Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: Europe ka Urooj (The Rise of Europe)

Book Name: Europe ka Urooj
Author: Dr. Mubarak Ali
Publisher: Fiction House
Pages: 198
Price: 120 rupees

Dr. Mubarak Ali is a RUHR PhD in history. He is an eminent Pakistani historian, and has written 31 books on the subject of sub-continental history, history of civilization, Mughal era, and European history. Dr. Ali has a peculiar opinion on the history of Pakistan. He has brought history into the hands of the common men. All his books related to Pakistan are a struggle to cleanse the historical errors deliberately made by dictators, clerics, and politicians to turn Pakistan into an idealogical state which might allow an specific group of people to prosper.

In this book, 'Europe ka Urooj' (The Rise of Europe), Dr. Mubarak Ali is trying to present two theses pertaining to the emergence of Europe as a bastion of intellectual, philosophical, and colonial power.

Firstly, Mubarak Ali consistently maintain throughout his book that societies never remain static. The process of change is unstoppable, making progress inevitable. The author's opinion is similar to that of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhaeur who said, "Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal."

Secondly, Mubarak Ali maintains that the European rise is not due to the fact that Europeans are super-human beings, but it is the historical dialectical process which lead to the rise of Europe. This thesis is presented unequivocally throughout the book. The author writes about the clash of interests between the feudal and the farmers, between the church and the common man, between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity, between Catholicism and Protestantism, between the capitalist and the labour, and between the colonies and the colonists. These dialectics allowed the European world to come up with new syntheses allowing them to make logical and sensible decision about their future.

The book is divided into nine parts. Each parts deals with an specific event in European history that has made defining contributions, for example Renaissance (14th to 17th century), Reformation (16th century), French Revolution (1787-1799), Enlightenment (18th century), and the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850). The book starts with a review on the reasons for the rise of Europe as presented by different world historians. These reasons are divided into 'Europe centric' and 'non-Europe centric' opinions on history. A 'Europe centric' historian tries to find the reasons of European progress inside Europe. On the other hand, a 'non Europe centric' historian also brings into consideration the effects of the colonial exploitation. 

The author then moves on to discuss the impact of Christianity, and how the clergy tried to suppress individual freedom. The church became the source of exploitation in the Middle Ages. The nexus between the church, feudal, and kings tried to suppress all opinions that the church considered apocryphal. Mubarak Ali writes:
"When the church accumulated a large sum of money, got power, and there was no one to challenge its authority, this allowed corruption to prosper. The situation became more worse in the Middle Ages, the Abbey turned into a centre of corruption." (pg. 53)
Similar were the exploitation by the feudal lords. There were many farmer revolutions, but all ended in failure. The feudal class was very powerful during the middle age and more than a hundred thousand farmers died during these revolutions. Some of the most important farmer revolutions are remembered by its leader's name, e.g. Wayt Tyler, John Ball, John Wychiff, Lollard, Jack Cade, and John Huss. All these men gave their life fighting for the cause of the farmer class. Unfortunately, as Mubarak Ali writes, they were brutally suppressed:
"Power was in the hands of the rulers, hence they used the power of 'rules and regulations' to tag these people as rebelling again the society and religion. These rebels were given exemplary punishments." (pg. 80)
After this the author moves on to present an apt description of all the important eras from Renaissance to Enlightening. The invention of printing press (1452), Luther's 95 theses (1522), rise of colonialism, going to Greek literature ad fontes, French Revolution (1787-99), etc. The author wonderfully connects all such events into a comprehensible whole, making the book a great read.

Europe ka Urooj  signifies the fact that the progress in the European world has not come about merely as an accident. It was an evolution which took centuries. When religious hegemonies become coercive and unjust, the common man started to revolt its power. In the beginning, the hegemony won the battle as it had accumulated power over a period of centuries. It was this coercion that allowed liberalism to take roots. Mubarak Ali writes:
"It was in this environment [of coercion] that liberalism came into existence. It laid emphasis on human freedom. Man isn't  answerable in front of anyone for his religious believes. The state has no right to examine or investigate anyone." (pg. 136) 
Freedom is a fundamental prerequisite for intellectual thinking. It was after the collapse of the religious and feudal hegemony that Europeans moved toward reading the Greek classics. This was the beginning of humanism which allowed man to think in an independent fashion. This independent thought process is at the crux of the progress Europe had experienced after Renaissance.

Although the book provides great insights into European history, but the author only consulted secondary sources of history. All references which Dr. Ali advert are from the post-twentieth century literature. Quoting references from primary sources could had ameliorated the text. 

The literary quality of the text was very good. Historical dates weren't sporadic; the bifurcation of chapter was accordingly done reducing ambiguity in style. There was no emotional overtone that is, unfortunately, a basic ingredient of Pakistani history books. The author provided rational arguments to support every point he made.

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