History of Asia
Season 1: Arabia
Season 2: Iran
Season 3: Iraq and Syria
Season 4: ?
Notice a mistake? Be so kind as to let me know. Suggestions, questions and encouragements are appreciated: email@example.com or Spotify questionnaire.
Sources can be found on Facebook
Commercial offers or donations are never accepted. This is a 100 pct non-commercial podcast.
History of AsiaNov 12, 2023
3.3. Mission Accomplished. The Iraq War, and its aftermath.
We talk about the Iraq war, its immediate consequences, and its effect on Syria.
3.2. The Arab Winter
This is the story of the Arab Spring in Syria and Iraq, and how it turned to another Long Winter.
3.1. Iraq and Syria today
In our third series, we set out to discover Syria and Iraq. We tavel by podcast so it's perfectly safe. And free. Enjoy.
2.21. Elam. In search of mad kings
In this last episode on Iran, we talk about one of the most important peoples you probably never heard of: the Elamites.
2.20 A convenient "Truth"
"Power doesn't come from a badge or a gun. Power comes from lying... lying big and getting the whole ×××× world to play along with you." (Quote from sin city)How does that work? Check out this episode and find out...
2.19 The Achaemenid Persians: The evil empire (?)
The Persians, and especially the Achaemenids, have for centuries been presented as the ultimate "other". Corrupt, decadent, freedom-hating...
In this episode, we look how accurate these stereotypes fit the real thing. The episode owes a large debt to professor Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones' excellent work (and several others), which takes many new findings and weaves them into a fascinating new narrative. I advise you all to buy it, of course. Other sources are on my Facebook page.
2.18 4th Century BCE. Invading hell, becoming the devil.
We talk about Alexander the Great, and how he (may have) conquered the Achaemenid Persian empire.
2.17. Your own, personal, Alexander
In the next episode, we'll talk about how Alexander the Great managed to conquer the Persian empire.
In this one, we'll see why we will probably never know that.
2.16. An ancient civil world war
2.15. Iran since the 200s BCE. The Parthians
We talk about the predecessors to the Sasanian empire. Their approach was completely different, but in a way, perfectly adopted to the lands of Iran.
2.14. The Sasanians
Omnipresent magic. Religiously sanctioned inbreeding. Extreme decadence. Lots of war elephants. A royal family that commits genocide on itself. Welcome to the world of Sasan.
2.13. The land of the Magi
Today, we discuss the religion that dominated Iran until the Muslim Conquests: Zoroastrianism. As we shall see, this faith bears many resemblances to Twelver Shiism, the sect that would be embraced by the Buyid dynasty soon after it emerged, and not long after the Islamization of Iran really got underway. These similarities may not be entirely coincidental. Zoroastrianism also left a mark on other world religions. It had many followers in Arabia during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammed. After the Muslims conquered Persia, both religions would co-exist there for centuries. That was bound to leave a mark.
2.12. The Paradox of Shiite Rule. Every day is Ashura.
Don’t you just hate politics? As Manu Chao sang, and as anyone watching House of Cards will confirm: Politic kills. politic needs cries, politic needs ignorance, politic needs lies… Many religions have thrived by cozying up to the establishment of their day. There are few that consistently hold politics in contempt the way Shiism does. This may well be a big part of its appeal. But what would happen, if such a creed became state religion itself? Wouldn’t that be a fun experiment…
2.11. Iran since the 10th century. The Assassin’s creed
In today’s episode, we talk about the legacy of the period before the advent of the Safavids, and the transformation of Iran into a Shia state. Among other things, we discuss the rise of Sufism, the resilience of Persian culture and the “Shiite century”. We also give ample attention to the fascinating cult of the Assassins: if you are writing a fantasy novel, you may want to include these people.
2.10. Rise of the Safavids. How Iran became Shiite (after 1500).
In the last episode, we talked about the fall of the Safavids, the most important Muslim dynasty Iran has ever had. Today, we shall discuss their rise. It was they who turned Iran into a Shiite state, and not through kind persuasion.
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.
2.8. The nadir of Iranian history: the 1700s
2.7. Persia since the 19th century. t is from us what befalls us?
2.6. Brave Little Persia. Iran since the 20th century.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1.12. Arabia since the 6th century. Setting the scene for the Great Arab Expansion.
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 differently, the Middle East would not be ethnically Arab, Arabic speaking and Islamic.
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.
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 book by Robert Kaplan.
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.
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.
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.
1.6. The Founding Father of Saudi-Arabia. Beginning of 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.
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.
1.4. Arabia since the 70s. Rise of the oil sheiks
We discuss the oil crisis, its causes and aftermath.
1.3. Annus Horribilis: 1979.
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.
1.2. Arabia after 9/11
This time, we discuss the situation in Arabia after the 9/11 attacks.
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.
A short introduction
What is this podcast all about?