Discuss Other Topics not related to the Paranormal or Conspiracies (within reason of course).
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To anyone who might be able to shed light on these questions:
I have some puzzling questions about general history. After watching many history documentaries, there are a number of things I don't get. Can you shed some light on them or explain them? I will list them by number.
1. Why did Columbus have to sail over the Atlantic Ocean to try to get to India? Why didn't the Europeans just sail south around Africa to India?
Also, since Europe and Asia are joined by the largest landmass continent in the world, why couldn't they have just gone over land to India? Surely there must have been multiple routes?
They say that Turkey blocked the "Silk Road". What does that mean? How can a whole route be blocked? How can a whole continent be blocked? And why couldn't armies in Europe just remove the block by force?
2. After Columbus discovered the Americas, history says that Spain sent many men to plunder South America during the 1500's. Why didn't they plunder North America too? Why did they leave the whole northern continent untouched for 100 years?
Then history says that the English settled in Jamestown during the early 1600's. Why didn't the English come to the New World at all during the 1500's? Why did they do nothing for a century? That was never explained.
3. Since America was settled during the 1600's, why didn't the American Indians learn how to make rifles from the white settlers? Surely they could just capture some rifles and learn how to make them right? They had almost 300 years to do so. So why didn't they? If they had, that would have brought more balance to the Indian Wars.
4. Why did the white population in America explode like crazy, whereas the American Indian population didn't? Even before Columbus, the American Indians had thousands of years to populate the continent. So why weren't there millions of them?
5. How did Hernando Cortes conquer the Aztec Empire and South America with only 400 men? Guns during that time were short range and took a long time to load. So couldn't thousands of Aztecs have just thrown spears and rocks and killed all of them easily? They could also have ambushed them in the forest at close range combat and taken the advantage.
6. During the 1800's, why didn't the American Indians just flee into Canada so they didn't have to be forced onto reservations? Then they could live freely in Canada, and the US army could not pursue them there right?
7. During the Vietnam War, why couldn't the US military just capture Hanoi and force a surrender? Surely they could capture the Vietcong leader if they really wanted to right? The US is good at finding anything it wants.
In WWII, when Berlin was captured, the war was over. So why wasn't it like that in the Vietnam War too? Did the US purposely not capture Hanoi and the Vietcong leader in order to prolong the war for profit?
If the Vietcong leader could evade capture like that by hiding in the forest, then why didn't Hitler and Mussolini do the same?
8. Why was Japan able to occupy a huge country like China, but Germany could not do that with Russia? Germany's armies were more powerful than Japan's.
9. Why didn't the Nazis enter Moscow to capture Stalin and force a surrender? How else were they planning to win? Aren't you supposed to capture a city or leader to win a war?
10. Why did the Nazi armies fight a seige at Stalingrad for many months? I thought their objective was to capture the oil fields in the Caucus region. So why didn't they just pass by Stalingrad and head toward the Caucus region for the oil then? What's the point of wasting many men and resources for just one city when the objective was oil?
Sorry for so many questions. I look forward to your explanations. Thanks.
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Wow! That's a lot of questions.
I might be able to give one of many answers to this one:
4. Why did the white population in America explode like crazy, whereas the American Indian population didn't? Even before Columbus, the American Indians had thousands of years to populate the continent. So why weren't there millions of them?
Smallpox and other European diseases killed off massive amounts of the population.
I'll have a half-assed go again...
He might have been looking for an alternate sea route that would advantage Spain and Portugal, most likely. Remember much of the world's continents and oceans were still uncharted by Europeans at that time. They knew the rough circumference of the earth, most likely, but didn't know what filled the space. (An Egyptian mathematician had calculated the radius of the earth some 2,000 years earlier by inference, interestingly.)
Going overland to India would not have advantaged Spain or Portugal, quite the opposite, as they were not the first in line geographically -- Venice etc were the big trading ports -- and you can be harassed by bandits, can only haul so much by pack horse vs a ship with free wind doing the work etc. You have to put the technology of the day into context, plus politics of the time such as they were.
Turkey blocked the silk road just as they blocked the Crusaders centuries before. The Silk Road was obviously the easiest and safest way through still. Need to look at wiki on that one for details. Armies in Europe would be cut down by the Turks if they invaded just as they were in the Crusades. It was called the Ottoman empire. Remember the Mongol empire was very big at that time too in central Asia -- the Turks to some extent held them back from Europe also. It was felt that the Mongols would have also over-run Europe if they hadn't encountered resistance from the Turks. You should be grateful.
Not sure. Did the French have the bottom part of N America by then? Or English military expeditionary forces? Then there were hostile natives. Or possibly the boats just followed the Gulf Stream from Spain to S America. It's not easy sailing over the Atlantic for the first time in a few ships attempting to follow the winds and currents. It was extremely hazardous and uncharted at that time, this was the edge of the known world. Need to confirm. I'm sure wiki will tell you.
British were slightly later colonisers than the Spanish and Portuguese. Remember all this required the invention of gunpowder (from China) coupled with muskets in order to convincingly subjugate foreign peoples. That didn't occur til about 1500 at the earliest. In fact a small group of Vikings landed in N America to attempt to colonise hundreds of years earlier, in about 1000 AD, but couldn't survive against the Indians -- they were frequently raided, and their weapons technology in 1000 AD was not particularly superior to the Indians and did not work at a distance like guns or bows and arrows.
Then colonising started to take off with the Spanish and Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and English about 100 years later. Presumably driven by European competition for resources in order not to 'fall behind' your fellow superpowers and to enrich a handful of merchants and the nobility.
Remember you have to subjugate scores of hostile natives massed against you when you colonise occupied territories.
This is about technology transfer and reality again. European technology for several centuries was way ahead of the indigenous ppl of N America. Technology has to layer on technology for many things, they cannot be quickly and easily copied. There is no way the Indians had the resources and know-how to dig up iron ore, make steel from it -- an alloy of iron and trace elements -- or make a cast steel barrel and timber stock, then go on to make gunpowder from sulphur and carbon in an explosive mix, then figure out how to make a flint, etc etc. These were dozens of discoveries that were made by Europeans over many centuries, e.g. Europeans were making clocks by the 12th century, so they could make intricate and strong mechanisms made of metal as necessary for new purposes. Clearly the Europeans would also do anything in their power to stop the indigenous ppl from arming or working it out as well.
Although guns were a relatively recent invention at the time, other underlying technologies had been around for quite a while -- the ability to make steel gun barrels with particular properties derived from tempering or heat treatment, for instance, with reasonable tolerances of manufacture. Similarly, the Europeans may have had better military organisation, and also different protocols -- many Indians did not fight neighbouring tribes to kill or subjugate, but simply to assert territory etc -- hence the 'counting coup' ritual where warriors just had to get near the enemy and score some points and intimidate the rivals. Only Europeans were prepared to outright kill for gain. In fact some Indian tribes tried to 'count coup' against European attackers and were of course promptly killed for it.
Only basic fixed settlements and agriculture. There was a European agrarian revolution which allowed much greater harvests accompanied by a population explosion. This also occurred at about the same time as the industrial revolution. Both these things together allowed for much larger populations. Many simpler societies such as Australian aboriginals never developed technologies to that extent, and remained in roaming bands in low popn densities much as mankind had for 200,000 years of Paleolithic and Neolithic history. There is a list or hierarchy of such social organisations -- simplest is hunting and gathering from the environment with low popns. Then you figure out if you can do a fixed settlement with horticulture (e.g. PNG -- small personal gardens) or broader agriculture (large fields, such as in the middle east or Europe) you can accumulate a surplus and 'control nature' for the first time, i.e. have a reliable food source that does not require foraging to find. Further, Jared Diamond suggested in guns, germs and steel that more docile domesticable animals made a big difference -- rabbits, pigs, sheep, goats, cows -- where only the middle east produced all these net of pigs -- and they moved east-west along lines of latitude to Europe and china. the Americas had no such docile species, and they are also more longitudinal. Africa also clearly has no such domesticable docile species with the exception of cows. PNG only has pigs. so the Europeans lucked in. this also promoted fixed settlements along with the agriculture. also different species of timber and how easily it is worked makes a difference to advancement on different continents. but also if you are nomadic, it makes no survival sense at all to collect or make heavy 'things', it just slows you down.
Also, as NP points out, a lot of them simply died from genocide via warfare and smallpox etc. They are now rediscovering entire overgrown abandoned cities in the jungle in S America via satellite everyone had forgotten about. The Spaniard conquistadores recognised that the popn of areas of S America at the time were much greater than parts of Europe, only that their weapons were simple clubs lined with sharp pieces of obsidian etc vs European guns. They also weren't ready for European 'win at all costs' militarism -- one major Aztec(?)/Mayan(?) leader was confronted with a Bible by the invaders as proof he was godless heathen and had to be deposed and told them to sod off, then had thousands of ppl mass in a huge dramatic display which worked against other tribes without actually fighting -- unfortunately the Spaniards simply rode out on horseback and cut them all to pieces from an elevated height with swords made of steel. All strategic mistakes compared with European methods of warfare. You need to watch the Discovery channel more.
Then there is the domestication of horses also for both military and draught purposes. Source of energy (horsepower), height, speed, etc, beyond human capabilities. There were actually species of horses in N America at the time, but the Indians had never considered domesticating them or riding them. S American Indians had no horses, and believed the Spaniards on horseback were some mythical kind of centaur monster. After the N American Indians observed Europeans using horses, they quickly learnt, but it was not a part of their culture before that.
Also, there were many 'millennial movements' amongst the N American Indians at the time -- since they were losing every battle on the technology, they developed elaborate beliefs and hopes that a 'great spirit' would come to save them any day now.
There's a story to this. Remember the Aztecs used to conquer peaceful surrounding tribes regularly, enslave them for a year, then sacrifice them all on the altar of the sun god. The Spaniards recruited all these disaffected tribes as they advanced on the Aztecs, so they were only to happy to be enlisted with promises from the Spaniards and destroy the Aztec empire which had preyed upon them.
Could they? With the avaricious British doing the same? Or enforcing the border? All Europeans forces attempted to enlist Indians against the other forces from time to time by making them promises. I believe the British did that when they attempted to retake Washington in 1812. However, by the 1840s and 50s, after the Louisiana purchase prompted the westward move of settlers from the original American states, the British would not have allowed them into Canada. Further, they were not used to being uprooted and making incredibly long journeys onto the land of other hostile tribes, or in fact moving anywhere much at all. Moving such peoples a long distance is a good way of destroying their tribal structures and institutions and completely dispiriting them, by the way -- they are adapted to living in a particular area, and moving elsewhere is a huge disruption. These are semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers also with some fixed settlements -- as you move north or south the species change, the hunting changes, the folklore will no longer work, and as noted you will be straying into other tribes' hunting areas with limited resources -- there were strong protocols amongst such tribes against moving into others' territories. it's not like today's highway system where you have the concept of being a free individual citizen of a contiguous nation-state with complete freedom of movement and the ability to cover vast distances quickly and just stop and buy a burger and a Coke anytime you're hungry and thirsty and not be harassed.
Leave this to others to answer in detail. It's a bit self-evident, but I'm running out of steam.
Vietnam War was a guerrilla war against a determined ideological enemy. capturing Hanoi would not be enough to end it because the fighters were everywhere, and dug in too. also, it wasn't just berlin that was captured, the allies had carpet bombed german cities over and over again to demoralise them to the point where they were sending 1000 bombers at a time in a run and 90% of some cities were demolished. berlin was just the coup de grace. also the nazi leaders were concentrated there, it was a nerve centre. Vietnam was more distributed.
however, that didn't stop the US from spraying half of Vietnam with toxic, mutagenic, teratogenic Agent Orange spray to massively deforest the country and attempt to expose the guerrillas, to its eternal shame, over an ideological 'domino theory' war with no substance.
Partly the Russian winter and Stalin's scorched earth policy in WWII. Germany/Prussia had actually appropriated large swathes of Russian capability and land in WWI, by the way, and had a different truce with Russia in the east vs the Treaty of Versailles in the west that was much more generous -- LIU. Japan had industrialised and had more military capability, China had not. Sheer strength and ferocity of opposition -- maybe the Chinese could not put up much of a fight. But mainly technology due to Japan's rapid industrialisation most likely -- internal combustion engine, planes, trains, guns, etc. See guns, germs and steel theory again.
Russian winter, scorched earth policy. Bloody hell. Don't you watch Fat Freddy's videos?
I dunno -- Muslims? Cossacks? Communists? They definitely wanted oil for the war. England and France had stitched up a lot of the middle eastern sources after WWI, when they deliberately set about breaking up the Ottoman empire in order to seize the oil in what is now Iran and Iraq. That is the real 'Ark of the covenant' the Nazis were after in the Indiana Jones movie.
Did you know fierce Cossacks on horseback occupied Vienna at the end of WWII? Riding around striking ppl with the flats of their swords etc. Very scary stuff, apparently.
You also need to understand the evolution of the nation-state, the idea of ppl unifying with a common language with territorial boundaries on a large scale etc, as a fairly recent phenomenon. Also the notion of identifying with your nation-state as a citizen and owing it 'patriotism' etc. Also the ability to move freely through such a nation-state or empire as a 'rights bearing citizen' without being harassed or attacked was an odd concept in most parts of the world. And even the notion of fixed settlements.
hth -- nice to be able to regurgitate everything I've learnt in anthropology classes somewhere...
Many of the questions can be answered simply by browsing Wikipedia.
Simple geography (and/or 'hostiles' to the north):
The particular routes were historically also shaped by the powerful influence of winds and currents during the age of sail. For example, from the main trading nations of Western Europe it was much easier to sail westwards after first going south of 30 N latitude and reaching the so-called "trade winds"; thus arriving in the Caribbean rather than going straight west to the North American mainland. Returning from North America, it is easiest to follow the Gulf Stream in a northeasterly direction using the westerlies. A similar triangle to this, called the volta do mar was already being used by the Portuguese, before Columbus' voyage, to sail to the Canary Islands and the Azores. Columbus simply expanded the triangle outwards, and his route became the main way for Europeans to reach, and return from, the Americas.
In the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between European kingdoms seeking wealth through the establishment of trade routes and colonies, Columbus' speculative proposal, to reach the East Indies by sailing westward, eventually received the support of the Spanish crown, which saw in it a chance to gain the upper hand over rival powers in the contest for the lucrative spice trade with Asia. During his first voyage in 1492, instead of reaching Japan as he had intended, Columbus landed in the Bahamas archipelago, at a locale he named San Salvador. Over the course of three more voyages, Columbus visited the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America, claiming them for the Spanish Empire.
Though Columbus was not the first European explorer to reach the Americas (having been preceded by the Norse expedition led by Leif Ericson in the 11th century), Columbus' voyages led to the first lasting European contact with the Americas, inaugurating a period of European exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted for several centuries. They had, therefore, an enormous impact in the historical development of the modern Western world. Columbus himself saw his accomplishments primarily in the light of spreading the Christian religion.
Never admitting that he had reached a continent previously unknown to Europeans, rather than the East Indies he had set out for, Columbus called the inhabitants of the lands he visited indios (Spanish for "Indians"). Columbus' strained relationship with the Spanish crown and its appointed colonial administrators in America led to his arrest and dismissal as governor of the settlements on the island of Hispaniola in 1500, and later to protracted litigation over the benefits which Columbus and his heirs claimed were owed to them by the crown.
On colonialism and the benefits of guns and steel:
From the 12 October 1492 entry in his journal, in which he wrote of them, "Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language."
Columbus remarked that their lack of modern weaponry and metal-forged swords or pikes was a tactical vulnerability, writing, "I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased."
The scholar Amerigo Vespucci, who sailed to America in the years following Columbus' first voyage, was the first to speculate that the land was not part of Asia but in fact constituted some wholly new continent previously unknown to Eurasians. His travel journals, published 1502–4, convinced German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller to reach the same conclusion, and in 1507—a year after Columbus' death—Waldseemüller published a world map calling the new continent America from Vespucci's Latinized name "Americus". According to Paul Lunde, "The preoccupation of European courts with the rise of the Ottoman Turks in the East partly explains their relative lack of interest in Columbus' discoveries in the West."
Thanks for your answers everyone. I have a few more questions to add.
11. In WWII, instead of landing at Normandy on D-Day, why didn't the Allies just land troops in the Middle East or Russia and head to Europe over land? Or just land in Spain instead? Spain was unoccupied right? Then there wouldn't have been the risk of facing enemy forces meeting them at the landing point.
Also, why didn't the Allies bomb the beachhead of Normandy by plane before their troops landed there, to get enemy troops out of the way?
12. How did Genghis Khan conquer China and Russia? Mongolia is a small country and sparsely populated. How could it occupy all of Asia like that? No way.
Also, documentaries about Genghis Khan make it sound like his army marched through China and plummeted every town and village without resistance. Why didn't an army of millions of Chinese soldiers come out to face Khan on the battlefield? When Alexander the Great marched into Persia, he faced large armies that outnumbered his own. They marched out to fight him. Why did no armies march out to face Genghis Khan in a grand climactic battle? That's weird.
Instead, documentaries just say that Genghis Khan's army ran through China and took everything they wanted with no resistance, like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal knocking everyone down with no resistance. Then it says that they reached the walls of Beijing and surrounded it, starving the Chinese inside the city and then looting it when the troops inside fell from starvation.
Why did no million man army come out to fight Genghis Khan in an epic battle, like the kind that Alexander the Great face? Strange.
One more question I forgot to ask.
13. The ancient Romans and armies of medieval Europe wore metal armor over their bodies to protect the wearer from swords and spears. Why didn't the European and American armies during the 18th Century wear any armor? Why didn't Napoleon's army, the British army, or the American continental army wear any armor? Wouldn't the armor have protected them from musket balls?
It's strange to think that medieval soldiers and Roman soldiers were better protected than 18th century troops. Odd huh?
Here's another question:
14. During the top secret Manhattan Project, how did the US secretly detonate an atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico? Wouldn't an atomic bomb going off in a mushroom cloud within the US have gotten the attention of residents in New Mexico, the media and local government as well? How could that have been done secretly? I've never understood that.
A mixed bag this time.
??? The Brits were getting their asses kicked and had to retreat at Dunkirk back to England in a secret flotilla of civvy boats during the night, so they wouldn't be massacred or captured by the Germans. Check wiki for details.
How do you 'land troops in the middle east or russia'? It takes effort, you can't move that many people that quickly, and by what means? flying over Europe means flying over the fascist territories of spain, Portugal, conquered france, Germany, Poland, Belgium, etc etc, being intercepted by fighter planes, and shot down by anti-aircraft guns. and you just couldn't move many people by plane in those days, they were only small.
the Russians of course could attack Germany or hold them off at least on the Russian side. however, stalin and Russia sided with Germany at the beginning of WWII until hitler started invading Russia.
Spain was not occupied by Germany because they had already elected a fascist government, as had Portugal and Italy. remember the Spanish civil war in the mid 1930s that the fascists had won? hence spain and Portugal were no threat to hitler and Germany and they included them as sort of 'quiet allies'. the English could not fly over spain, they would have been shot down, and had to fly around it.
anyway, to repeat, D-Day was the evacuation of British troops from a dangerous situation, it had to be done by stealth -- it was largely conducted at night, across the British Channel, by civvy commandeered boats. hence why you would not bomb the beachhead, as that would have attracted the germans to the operation -- who were already closing in on the british as it was.
That's a very good question, I've actually often wondered that myself. I wonder if their methods were particularly brutal, so it just snowballed? Similarly to how the Romans and Aztecs seemed to get ahead -- by being more aggressive than surrounding tribes. I would try researching more on that thesis.
Bows and arrows could already pierce armour plating well before that time. hence the stuff was just heavy, unwieldy, useless, tired the horses, etc. then musket balls could pierce the armour as well. if you could get a lightweight metal back then that could resist such things, it would have been extremely popular. e.g. the turks bows and arrows made short work of crusader knights armour, and it was also hot and heavy in warmer climes. and the rise of the yew longbow also made armour pretty useless.
you could also say the same about troops today. the best they can do is Kevlar outfits etc, but they're not issued with them all the time, as they're expensive and unwieldy.
good question. the desert is a big place? plus maybe a restricted area, participants were sworn to secrecy. which raises an interesting question of how many ppl can share and keep a secret believing they are acting in 'the national interest'?
Skepcop - There are several modern books that came out in the last decade or two that "re-wrote" a lot of the main "glorified" events using diaries and other manuscripts from the people who lived during those times.
The main surprise one gets from reading these witnessed accounts is that most were not as glorified as our schoolbooks depict. Back then, people liked to glorify even the not-so-elite people making history. These myths continued into the modern age and so in our school books with very tainted information based on word of mouth accounts of the times. Though a lot of what we were taught in school is far from actual accounts from people who lived back then, the mis-information has just been brought to light. Will our present school history books be updated? Time will tell.
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