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History of Asia

History of Asia

By Kristof Aerts
We try to make sense of Asian culture and politics by exploring the continent's history. We start in the present, then we methodically travel back in time. All regions will be covered. Beginner friendly, but only when listened to in proper order. Suggestions, questions, remarks ... ? --> or (preferably) Facebook chat.
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2.9. There is something rotten in the state of Iran. Starting in the 1600s.
During most of modern history, Iran was a rather weak player on the world stage. It was constantly taken advantage of. Before the Safavid’s sudden collapse in the early 18th century, however, Persia was not a country that you would want to mess with. Only a few other states in the world could match their power. Iran went from hero to zero in no time. In this episode, we ask ourselves how and why this happened.
September 19, 2022
2.8. The nadir of Iranian history: the 1700s
In the 18th century, Persia was the playground of cruel warlords, who attempted to rule through fear and blood. You had the Afghan rebel turned Shah, the Persian Napoleon Nadir Shah, and even a eunuch-king! It was one of the worst periods in the country's history: the population fell from 9 to 6 million. It was the Qajars who finally ended the era of civil war.
August 30, 2022
2.7. Persia since the 19th century. t is from us what befalls us?
In the Qajar era, Persia went through a period of decline and humiliation at the hands of foreign powers. The experience makes clear why Reza Khan had the priorities he had, and why Europe is still regarded with suspicion in Iran (although there are other reasons for that too).
August 12, 2022
2.6. Brave Little Persia. Iran since the 20th century.
Today we talk about the rise, the policies, the downfall and the legacy of Reza Khan, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty. Under his rule, Iran was irrevocably transformed. Many of these changes still resonate today. Perhaps his most enduring legacy, is the struggle between Mosque and State, especially over the issue of the chador, or hijab. This is a matter of worldwide controversy to this day, and this episode in Iran's history may teach us valuable lessons about its nature. It also illustrates just how difficult it is to tackle such issues. The episode starts and ends with a world war: while the first brought Reza Khan to power, the second brought him down. For the Iranian population as a whole, these were two  traumatizing experiences. They make the enduring mistrust of the outside world more understandable. And they bring some more nuance of our idea of World War II as being a fight between Good and Evil.
June 29, 2022
2.5. Mossadeq and the Shah. Iran since the 1950s
Many features of the current Iranian system can be seen as responses to misgivings about the former one, that of the Pahlavi dynasty. Many of these “solutions” have become problems themselves. "Independence" became isolation and confrontation, "islamization" has led to alienation... Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic has also, in many respects, built on the foundations of that bygone era. Today, we discuss what Iran was like under the last dynastic ruler: Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. We also discuss how the occurrences in this era explain the antagonism between Iran and the USA. And we talk about the nationalization of oil, a dramatic story of hybris and betrayal, with as protagonist, a frail aristocrat in pajamas.
May 26, 2022
2.4. Khomeini's Iran
Today we discuss the aftermath of the 1979 revolution: the ascent of Ruhollah Khomeini, the capture of the US embassy, the First Gulf War, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and much else. All events with major repercussions today. And not just in Iran.
April 30, 2022
2.3. Where power lies. Iran since the 1990s
The 90s were a very interesting time in Iran, in which the democratic and authoritarian faces of its Janus-head clashed. The story shows where the current disillusionment and confrontation comes from. It also suggests that this was far from inevitable, and that it need not stay that way forever.
April 09, 2022
2.2. Dealing with the devil. Iran since the 21th century.
For multiple reasons, this will be a very timely episode. While everyone watches the tragedy in Ukraine unfold, the situation around Iran is also spiralling out of control. And as we'll see, there are many connections between them. The consequences of a war in Iran might be equally catastrophic as what is currently happening on the Eastern borders of Europe.  Today's "story" is about how Iran and America stepped away from the brink, only to turn around once again. No one knows how it will all end. But a little context certainly wouldn’t hurt. My heart goes out to all the innocent people involved in the tragedy that we're witnessing. 
March 23, 2022
2.1 Iran today. Land with two faces.
Introduction to our new series. When it comes to Iran, there is irony wherever you look. And it so happens that I love irony. So I'm certainly gonna love the upcoming series. I hope you do to.
March 10, 2022
1.14. What did we learn? The history of Arabia in a nutshell
A super-quick recap of our long voyage through Arabian history. Counter-clockwise, of course. 
February 20, 2022
1.13. Womb of Islam. Arabia from pre-history up to the time of the Prophet.
Islam is a universalist religion, but at the same time, it is rooted in ancient Arabian culture. Understanding that historical context can bring another level of understanding. I hope. Judge for yourself: in this episode, we cover Arabia's past from pre-history up to, and including, the time of Prophet Muhammed.
January 25, 2022
1.12. Setting the scene for the Great Arab Expansion. (part 2/2) Arabia since the 6th century.
We continue the discussion on the reasons behind the success of the Early Arab Expansion. We focus on the timing of the Muslim attack: was it a coincidence that this took place when Persia and Byzantium were at their weakest? We also focus on the momentous consequences of these years: had it gone different, the Middle East would not be ethnically Arab, Arabic speaking and Islamic.
December 29, 2021
1.11. Rags to riches. The Early Muslim Conquests (part 1/2)
In this episode, we discuss why the Arabians could take over the Middle-East right after they accepted Islam. Also comes up:  - Snoop dog's appeal - practicing soccer skills - recognizing pornography  - the Stanford prison experiment  - wisdom from Tarantino...and GOT. Enjoy 
November 27, 2021
1.10. Geography's revenge. Arabia since the 9th century.
Arabia is one of only a handful of regions that were never colonized (with the exception of Aden). Not because it's impossible to unlock, but because nobody really bothered. There were only two periods in history when Arabia was of global importance: the last time was due to the discovery of oil, the first time was the result of the emergence of Islam. During the millennium in between these short periods, its unhabitable environment condemned Arabia to obscurity. Only the coastal regions were in regular contact with the outside world. In the isolated mountains of Yemen and Oman, like in the barren deserts of central Arabia, unorthodox movements flourished: hyper-conservative Sunnism, Ibadism and Zaydism. We try to explain their emergence by focussing on their environment.  The episode is named after an influential but highly controversial book by Robert Kaplan.
November 02, 2021
1.9. Non-fossil fuels. Slavery in Arabia since the 16th century.
The show discusses to what extend the historical practice of slavery resonates in today’s Arabia. We shall focus on a part of the peninsula that usually doesn’t get the attention it deserves: Oman. The Omanis used to have a maritime empire that stretched all the way from Somalia to Mozambique. Its most important economic activity was the slave trade. Used works will, as always, appear on Facebook.
October 06, 2021
1.8. The rise of Wahhabism. Arabia since the 18th century.
In today’s episode, we’ll explore the origins of the puritanical form of Islam, commonly known as Wahhabism. We’ll see that the bond between the Wahhabis and the Saudis goes back a very long time. We also place these topics in a broader context: the rise of the West, and the ways the rest of the world adapted to it.
September 17, 2021
1.7. Now it's personal!
Bonus episode. A short recap of the previous episodes, looking at 20th century Arabia through a different lens: the "big man" theory of history. Napoleon made history, but he was also a product of history himself. So too with the Saudi kings and the Bin Ladens.
August 16, 2021
1.6. The Founding Fathers. Arabia since the 20th century
This time we focus on the first half of the 20th century. We discuss the founding of Saudi-Arabia. We also see why Oman and North Yemen would become tempting targets in the Arab cold war. And we contemplate an alternative history in which Arab lands were undivided.  hrc3UITIuCjpCEqllKWZ
July 31, 2021
1.5. The Arab Cold War. Arabia since the 50s
Why are some places rich, while others are poor? Why is Abu Dhabi rich, and Aden poor? You cannot answer such questions simply by looking at geography, culture or the economy. History is a necessary part of the explanation. And today's story is a perfect illustration. For around 1950, Aden was rich, and Abu Dhabi was poor. In the subsequent decades, they changed places. That is the story of this show.  Our focus will be on the east and south of Arabia for a change. We'll see how the stability of Yemen was undermined by forces such as decolonization, Arab nationalism and the Cold War. Out of the civil war emerged two very different Yemens, both of them instable. This served as a warning for the states on the east coast. They did manage to consolidate and prosper.
July 04, 2021
1.4. Arabia since the 70s. Rise of the oil sheiks
We discuss the oil crisis, its causes and aftermath.
June 03, 2021
1.3. Arabia after 1979. Strange bedfellows.
We discuss how Saudi-Arabia responded to the crises of 1979. We also talk about the unification of Yemen. In both cases, the result was a bizarre, highly unstable alliance. The Gulf War woud put them both to the test.
May 18, 2021
1.2. Arabia after 9/11
This time, we discuss the situation in Arabia after the 9/11 attacks.
May 09, 2021
1.1. Arabia today
In this episode, we take a look at the current situation in Arabia (Saudi-Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait & Bahrain). In the upcoming episodes, we shall see how it came into being.
May 02, 2021
A short introduction
What is this podcast all about?
April 17, 2021