Wars and confrontation have made a major impact on the course of history. Regrettably contemporary history, as we read it, is very Eurocentric. The version of major conflicts that changed the course of civilizations needs a fairer version that is more globally balanced. The battles that changed the course of history in the ‘crescent of cradle of civilization’ are defined with a very blinkered approach. The rise of Islam as a result of various major conflicts in the forgotten deserts has led to more than 1. 2 billion faithful. Battle of Badr changed the course of history in a far bigger manner than any battles mentioned herein; had Quraysh been successful, the Arab land would have remained a forgotten part of the world until oil was discovered;1400 years of known world history would have been very differently written. If Saad Bin Waqas had been defeated at Qadisiya, Iran would have still been a big buffer between the peninsula of ignorance and Stans; without the rich culture of Iran may be the dynamicism seen in the early days of Islam would have not materialized!!
We need to make efforts to understand the philosophy of major conflicts and their impact on chronology of events post conflict. The clash of the colorful cultural mosaic of empires scattered all around Mediterranean have dictated the course of our evolution. It was the clash of culturally rich civilizations with the bearers of the black standard unfurled from the heart of Nejd and Nomads from the Euro-Asians steppes that dictated the chart of milieu of Mediterranean cradle. It was a victory for the Mongol leader Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan -- Baghdad was captured, sacked, and burned. To comprehend the course of civilizations we need to understand the history of conflict; without perception of the past conflicts we will never be able to understand/avoid/manage future conflicts. Philosophers put it adequately, ''With the sacking of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed out. Imagining the Athens of Pericles and Aristotle obliterated by a nuclear weapon begins to suggest the enormity of the blow.''
The Grand Library of Baghdad, containing countless precious historical documents and books on subjects ranging from medicine to astronomy, was destroyed. Survivors said that the waters of the Tigris ran black with ink from the enormous quantities of books flung into the river. Citizens attempted to flee, but were intercepted by Mongol soldiers who raped and killed with abandon. Who can predict that without this pillage what course of governance 'Islamic Caliphs' would have taken? Continuation of traditions of the House of Wisdom may have resulted into permanence of traditions of learning, a metropolis which was at the centre of the cradle of civilisation with library and centres of learning may have led enlightenment to be more permanently moored within Islamic societies.
A renowned historian profiles 16 critical struggles from ancient and modern times—conflicts that forever changed the course of world events. Gripping accounts range from Alexander the Great's overthrow of the Persian Empire in the fourth century B.C. to World War II's Battle of Midway.
With dramatic flair, Pratt depicts the full panorama of circumstances leading up to the decisive clashes, the historical personalities involved, and the battles' historically important aftermath. As a post script to his efforts I have added few events that I think he missed due to his Eurocentric view of history, an affliction that grips a lot of western-educated historians. The cultural lake of Mediterranean and the Mogul conquest of the sub-continent were features in shaping the future and demographics of this densely populated and culturally enlightened area. The ethics of 'peaceful rivers' had a great role in defining attitudes of accepting subjects within nation and its people. We are where we are because we are prisoners of geography and sometimes history; when renaissance misses a land or a region, intellectually the lands remain a black hole and a hub of vandals. It is enlightenment and optimism that combines to deliver a nation from pangs of disasters.
Some nations are prisoners of history; the very location on the pathway of vandals lent themselves to be an easy prey. History of contemporary civilizations is only 10,000 years old, it centers on all the major rivers. It was rivers that made ‘man the hunter’ to the ‘man the gatherer and cultivator.’ It was the fresh water rivers and deltas that helped man domesticate animals and plants. These early sanctuaries became the abode of peace and wealth, but also attracted vandals locked behind the mountains and deserts. The north of India and plains of Mediterranean attracted vandals from their respective North. Plains of Ganges, Euphrates and Nile were grazing grounds for them, who found people settled serenely an attractive target for rich booties. Euphrates, Tigris were home of ancient Mesopotamian civilization. Nile was the bastion of Pharaohnic civilization; Egyptian agriculture depended on seasonal flooding. Indus supported prehistoric civilization. Danube was the northernmost border for Romans and the first line of protection; it was Goths Visigoth that ended the Roman Empire. Danube Rhine though commercially the most important rivers of Europe had no signs civilization beyond vandals. The Mogul conquest of India has far greater impact than any other event on future course of mankind's history. Babur claimed to be the true and rightful Monarch of the lands of the Lodi dynasty. He believed himself the rightful heir to the throne of Timur, and it was Timur who had originally left Khizr Khan in charge of his vassal in the Punjab, who became the leader, or Sultan, of the Delhi Sultanate, founding the Sayyid dynasty. The Sayyid dynasty, however, had been ousted by Ibrahim Lodi, a Ghilzai Afghan, and Babur wanted it returned to the Timurids.The first battle of Panipat took place in Northern India, and marked the beginning of the Mughal Empire. This was one of the earliest battles involving gunpowder firearms and field artillery.
Peaceful people and civilizations were always an easy target of medieval invaders. The bridges of reconciliation between mankind can only be constructed if efforts are made to understand the background of events that led to present permanent cultivation of jingoism in some regions and the modern confrontations between radicals and the moderates of the world. When some nations are termed as ‘exporters of terror’ they are essentially the ancient buffer between lands of vandals and peaceful bastions of civilizations.
History taught in Indian schools still considers Moguls as saviours of India. Not so. Those in the subcontinent who call Moguls saviours of the subcontinent should know their pedigree well. The Moguls descended from the merciless Mongol invader, Ghengis Khan on his mother's side, and on his father's side the infamous Amir Timur, known as Tamberlane to the Western world. Scarcely less notorious for his barbarism than the Mongols, the Turkish ruler had invaded Hindustan in 1398, massacred its inhabitants and brought back riches beyond his wildest dreams: trays of gold and carved ivory and mounds of jewels – rubies, pearls, emeralds, turquoise, topaz and cat's eye, and diamonds said to be so valuable they might have fed the world for a day. They were the classic landlocked vandals who made the peaceful riparian subcontinent their subjects for hundreds of years without any remorse. Ideological Puritanism was exported at free will plus the wealth of teeming masses looted at a scale that is unfathomable.
It needs guts to admit the crimes of our ancestors and rebuke them publicly, until such time the desire of raising the flag on Red Fort never dies in the heart of the faithful. This is the root cause of our tragedies in the subcontinent, the unbridled support of ravagers and looters. Now when we face them in the shape of Mullah Omar and OBL we don't like them, as they are blowing us now, this was exactly the case of the powerless subjects of the subcontinent who were targets of the worst kind of atrocities in the name of spearheading the message from the desert. Added with colours of rubies and emeralds from the booties from the temples and trampling the right of millions became the cornerstone strategy of 'Mogul democracy.' From Ghazanis to Ghauri to Moguls, the rape of the subcontinent continued rampant and unrestrained.
The curse of history and geography of a nation is also is responsible for inbuilt belligerence and violence. The areas in North of India are one such example - they were bequeathed to Pakistan and still remain a blazing subject. War and death over centuries is second nature to this area.
The battles that led Islam to victory are rarely considered as ones that could have changed history, though, that is exactly what they did. The Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire carved out differently once the desert warriors conquered the Hellenistic and Sassanians. Without the rich booty of intellectual Sassanians civilization on which Umayyads and Abbasids thrived extensively, the course of events would have been very different.
Pratts 16 critical struggles from ancient and modern times:
The Battle of Marathon, 490 BC
Two thousand three hundred and forty years ago, a council of Athenian Officers was summoned on the slope of one of the mountains that look over the plain of Marathon, on the eastern coast of Attica. The immediate subject of their meeting was to consider whether they should give battle to an enemy that lay encamped on the shore beneath them; but on the result of their deliberations depended, not merely the fate of two armies, but the whole future progress of human civilization.
The Defeat of the Athenians at Syracuse, 413 BC- Known as the Battle of Syracuse:
Few cities have undergone more memorable sieges during ancient and mediaeval times than has the city of Syracuse.
The Battle of Gaugamela, 331 BC- also called the Battle of Arbela:
The ancient Persian empire, which once menaced all the nations of the earth with subjection, was irreparably crushed when Alexander had won his crowning victory at Arbela.
The Battle of the Metaurus, 207 BC:
That battle was the determining crisis of the contest, not merely between Rome and Carthage, but between the two great families of the world...
Victory of Arminius over the Roman Legions under Varus, 9 AD- the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest:
That victory secured at once and forever the independence of the Teutonic race.
The Battle of Chalons, 451- also called the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields or the Battle of the Catalun:
The victory which the Roman general, Aëtius, with his Gothic allies, had then gained over the Huns, was the last victory of imperial Rome.
The Battle of Tours, 732- also called the Battle of Poitiers:
The great victory won by Charles Martel ... gave a decisive check to the career of Arab conquest in Western Europe, rescued Christendom from Islam, [and] preserved the relics of ancient and the germs of modern civilization.
The Battle of Hastings, 1066:
No one who appreciates the influence of England and her empire upon the destinies of the world will ever rank that victory as one of secondary importance.
Joan of Arc's Victory over the English at Orléans, 1429- also known as the Siege of Orléans:
The struggle by which the unconscious heroine of France, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, rescued her country from becoming a second Ireland under the yoke of the triumphant English.
Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588:
The England of our own days is so strong, and the Spain of our own days is so feeble, that it is not easy, without some reflection and care, to comprehend the full extent of the peril which England then ran from the power and the ambition of Spain, or to appreciate the importance of that crisis in the history of the world.
The Battle of Blenheim,1704
Had it not been for Blenheim, all Europe might at this day suffer under the effect of French conquests resembling those of Alexander in extent and those of the Romans in durability.
The Battle of Pultowa, 1709-also called the Battle of Poltava.
The decisive triumph of Russia over Sweden at Pultowa was therefore all-important to the world, on account of what it overthrew as well as for what it established
Victory of the Americans over Burgoyne at Saratoga, 1777- also called as the Battle of Saratoga.
The ancient Roman boasted, with reason, of the growth of Rome from humble beginnings to the greatest magnitude which the world had then ever witnessed. But the citizen of the United States is still more justly entitled to claim this praise.
The Battle of Valmy, 1792
The kings of Europe, after the lapse of eighteen centuries, trembled once more before a conquering military republic.
The Battle of Waterloo, 1815
The exertions which the allied powers made at this crisis to grapple promptly with the French emperor have truly been termed gigantic, and never were Napoleon's genius and activity more signally displayed than in the celerity and skill by which he brought forward all the military resources of France.
In my opinion..the euro centric view of history is the biggest problem the worst is that really no efforts are seriously made to correct the prevalent gaps; events that have really impacted the than known world far bigger than some battles above are..
I have added few events that I think he missed due to his Eurocentric view of history, an affliction that grips a lot of western educated historians.
*The first battle of Islam at Badr:
Battle of Badr changed the course of the history in a far bigger manner than any battles mentioned above; had Quraysh been successful, the Arab land would have remained a forgotten part of the world until oil was discovered; 1400 years of known world history would have been very differently written. If Saad Bin Waqas had been defeated at Qadisiya, Iran would have still been a big buffer between the peninsula of ignorance and Stans; without the rich culture of Iran may be the dynamicism seen in the early days of Islam would not have materialized!!
*The battle of Qadisiya, 637 AD:
This decisive combat between Muslim Arabs and the Persian army of the Sassanians resulted in the Islamic conquest of Iran. Had the Abbasid kingdom not fallen to Mongols, may be the tolerant version of Islam would have taken firm seat in the heartland of Islam!!
*The Battle of Baghdad in 1258:
It was a victory for the Mongol leader Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. Baghdad was captured, sacked, and burned.
* "Iraq in 1258 was very different from present day Iraq. Its agriculture was supported by a canal network thousands of years old. Baghdad was one of the most brilliant intellectual centres in the world. The Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never recovered. Already Islam was turning inward, becoming more suspicious of conflicts between faith and reason and more conservative. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed out. Imagining the Athens of Pericles and Aristotle obliterated by a nuclear weapon begins to suggest the enormity of the blow. The Mongols filled in the irrigation canals and left Iraq too depopulated to restore them." (Steven Dutch)
* "They swept through the city like hungry falcons, attacking a flight of doves, or like raging wolves attacking sheep, with loose reins and shameless faces, murdering and spreading terror...beds and cushions made of gold and encrusted with jewels were cut to pieces with knives and torn to shreds. Those hiding behind the veils of the great Harem were dragged...through the streets and alleys, each of them becoming a plaything...as the population died at the hands of the invaders." (Abdullah Wassaf as cited by David Morgan)
The course of Euro-Asia would have been different if Ayyubids, the dynasty of Saladin and of the Mameluk Turks, had not vanquished the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalout in 1260.
Two battles more important than Poitiers are: Lepanto, and if the siege of Vienna had been successful and the Ottomans had won, who knows who would have ruled the sea lanes of the World; instead of England and with riches of Vienna the terminal decline of the Ottomans may not have commenced!!!!
*The first battle of Panipat took place in Northern India:
This marked the beginning of the Mughal Empire. This was one of the earliest battles involving gunpowder firearms and field artillery.
In 1526, the forces of Zahir Ud-din Muhammad Babur, the Timurid ruler of Kabul, defeated the much larger army of Ibrahim Lodi, Sultan of Delhi.
The battle was fought on 21 April near the small village of Panipat, in the present day Indian state of Haryana, an area that has been the site of a number of decisive battles for the control of Northern India since the twelfth century.
It is estimated that Babur's forces numbered about 15,000 men and he had between 20 to 24 pieces of field artillery. Lodi had around 130,000 men, though that number included camp followers, while the fighting force was around 100,000 to 110,000 men in total, along with at least 300 war elephants. Hindu Kings - Rajputs were neutral but few Tomar Rajputs of Gwalior fought for Ibrahim Lodi.
Babur claimed to be the true and rightful Monarch of the lands of the Lodi dynasty.
*The Battle of Lepanto:
It took place on 7 October 1571 when a galley fleet of the Holy League, a sometimes flimsy coalition of the Papacy (under Pope Pius V), Spain, Venice, Republic of Genoa, Duchy of Savoy, the Knights of Malta and others, defeated a force of Ottoman galleys. The 5-hour battle was fought at the northern edge of the Gulf of Patras, off western Greece, where the Ottoman forces sailing westwards from their naval station in Lepanto met the Holy League forces, which had come from Messina, in the morning of Sunday 7 October. It was the final major naval battle in world history solely between rowing vessels.
Despite the massive defeat, however, the Holy League's disunity prevented the victors from capitalizing on their triumph. Plans to seize the Dardanelles as a step towards recovering Istanbul , formerly Constantinople, for Christendom, were scuppered by bickering amongst the allies. With a massive effort, the Empire rebuilt its navy, adding eight of the largest capital ships ever seen in the Mediterranean. Within six months this new fleet was able to reassert Ottoman naval supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. On 7 March 1573 the Venetians thus recognized by treaty the Ottoman possession of Cyprus, which had fallen to the Turks under Piyale Pasha on 3 August 1571, just two months before Lepanto, and remained Turkish for the next three centuries, and that summer the Ottoman navy ravaged the geographically vulnerable coasts of Sicily and southern Italy . A Turkish Grand Vizier famously said "In wresting Cyprus from you we deprived you of an arm; in defeating our fleet you have only shaved our beard. An arm when cut off cannot grow again; but a shorn beard will grow all the better for the razor."
*The Battle of Vienna:
It took place on September 11 and September 12, 1683 after Vienna had been besieged by Turks for two months. It was the first large-scale battle of the Great Turkish War, yet with the most far-reaching consequences.
The siege itself began on 14 July 1683, by the Ottoman army commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. The decisive battle took place on 12 September, after the united relief army of 70,000 men had arrived, pitted against the Ottoman army of approximately 138,000 men — although a large number of these played no part in the battle, as only 50,000 were experienced soldiers, and the rest less-motivated supporting troops. King Jan III Sobieski of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been made Commander in Chief of his own 30,000-man Polish forces and the 40,000 troops of Habsburg and their allies, led by Charles V, Duke of Lorraine.
The battle marked the turning point in the 300-year struggle between the forces of the Central European kingdoms and the Ottoman Empire . Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Habsburgs of Austria, and their allies gradually occupied and dominated southern Hungary and Transylvania , which had been largely cleared by the Turkish forces
Historical sources -wikipedia