514, the Ottoman sultan Selim I, father of Suleiman I the Magnificent, declared a holy war against the Safavids, whom he considered heretics. Armed with cannons, the Ottoman army defeated Shah Isma’il, the founder of the Safavid dynasty, and occupied much of northern Persia (present-day Iran).


Suleiman continued the fight against Shah Tahmasp I (reigned 1524–76), but Tahmasp retaliated with a policy of “scorched earth,” making it impossible for the Ottoman forces to live off the land, as was usual for invading armies at the time. Tahmasp also struck an alliance of convenience with the Habsburgs, a major enemy of the Ottomans.

The Ottomans succeeded in taking Tabriz in northern Persia, but, stretched beyond his limits, Suleiman reluctantly signed a treaty with the Safavids in 1555. The Safavids managed to retain control over northern Persia and territory along the Caspian Sea but lost Iraq to the Ottomans. Following Suleiman’s death, Shah Abbas I managed to regain temporary control over Baghdad and Basra in Iraq, but after Abbas died, the Ottomans retook the territories.

The subsequent 1639 peace treaty between the two rival empires established borders that are almost identical to those shared by present-day Iraq and Iran. The two great powers remained enemies but no further warfare broke out.

Over the course of their rivalry, both empires achieved major military victories and suffered military defeats, but neither was able to defeat decisively the other. Their futile warfare undermined the economic and military power of both and was a major factor in their long declines.

Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was a centralized absolute regime ruled from the top by the sultan. As in other nomadic and Islamic empires, the Ottomans never developed a legal procedure for accession and this was to be a source of instability and weakness.

The first sultans were among the most able sons of the sultans, and rival brothers were sometimes executed. By the 1600s, the oldest male members of the family were selected as sultans. Thus the sultanate passed among brothers or nephews and other possible heirs were kept under “house arrest” in various palaces.

The Ottoman Empire was a Sunni Islamic state, and although the sultans ultimately took the title of caliph, the Sheikh al Islam was the major religious authority of the state. In keeping with Islamic practice, there was no separation of religious and secular law in the early Ottoman Empire and the Shari’a was recognized as the law of the empire.


The Sheikh al Islam issued fatwas, legal opinions based on Islamic law, on matters ranging from the theological to the practical. Qadis, or Muslim judges, served in the provinces and local towns and muftis were appointed to give legal pronouncements if asked by the qadi.

Religious education was conducted in madrassas throughout the empire and the office of the waqf (pl. awqaf) oversaw religious endowments, many of which had been given by devout Muslims as zakat, or alms. Waqf endowments included hospitals, schools, retirement homes, public fountains, and soup kitchens.

Power Hierarchy

Politically, the vizier was the second-most powerful figure after the sultan. During the 18th century, when the sultans were weak or inept, the viziers, particularly the able and honest Koprülü family, managed the vast bureaucracy and government.

Early sultans governed through the imperial divan, or council, but ultimately the vizier oversaw the divan. A huge number of bureaucrats including scribes, translators, and clerks administered the day-to-day operation of the far-flung empire.

The sultans appointed valis, or governors, to rule over each province. To prevent governors from becoming too powerful, their terms in office were usually short; two years was the average. The constant administrative changes often led to inefficiency and corruption.

As a rule of thumb, the Ottomans exercised more direct authority in the provinces closest to the center of power in Istanbul; remote provinces, far from the center of power, enjoyed considerable autonomy and local families or officials often were the real sources of power.

Because remote regions such as Kuwait and Yemen often only gave an annual tribute to the Ottomans, it was sometimes unclear whether they were actually part of the empire. Unless protracted revolts broke out or people refused to pay taxes, the Ottomans generally interfered little in the daily lives of their subjects.

Militarily, the Janissaries composed the elite forces. They were conscripted through the devshirme system whereby young Christian boys from the Balkans were taken as slaves, converted to Islam, and trained as professional soldiers or administrators whose sole loyalty was to the state.

As the sultans became weaker, the Janissary corps became politically powerful and on occasion overthrew sultans to replace them with individuals of their own choice. The cavalry or sipahis, free-born Muslims, were given land as payment. Ownership of such land grants was sometimes hereditary. There were also a large number of conscripted foot soldiers.

Taxation

The collection of taxes was a perennial duduk perkara and the Ottomans developed a system of tax farming, or iltizam, in which multazim, tax collectors, were hired to collect taxes throughout the empire.

This system led to considerable abuses, and often unfair tax burdens were placed on the poorest peasants, who lacked the resources or power to avoid payment or to buy off the tax collector. Peasant farmers were often informally tied to the land, much of which was owned by old feudal families who retained their wealth under the Ottomans.

Religious minorities, Christians, Jews, and Armenians, lived under the millet system. They paid an additional tax but maintained their own schools, controlled their local communities, and settled legal disputes among their members.

The Ottoman Empire was remarkably tolerant of minorities, who enjoyed considerable upward mobility and economic freedom. Members of ethnic and religious minorities could and did rise to high positions, including that of vizier or physician to the sultan. Only the position of sultan was reserved for members of the House of Osman.

Agreements of capitulation were signed with foreign powers such as the French. Under the capitulations foreign merchants and others were granted rights to conduct business within the empire and were exempt from Ottoman taxation and laws. When the empire was strong, the capitulations were not a problem, but as the empire declined, the millet system and capitulations became sources of foreign economic and political interference.

Life as A Sultan

The sultan and his household ruled from the Topkapi in Istanbul. Topkapi was a sprawling complex of vast audience halls, throne rooms, living quarters for the harem, pleasure gardens and fountains, and a kitchen large enough to provide daily meals for 2,000 people.

The harem included the sultan’s wives, concubines, eunuchs, and the queen mother or Valide Sultan. Early sultans, like their counterparts in Europe and Asia, often married the daughters or sisters of defeated foes or wed to cement political and military alliances.

By the 16th century, sultans generally did not marry and Suleiman I the Magnificent’s marriage to his beloved Hurrem (Roxelana) was highly unusual. Women of the harem, particularly the Valide Sultan, exerted considerable political power during the 18th century.

They often conspired for their favorite sons to become the sultan. Although early sultans received firsthand training leading military forces and administering Ottoman provinces, by the 17th century royal princes were educated totally within the palace.

Their lack of outside experience and isolation within the harem made them poorly equipped to rule. Seventeenth-century sultans were often spoiled and self-indulgent with little or no awareness of the problems or corruption within ruling circles.

Ottoman Turkish was the language of the ruling elite and government. But as the language of the Qur’an, Arabic enjoyed a special place and was spoken as the first language by the Arabs who composed the majority of the population.

The Ottomans eagerly assimilated the artistic forms and cultures of those they ruled and often synthesized a wide variety of artistic forms into new, vibrant ones. A lavish court life with patronage of the arts evolved. As with most nomadic societies the Ottomans had a rich tradition of textiles and Ottoman artisans were known for their luxurious textiles, carpets, enameled tile work, and armor.

Ottoman Expansion

Following the collapse of Timurlane’s empire, Sultans Mehmed I (r. 1413–21) and Murad II (r. 1421–51) began the process of the reconquest and consolidation of the Ottoman Empire.

Mehmed enjoyed the support of the old Ottoman ghazi fighters and used that military support as the foundation for reestablishing Ottoman control over much of Anatolia and parts of the Balkans. He was contemplating an attack on Constantinople, the famed Byzantine capital, when he died.

His young son Murad failed in his attempts to take Constantinople but through force and clever diplomacy succeeded in establishing Ottoman control over western Anatolia; he also established an Ottoman navy based at Gallipoli while securing an uneasy peace with King Ladislaus of Lithuania and Poland in 1444. He then abdicated to lead a life of spiritual contemplation.

His son, Mehmed II, had been well trained for the sultanate and promptly began careful preparations to take Constantinople. In 1453, after a protracted siege, the city fell to the Ottoman forces and Mehmed entered the city as the new ruler.

Known as Istanbul to the Turks, the city became the new Ottoman capital and a vibrant center for trade and culture. Mehmed II the Conqueror expanded Ottoman control into the Balkans and launched attacks against the Venetians as well as into the Crimea and Iran.

By 1468, he had broken the obdurate Karaman opposition around Bursa and moved into the Black Sea region as well. In 1475, the Tartar khans in the Crimea bowed to Ottoman control.

The Ottomans now controlled territory from the Balkans to the vital Dardanelles Straits to the Crimea and the Black Sea and the Anatolian coast along the Mediterranean. At the time of Mehmed’s death, Ottoman forces were poised to attack Otranto in southern Italy, but with the succession of a new sultan they were called home in 1481, and the attack was never resumed.

Mehmed’s two sons, Jem and Bayezid, struggled over succession to the throne but key military forces supported Bayezid, who outmaneuvered his brother for the sultanate. Bayezid II (r. 1481–1512) continued raids into Hungary and along the Black Sea while attacking Venice in 1499.

Following a peace in 1503, the Ottoman navy emerged as the dominant force in the eastern Mediterranean. Bayezid also entered into a protracted and ultimately futile series of conflicts with the rival Safavid dynasty in Iran.

In 1512, as the Safavids threatened Ottoman territories, the ailing Bayezid turned over the throne to his able son Selim. Known as “the Grim,” Selim I (r. 1566–74) had extensive military experience and moved quickly against the Safavids under Shah Ismail, who scorched the earth as he retreated from eastern Anatolia around Lake Van.

Selim then turned his army against the Mamluks in Syria and Egypt. Previous Ottoman attacks on the Mamluks had failed, but by the early 16th century, the Mamluks had been seriously weakened by the perpetual rivalries among their leaders and the loss of lucrative trade to the Portuguese navy and merchants, who had established maritime trading posts in key African and Asian ports.

Egypt

In 1516, Selim defeated the Mamluks in northern Syria near the city of Aleppo; he appointed Ottoman governors to administer the northern regions close to Anatolia but local leaders remained powerful in southern Syria. The cities of Aleppo and Damascus were the main power bases in Syria.

The last Abbasid caliph, al-Mutawakkil, who had been living under Mamluk protection, was captured and taken to Istanbul. He died in 1543, thereby formally ending the Abbasid line of the caliphate. Selim also confronted the Mamluks outside Cairo. After a short struggle, Cairo fell and in 1517 all of Egypt came under Ottoman control.

However the Ottomans retained the Mamluks as titular rules of Egypt under Ottoman suzerainty. The Ottoman sultan now controlled territory from the Balkans to the Nile including the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The sultans adopted the title caliph but it held little real meaning. However, the Ottomans believed themselves to be the protectors of the Islamic world and of the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Hijaz in Arabia.

When Selim died, his only son, Suleiman, inherited an empire at the peak of its power and wealth. Suleiman ruled for 46 years and continued his forebears’ traditions of military conquest. After taking the island of Rhodes from the Knights of St. John, who escaped to the island of Malta, and the city of Belgrade, Suleiman moved to confront his major enemy, the Habsburg dynasty of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire.

To counter Habsburg power, Suleiman entered into alliances with the French rulers, who viewed the Habsburgs as impediments to their territorial ambitions. Similarly, the Venetians wavered back and forth between alliances with the Habsburgs to counter Ottoman expansion and with the Ottomans to counter Austrian power.

At the Battle of Mohács in 1526, Suleiman won a major victory that was followed by Ottoman forces’ occupying the cities of Buda and Pest in Hungary. The Ottomans also fought Russia over territories in the Balkans and Black Sea.

In 1529, Suleiman led the Ottoman army deep into Austrian territory and laid siege to Vienna. However, he failed to take the city before winter and as Ottoman troops refused to fight during winter months, he was forced to retreat without taking the city.

The Ottomans took Baghdad in 1554 and again in 1639 from their Safavid rivals. Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) was largely controlled from Mosul in the north and by various Mazelike in the south. Suleiman died in 1655 while on yet another campaign into Hungary.

Although the Ottoman Empire was the major land power of the age, it was also a major naval power. In 1533 Khair ad Din (c. 1475–1546) became admiral in chief of the Ottoman navy. Khair ad Din and his brothers had been notorious privateers in the Mediterranean and entered into the Ottoman service in the early 16th century.

Known as Barbarossa, “Red Beard,” Khair ad Din defeated the Austria fleet of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, at the Battle of Preveza in 1538, thereby establishing Ottoman ascendancy throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

North Africa

Algiers and Tunis in North Africa were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire and thousands of loyal Ottomans were settled in Algiers as further protection against Spanish incursions.

Although the Spanish were able to establish outposts along the northern Moroccan coast, the Moroccan Sa’did dynasty used gunpowder armaments to repel both Ottoman and Spanish attacks; thus Morocco never became part of the Ottoman Empire. When Khair ad Din died, his son Hasan Pasha was made bey, or ruler, of Algiers.

In North Africa, the Ottomans exercised loose control over the territories through appointed pashas, Janissary forces, and local beys and deys, who frequently competed with one another for actual political power.

In Tunis during the early 18th century, an Ottoman cavalryman established the Husaynid dynasty, which, although it paid lip service to Ottoman suzerainty, was largely independent. It lasted into the mid-20th century, when Tunisia became an independent nation.

Although the Ottoman navy failed to take Malta, it was ascendant throughout most of the Mediterranean in the 16th century. However, in 1571 unified Christian European forces were victorious over the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Lepanto.

Based in Egypt and in Basra in present-day Iraq, Ottoman ships extended their reach to Yemen and Aden in the southern Arabian Peninsula and even raided along the Indian coast. Suleiman’s son Selim II (reigned 1566–74) conquered Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean and his successor Murad III (reigned 1574–95) continued Ottoman territorial gains until 1683.

At its fullest extent in 1683, Ottoman territory included all of the Balkans and much of Hungary in Europe, the entire Black Sea coast and Crimea in the north; the western shores of the Caspian Sea in the east; the eastern Mediterranean coast and islands, the Arab provinces of greater Syria (present-day nations and territory of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan), Iraq, and most of Arabia including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina; and in the west Egypt and North Africa (present-day Libya, Tunisia, Algeria) to the borders of Morocco. During the 18th century, a series of weak sultans contributed to a decline of Ottoman strength and to the gradual end to their military victories.

Ottoman Decline

The long decline of the Ottoman Empire was caused by a variety of internal and external factors. During the 17th century, a series of inept sultans failed to provide dynamic military and political leadership of their able predecessors. Corruption and inefficiency grew with few if any attempts at necessary reforms.

The cultural and political life of the empire began to ossify. Externally, European rivals grew in political, military, and economic power. New Portuguese-controlled sea routes to India were formidable competition to the overland trade routes controlled by Muslim states, especially the Ottoman Empire.

The increase of trade over sea routes developed during the age of exploration by European powers, thereby contributed to the emergence of Europe as the dominant world force by the 19th century. The discovery of vast amounts of gold and silver in the Western Hemisphere also increased the revenues flowing into European treasuries.

This new wealth enabled European rulers to mount increasingly well-armed military forces. Silver flooded into Ottoman territories and caused a drop in the value of Ottoman exchange as well as major inflation. As Ottoman conquests ceased, the treasury was no longer replenished with booty and goods from defeated foes.

The Ottomans also gradually lost the military technological edge they had previously held. In addition, protracted wars with the rival Safavid Empire in the east sapped vital economic and military reserves.

A series of weak, inept sultans increased the political weakness of the empire and made it difficult for it to respond with dynamic reforms or responses to the internal and external challenges. Sultan Ibrahim (reigned 1640–48) was so quixotic and self-indulgent that the Janissaries and Sheikh al Islam deposed him in favor of his young son, Mehmed IV (reigned 1648–87).

To preserve the throne for her son, Mehmed’s mother interfered and secured the appointment of the able and efficient Mehmed Koprülü as vizier. During this era, the Koprülüs were largely responsible for running the government and for initiating some reforms that helped to preserve the empire.

The so-called long war between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans from 1593 to 1606 was an early indication of Ottoman military decline. The Ottomans retained most of their holdings in the Balkans, in spite of local revolts, but the Ottoman sultan was forced to recognize the Habsburg ruler as a fellow emperor.

The Ottoman military decline was marked by the loss to the so-called Holy League of Austria, Poland, and Venice during the Balkan Wars of 1683–97. The Ottomans again laid siege to Vienna in 1683 and for a short time it appeared the city might surrender.

Then Polish forces came to the rescue and defeated the attacking Ottoman army. This marked the last attempt by the Ottomans to take the city. Subsequently, the Habsburgs pushed the Ottomans south of the Danube and Venice took portions of Greece and the Adriatic coast, while the Russians attacked in the Crimea.

The defeated Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 whereby all of Hungary, including Transylvania in present-day Romania and the northern Balkan territories of Croatia and Slovenia, were ceded to Austria. Large portions of the Dalmatian coast were taken by Venice but regained by the Ottomans in 1718.

Although the Ottoman Empire was severely weakened by the mid-18th century, its decline lasted longer than the entire histories of most world empires and the empire would not finally collapse until the 20th century.

Osaka

Osaka
Osaka

Osaka is situated on both banks of the Yodo River and along the eastern shoreline of Osaka bay. Osaka’s old name was Naniwa. According to legend it was founded by Jimu, the first legendary emperor of Japan, who landed in Osaka bay in 660 b.c.e. In 313 c.e., Emperor Nintoku made Osaka his capital.

Various other emperors in subsequent times, such as Kotoku in 645 and Shomu in 724, also resided in Osaka. However, the city of Osaka gained prominence in the 16th century when it became a popular Buddhist religious center.


Toyotomi Hideyoshi built the castle of Osaka on the site of the great Buddhist monastery and made it his headquarters as he dominated Japan in the late 16th century. Osaka also rose to economic prominence as the city, along with Kobe and Yokohama, became the main trading links with Korea and China. Osaka became even more important under the Tokugawa Shogunate and was established as the commercial capital of Japan.

Christianity was first preached in Osaka by Father Gaspar Vilela in 1559. By 1564, five churches were erected in Osaka City and its periphery. Between 1577 and 1579, the number of Christians in Osaka were estimated at between 9,000 and 10,000, which grew to an estimated 25,000 by 1582.

Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer

Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer
Juan de Oñate - Spanish Explorer
On April 20, 1598, Spanish captain-general Don Juan de Oñate approached the Rio Grande, then known as the Río del Norte, the River of the North. Oñate led an expedition that represented the first determined attempt by Spain to colonize the region explored by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado more than 50 years before, in 1540–42.

Oñate led a large expedition consisting of more than 100 families, almost 300 single men, numerous wagons, and 7,000 cattle. An advance detachment was led by Oñate’s nephew, Captain Vicente de Zaldívar. Unlike many other explorers who were peninsulares, those who were born in Spain, Oñate himself was a criollo, a Spaniard born in the New World.

Oñate was born to Cristóbal de Oñate and Catalina de Salazar in about 1550. He made an important marriage, which certainly aided his rise to power and influence. His wife was a descendant of both the conquistador Hernán Cortés and the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II. Oñate and his wife had a son and a daughter together.

On September 21, 1595, Oñate was awarded a contract by King Philip II of Spain to explore the region north to the Rio Grande and settle what became New Mexico, but numerous delays forced his departure to be held back until 1598. The cost of the expedition was entirely Oñate’s, with the king’s receiving a percentage of the wealth expected to be generated by the new colony.


So on April 30, 1598, Oñate in a formal ceremony took possession of the region in the name of King Philip II. The most important part of Oñate’s expedition was the military contingent, probably led by Capitan Zaldívar, since he held the position of sergeant-major of the Oñate forces.

The main weapon of the Spanish soldiers was the matchlock musket. Crossbows like the ones used by the Spanish in Cortés’s conquest of Mexico in 1519–21 were still in use by the Spanish but were apparently left behind in Mexico City when Oñate embarked on his march north.

However, in the heat of Mexico and the Southwest United States, many Spaniards wore cotton padded armor adopted from the Aztecs (Mexica), which gave good protection against the arrows the hostile Indians used against them. Curiously enough, Spanish troops carried heart-shaped shields called adargas well into the 18th century. Sidearms were long Spanish rapiers and for the cavalry, a pair of matchlock pistols.

Coronado had experienced some fierce fighting with the Pueblo Indian tribes of the Rio Grande valley, and Oñate was fully conscious that his entrance could be marked by combat with the native inhabitants.

Therefore, he followed strict military discipline throughout his expedition. After they reached the North Pass on the River (El Paso del Norte), they faced a trip of some 60 miles through a region so arid and hot that ever after the Spanish would call it El Jornado del Muerte (Route of Death).

Once among the Pueblo Indians Oñate used the feast of Saint John the Baptist on June 24 to stage a sham battle with the intention of intimidating them with his Spanish cavalry and infantry.

New Mexico Established

Apparently, Oñate’s show of force worked, because on July 28, without interference, he established New Mexico’s first capital at the pueblo of San Juan de los Caballeros of the Tewa tribe, which he named in honor of the men who had ridden north with Coronado years before.

Ultimately Oñate began the construction of San Gabriel as a more permanent capital, perhaps feeling uneasy about the dangers of a surprise attack at night if he remained in the Tewa village.

Although Christianization of the Indians was always noted as a reason for Spanish expeditions, the vast treasures that Cortés had found in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro in Peru guaranteed that the search for gold and silver would always be a paramount reason for any expedition, and Oñate’s was no different.

He was determined, however, to keep all exploration and mineral discovery under his own personal control and carried out severe punishments against those who disregarded his orders. With the nearest Spanish forces hundreds of miles to the south, such strict discipline would be the only thing that would keep such an expedition together and safe while surrounded by potentially hostile Indians.

Oñate’s grim emphasis on discipline soon proved to have been justified. In December, Juan de Zaldívar, Vicente’s brother, and some soldiers accepted the hospitality of Chief Zutucapan at the pueblo of Acoma. Once they were settled in their quarters, Zutucapan sprang a trap, and Zaldivar and some 10 Spanish were slaughtered.

In January 1599, Oñate sent Vicente on a punitive expedition against Acoma, his infantry and cavalry supported now by two pieces of Spanish artillery known as culverins. When the Acomans refused to submit, Zaldivar attacked. Although he was heavily outnumbered, his artillery slaughtered the Acomans. Captives were taken before Oñate, whose punishment was severe.

With the danger from hostile Indians behind him, Oñate spent more time in an illusory search for gold and silver mines. In December 1600, he embarked on a long expedition.

His search for riches took his attention from the settlement of the colony and many people who were disillusioned with his rule returned to Mexico, then called New Spain. Although his search for gold and silver proved fruitless, he became the first Spaniard since Coronado to explore as far north as Kansas to the settlement that Coronado knew as Quivera.

At some point, his love of exploration eclipsed his lust for gold. Even as disgruntled former colonists were spreading rumors of vice and brutality against him, Oñate undertook a tamat journey of exploration as far as the Gulf of California.

Although ordered back by the new king, Philip III, in 1607 to face charges, Oñate remained until Sante Fe was built. When in 1608 a new governor was sent to replace Oñate, he finally returned to Mexico City.

Omani Empire in East Africa

Ruin of Omani Empire Palace
Ruin of Omani Empire Palace

The Omani empire in East Africa was based on the Swahili coast, which extended from present-day central Somalia to Cape Delgado in southern Mozambique. It included a number of islands and archipelagos in the Indian Ocean.

There were more than 400 urban settlements of varying sizes. The trading networks within the interior extended from 20 to 200 miles. The trade provided a valuable intermediary between the African interior and the vast Indian Ocean trade.

This lucrative trade had been disrupted by the arrival of the Portuguese after 1498. The non-Muslim Portuguese had interfered with the Muslim Swahili trading connections without offering security. Consequently they were attacked by the Turks by the coast and the Jagga and Zimba from the interior.


Treasure hunts for gold and silver and slave-hunting expeditions disrupted the interior trade just as Portuguese opposition to Islam disrupted the Indian Ocean aspect of the trade. In the early 17th century, the cities sought liberation from Portugal and called in the Omanis from southeastern Arabia.

The Omanis were a good fit as they had been trading partners with the Swahili city-states for centuries, were fellow Muslims, and used the Arabic alphabet, as did the Swahili.

They had also been threatened by the Portuguese, who sought to control their strategic position of the Straits of Hormuz at the entrance of the Persian Gulf. Thus they were glad to arrive in the 1640s to attack the Portuguese.

Between 1640 and 1730, they conquered all of the Swahili cities from Somalia to the border between Tanganyika and Mozambique. By 1730, Zanzibar had emerged as the most important Swahili city and the Omanis and an Omani governor were established there.

But though the Omanis came as allies and liberators, they remained as conquerors through appointing representatives in each city. Over the next half-century, the Swahili cities grew tired of Omani taxes and there were periodic revolts.

There were temporary overthrows of Omani representatives, but these would be put down. The only city to regain authority was Mombassa under the Mazrui family. They were partially protected in their harbor by Fort St. Jesus, the fortress built by the Portuguese for their military headquarters.

During the 18th century, old trade patterns reemerged under Omani rule due to increased demand for slaves, the availability of capital from places such as India to finance trade, and the willingness of Africans in the interior to take slaves and ivory to the coast.

There were effects of the new emphasis on slaves, which replaced the earlier trade in gold (with Zimbabwe) and copper (from Katanga). The international trade for slaves made Omani sultans rich; it also turned communities against each other. Former African trading partners of the Swahili raided each other (encouraged by Omanis to take persons to sell as slaves).

Some of the smaller Swahili settlements disappeared as they were not defensible against voracious slave traders. Overall, the Swahili city-states did not regain the wealth that they had experienced during the golden era of 1300–1500.

Internally the people began to identify with Omani conquerors. Inside Swahili cities Omani soldiers of fortune expropriated large tracts of land although many were actually ethnic Baluchis. Many upper-class Swahili found it advantageous to intermarry with Omanis and even claim Arab ancestry.

These internal changes plus the participation of wealthy coastal people in the interior slave trade and the owning of slaves from the interior created a chasm between the coast and the interior that persists to this day.

By 1800, the Omani empire in East Africa faced new challenges as the English and French established themselves off East Africa in the Comoros and Madagascar (French), as well as Mauritius and Seychelles (English).

Oda Nobunaga - Japanese General

Ashikaga Shogunate and took control of half of Japan, becoming the virtual dictator in the 1570s. He ended a number of civil wars that had been waged throughout Japan, but his early death ensured renewed fighting.

Oda Nobunaga was born in 1534 in Owari Province in Honshu. His father was a government official who served under the Ashikaga Shogunate and became wealthy.

After his father’s death when he was 17, he grew the family landholdings and made himself lord of Nagoya Castle, which became his first headquarters, where he raised and trained a loyal band of military retainers. Oda began his conquests in 1555. Meeting with success, he decided to lead his men to reunify Japan.

Nobunaga’s first aim was to secure his flanks from attack, and he formed an alliance in 1562 with Matsudaira Motoyasu, who later became Tokugawa Ieyasu, that secured his heartland of Owari, a fertile region of Japan, with Nagoya as an important trading city. Next he moved his army toward Kyoto, the imperial and shogunal capital. Nobunaga used new military technology, including the arquebus and muskets, to great advantage.


In 1568, Nobunaga started to involve himself in Kyoto politics, first by supporting the new shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki. He would later oust him in 1573, thus ending the Ashikaga Shogunate. To protect his position, Nobunaga then built the mighty Azuchi Castle on Lake Biwa.

With the reins of government in his hands, Nobunaga was determined to make important changes. One of his first acts was to remove road tolls, to help increase domestic trade and diminish the wealth and control of the local daimyo (nobles) who collected them.

Azuchi Castle
Azuchi Castle
Another of his targets was the powerful Buddhist Tendai sect, headquartered at Enryakuji. Nobunaga was successful and destroyed most of the Enraykuji monastery. Another Buddhist sect, the Ikko sect, however, proved to be more of a problem.

Nobunaga began to battle them from 1570. After bitterly fought campaigns, he finally prevailed in 1580, capturing their headquarters near Osaka and massacring the rest of the remaining defenders.

Nobunaga was a harsh and vengeful ruler who forced many of his opponents to commit suicide. But he was generous to his supporters and rewarded them with confiscated farms and land previously owned by the temples. Nobunaga was friendly toward Christian missionaries and allowed Jesuits to build a church in Kyoto. His motives included the belief that Christianity would erode the influence of the Buddhist sects.

By 1582, Nobunaga had defeated many of his opponents, had unified much of the country, and had nearly half the provinces of Japan under his rule. On June 21, 1582, Nobunaga was ambushed while at Honnoji, a temple of the Nichiren sect located near Kyoto, by Akechi Mitsuhide, an aggrieved vassal.

Oda Nobunaga began the work of establishing a unified government in Japan after power had slipped away from the declining Ashikaga Shogunate. His career was cut short, but his goals were continued by his greatest general, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Obrajes in Colonial Latin America

Obrajes in Colonial Latin America
Obrajes in Colonial Latin America
Obrajes (roughly, workshops) were key enterprises in the developing economies of Spain’s American colonies, principally as sites where wool, cotton, and other fibers were carded, spun, and woven into textiles. While indigenous peoples had woven cloth for millennia, the obraje was an exclusively Spanish imposition.

From modest beginnings in the 1530s, obrajes developed over time into quasi-industrial enterprises, some with several hundred laborers, mostly Indian, under their roofs.

Working conditions were typically harsh, with long hours, poor ventilation, frequent physical abuse, and low or nonexistent pay (Indian labor and tribute were required under encomienda and related institutions). Most obrajes were thus more akin to penal sweatshops than to workshops, as conventionally understood.

The earliest known descriptions of obrajes date to the late 1530s in New Spain (Mexico). By the early 1600s, from 98 to 130 obrajes were scattered across central New Spain, clustering around the urban centers of Puebla, Mexico City, Texcoco, and Tlaxcala.


By 1600, most obrajes averaged around 50 laborers, making the total number of workers engaged in obraje production in New Spain around 6,000, though there was a spectrum from large to small; the latter were often called trapiches.

Scholars have traced the origins of private or non-state-mediated Spanish-Indian labor relations (i.e., non-encomienda, non-repartimiento) to such early colonial period obrajes—labor frequently supplemented by prisoners and convicted criminals.

Captured English sailor Miles Philips was sentenced to work in an obraje in Texcoco around 1570. “We were appointed by the Vice Roy to be carried unto the town of Texcuco ... in which towne there are certaine houses of correction and punishment for ill people called Obraches ... into which place divers Indians are sold for slaves, some for ten years, and some for twelve.”

Philips’s companion, Job Hortop, described his experiences carding wool in Texcoco’s obrajes “among the Indian slaves.” Their descriptions of “Indian slaves” corresponded with Spanish custom and law, in which obraje laborers were frequently called slaves.

The development of obrajes was encouraged by both the Crown and the highest levels of colonial government, with authorities such as New Spain’s first viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, actively promoting sheep herding, wool production, and manufacture of cheap cloth within the colonies.

By the late 1600s, obrajes had become an important pillar of the colonial economy in New Spain and elsewhere, generating textiles and other goods mainly for internal consumption. In the 17th and 18th centuries, opposition to royal support for obrajes by Spain’s textile manufacturers mounted, though it remained insufficient to retard the growth of colonial production and exchange.

Similar developments unfolded in colonial Peru. As in New Spain, obrajes emerged in the decades after the conquest with official encouragement and support, especially around Quito, which by the early 17th century had become South America’s leading textile manufacturer.

Quiteño cloth, prized for its high quality, was produced by both indigenous “community obrajes” that employed ancient techniques for carding, spinning, and weaving wool (some housing upward of 200 full-time workers) and smaller, privately owned obrajes similar to those in New Spain.

Overall, obrajes illuminate key aspects of colonial Latin American history, including land and labor relations, the intersections of Spanish and Indian worlds, and the role of the state in promoting specific types of production and exchange within the colonies.

Nzinga Mbandi - African Military Strategist and Leader

Nzinga Mbandi
Nzinga Mbandi

Between 1623 and 1663, Nzinga Mbandi, the Muhongo Matamba of what is modern-day Angola, led her people in major revolts against the Portuguese and served alternately as a valuable ally and a fearsome enemy to neighboring kingdoms. Nzinga, who was also known as Jinga, Singa, and Zhinga, was an excellent military strategist.

Her sisters served as commanding officers in Nzinga’s army, which also included a number of other women warriors. Several women also served in Nzinga’s cabinet. Above all, Nzinga was a pragmatist who knew when to attack and when to ally herself with stronger forces.

The Muhongo Matamba was fiercely protective of her own territory, but she was also willing to suspend battling with neighboring monarchs over disputed territory when she deemed it necessary to join forces.


Despite her loyalty to her own people, Nzinga had no compunctions in advancing the slave trade by selling other Africans from remote areas. Nzinga unsuccessfully joined forces with the Dutch to try to oust the Portuguese from southern Africa.

Portuguese Invasion

In 1576, the Portuguese invaded Luanda, a remote but strategically important area of southern Africa, and began extending their reach into surrounding areas. Initially the Ngondo people repelled the Portuguese advance but were ultimately overwhelmed by brutal Imbangala warriors who attacked from the rear.

The Imbangala, like the Portuguese, viewed the Ngondo as an obstacle to establishing of a trade route on the coast and to the wealth generated by foreign trade. Over the following century, the Mdongo continued to lose ground, but the rise of Queen Nzinga in 1663 proved to be a turning point in the history of the area.

Using her gift for military strategizing that had been fostered by observing the military advances of her neighbors and the guns and gunpowder procured through her trading partners, Nzinga retreated from the contested area and traveled inland, where she laid claim to Matamba, which was in a vulnerable state after the death of its sovereign.

In Matamba, Nzinga founded a new state and extended her territory into nearby Luanda in the Kongo. She subsequently announced ownership of ngola a kiluanji, but the right to rule both this area and Luanda continued to be hotly contested.

Nzinga developed Matamba as a major trading center, focused on long-distance slave trading. To cut down on competition, she also blocked the trading route that had developed in Kasanji in Luanda.

In the past, Queen Nzinga had paid tribute to the Kongo kingdom in exchange for European goods. By the end of the 16th century, however, Nzinga broke all ties with the Kongo and began exchanging gifts with ngola a kiluanji out of her desire to establish a more direct slave-trading route to the coast.

At the same time, Nzinga gave the kambole, her chief consort, permission to launch a series of campaigns that broadened the reach of her kingdom. In response to a new conflict between Luanda and ngola a kiluanji, the ever-practical Nzinga chose to support ngola a kiluanji.

Her support included dispatching her considerable forces to Mbaka, where they succeeded in routing the Portuguese. By 1591, Nzinga and ngola a kiluanji had strengthened their position against the Portuguese by joining forces with Caculo, a neighboring warlord.

However, as the war progressed, Nzinga determined that her interests were better served by selling slaves directly to the Portuguese via the chiefdom of Ndembu. By 1641, Nzinga was exporting 12,000–13,000 slaves a year. She also became extremely adept at siphoning off slaves bound for other trading routes.

Dutch and Portuguese Deals

In 1641, Nzinga joined forces with Garcia II, who had declared himself the king of Luanda, and with other neighboring kingdoms to repel a Dutch invasion. Over the course of the next year, however, Garcia decided that the Portuguese constituted a greater threat to independence and determined to oust them by allying himself with the invaders.

Ultimately, however, the Dutch undercut Garcia and his African allies by negotiating a treaty with Portugal. This treaty fell apart after several local revolts broke out, but the Dutch continued to seek cooperation with Portugal, which controlled essential access to slave trading routes.

As long as the Dutch had controlled Luanda, Nzinga’s slave-trading route had been blocked, despite repeated efforts to establish trading relations with the Europeans. Consequently, Nzinga again allied herself with Garcia, even though both claimed ownership of Matamba and ngola a kiluanji. In fall 1643, in an effort to bypass the Portuguese blockade of her slave trade, Nzinga led a troop of some 80,000 bowmen into the Kongo kingdom along the upper Dande.

With the aid of the Ndembu and 100 Dutch troops, Nzinga overwhelmed the Kiteshi Kandambi, who attempted to stop her. Aghast at her encroachment, Garcia lobbied the Dutch for help in preventing Nzinga from laying claim to additional territory. Ultimately, however, he came to believe that Nzinga’s goodwill was more important than that of the Dutch, who had signed a new treaty with the Portuguese.

In 1645, Nzinga’s forces were defeated by the Portuguese, who followed up their triumph by invading Luanda. Queen Nzinga subsequently announced that she was old and tired of making war. She set out to rescue Barbara, her sister and heir, who had been imprisoned in Luanda. Nzinga’s efforts to negotiate her sister’s release were unsuccessful, and she threatened to settle the issue by military force.

Instead, a shaky alliance was negotiated. Twice over the next few years, Nzinga further extended her territory by invading neighboring kingdoms and enslaving their inhabitants. She died three years later at the age of 83.

Nurhaci - Manchu Tribal Chief, Dynastic Founder

organization that would culminate in his grandson’s becoming the first emperor of the Qing (Ch’ing) dynasty in China.

The people who later called themselves Manchus were Jurchen nomads descended from the Jurchens who founded the Jin (Chin) dynasty that ruled northern China between 1115 and 1234. Early in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the Jurchens lived in southern Manchuria amid agricultural Han Chinese.

The Ming government divided the region into three commanderies (provinces), encouraged agriculture among all the population, and held the tribal chief of the non-Han people accountable to the commanders appointed by the court.

The Ming government also fixed tribal territories and controlled the succession of the chiefs, who rendered tribute at court at regulated intervals. As Ming power weakened in the late 16th century, so did its control over the tribes, enabling the Jurchens to consolidate into a tribal-feudal state.


Nurhaci was a minor tribal chief in the Jianzhou (Chienchow) commandery. He knew Chinese and traveled to Beijing (Peking) on tribute missions. Early in his career he waged war against and defeated other Jurchen chiefs expanding his power.

In 1599, he had a new alphabet created for writing Jurchen (the Jin had created a writing system that died with the dynasty). In 1601, he created a “banner system” for organizing his military, loosely based on the Ming frontier military system called the wei, which militarized the Jurchens into a war machine.

All Jurchen men were grouped into eight banners, which Nurhaci, his relatives, and allies commanded. The banners also functioned as rudimentary administrative units that controlled taxation, conscription, and mobilization. Its members farmed in peacetime, and its men were called up to arms when needed.

With success in war, conquered lands were granted to the banners and the original cultivators became serfs to the banners; however the land allotments were not granted in cohesive units to prevent regionalism. Thus the banner system also became the nucleus of a bureaucratic state. Because the captives became bondservants and serfs, bannermen were able to focus on military duties.

In 1616, Nurhaci announced the creation of a state called the Later Jin, proclaimed himself its “heaven-designated emperor,” and renounced allegiance to the Ming.

He was successful in capturing important cities in Manchuria, including Liaoyang and Shenyang (Mukden), where he established his capital and welcomed defecting and captured Ming officials to join his government. Nurhaci was wounded in an unsuccessful battle against the Ming in 1626 and died as a result later that year.

Nurhaci was a talented leader who transformed his tribal people and organized them into a frontier state, in part by adopting Chinese techniques and methods of administration. He capitalized on the problems of a weakening Ming dynasty to build the foundations that would enable his descendants to rule all China.