Legitimization of Conquest

Ceremonies of Possession in Europe’s Conquest of the New World, 1492-1640 by Patricia Seed

By Steven Knorr

As European powers expanded into the Americas, they used ceremony and ritual to cement their control over newly conquered lands. Perception of colonial ownership differed between the Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.

Ceremonies of Possession by Patricia Seed is a book that explains the rituals and ceremonies European colonizers performed when laying foundation for political authority over the New World between 1492 and 1640. Seed demonstrates that the Europeans did not behave as a monolith, but that each had their own customs and practices when establishing their overseas empires. According to Seed, the symbolic acts taken by the Europeans were based upon familiar gestures, actions, movements or speeches that they already understood[1]. Throughout the book she demonstrates how European legal codes can differentiate how legal possession can be interpreted differently.

Seed begins this discussion with the Portuguese claiming dominion over places they discovered.[2] To the Portuguese, simply discovering land meant they held dominion over it[3]. To the English however, to hold dominion over a territory meant there had to be an intent to stay by establishing houses and boundaries. Queen Elizabeth of England believed that the Portuguese had no dominion over places they simply had found[4]. The English established boundaries by putting up fences and hedges and building gardens. Full-time use of land was an important indicator of property to the English. For this reason, they were able to more easily disregard land usage by the Native Americans, as Native Americans only used theirs on a semi-permanent basis, according to the English laws.

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The Rise of the Asante Empire (1680-1750)

The Asante Kingdom was the most powerful state in West Africa for over 200 years. With a tradition of monarchy centered around the Golden Stool, the Asante came to prominence during the reign of Osei Tutu (r. 1680-1717) and his immediate successors. 

By Nick Richwagen

Today the Ashanti (Asante) people number about 7 million, and inhabit central Ghana centered around the city of Kumasi. Their king, the Asantehene, continues to exert powerful social and cultural influence within Ghana, and his position is protected within the Ghanaian constitution. Ashanti kingship is similar in many respects to the chieftaincy system practiced by other Akan peoples, however the Ashanti distinguish themselves in their historical importance in the region. From the 17th to 19th centuries the Ashanti Kingdom was one of the most prominent states in the African continent, controlling territory outside the sphere of modern Ghana; at its peak the Asantehene ruled around 3 million people. Understanding the history of Ashanti is necessary for understanding the Gold Coast region and the broader history of Africa.

In the 19th century, the Asante came into conflict with the British, and after a series of brutal wars the Asante Empire was annexed by the British Empire in 1902 as a protectorate. Like the Zulu, the Asante were one of the few African kingdoms able to exert effective resistance against colonial European powers. This article discusses the origins of the Asante and their rise to dominance among the Akan peoples of West Africa.

Asante Kingdom 1800

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The Second Punic War According to Livy


Titus Livius (Livy) wrote an 142-volume history of Rome between 27 and 9 BC. Only a quarter of his writing survives. Book 21-30 deal with the Roman Republic in her struggle against Hannibal. 

← Previous: Emperor Tiberius According to Tacitus 

By Steven Knorr and Nick Richwagen

Livy is known as a moralizing historian, and in his War with Hannibal (History of Rome: Books XXI-XXX) his belief in Roman values shows in his narration. Livy believed that human character and the moral character of history outweighed historical accuracy. Livy was interested in stories of right and wrong and the triumph of virtue. He highlighted heroic Roman leaders and singled out their virtues, such as with Quintus Fabius, who nobly delayed the Carthaginian advance through Italy to buy the Romans time.  Livy valued Roman virtues such as piety, bravery, and honor, and condemned weaknesses of character as leading to ruin. Like any pious Roman, he placed great stock in omens. Numerous omens exist in Livy’s history, both good and bad, that foreshadow events to come. Livy’s writing is best understood through a deeply moralistic, pious lens.

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Project Summaries and Update for January 2017

This is the second calendar year since our website started back in August 2015. I thought it might be helpful to do an overview of the different subjects we have so far covered. In descending order from the most recent:

 10/2016 A Concise Summary of World War One: The First Two Years (1914-1916)  This project chronicles the first two years of the Great War.
 9/2016 Classical Inspiration for American Government A discussion of the ancient philosophy and traditions which inspired the creation of the US government.
 9/2016 Emperor Tiberius According to Tacitus A look at the second Roman emperor through the lens of the author Tacitus (AD 56-120), who had more than his fair share of biases.
 1/2016 The Radicalization of the French Revolution Why did the French Revolution become so extreme? Also, inexplicably our most popular essay.
 10/2015 The Saxons – Early History and Geography Concerning the ancient Saxon tribe, their traditions and customs, and their homeland in northern Germany. Also a look into some modern German geography.
 8/2015 Athens and the Greek World, 404 – 200 BC An examination of the political life of Athens, and its position in the larger Greek world, from the end of the Peloponnesian War through the Hellenistic Period.

In all so far, our two contributing authors have written five posts with more planned projects in the near future.

Although readership is still small, we are averaging one view every other day and have seen growth in views every month since last September. We are currently looking for more contributors, if anyone might enjoy writing about a history related topic for zero compensation. In interested, please comment or email one of the authors.