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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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What should we do about Syria?

By Nigel Biggar
It could well be that current negotiations between the United States, France, and Russia will lead to the Assad regime’s surrender of its chemical weapons. Everyone — bar the regime itself — has a legitimate interest in seeing that happen. Meanwhile, the civil war in Syria drags on, in which far more people have been killed — and will yet be killed — by conventional weapons than by chemical ones. What stance should we take toward this complex conflict, morally speaking?

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Middle East food security after the Arab Spring

By Eckart Woertz
Syria and Egypt paradigmatically highlight the perils of food security in the Middle East. Oil exports of Egypt, the largest wheat importer of the world, ceased at the end of the 2000’s. Generating enough foreign exchange for food procurement became more difficult and plans for more self-sufficiency have failed in the face of limited water and land resources.

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Give peace a chance in Syria

By John Gittings
When Ban Ki-moon, speaking in The Hague, called recently on member countries to “give peace a chance” in Syria, and condemned the supply of weapons to both sides, he was taking part in a ceremony at the Peace Palace to mark the centennial of its foundation (a result of the Hague Peace Conference in 1899) which otherwise was ignored by the media.

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The two-state solution and the Obama administration: elusive or illusive?

The likelihood of a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians has always been negligible in the absence of a determined outside mediator. Indeed, the recent resumption of direct negotiations that have been suspended for almost three years is due solely to the determined efforts of the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry. So, why has the Obama administration chosen to dig in now? And so what?

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What were the Red Sea Wars?

An inscribed marble throne at the Ethiopian port of Adulis offers us a rare window into the fateful events comprising what has come to be known as the “Red Sea Wars.”

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‘Yesterday I lost a country’

By Kathleen Cavanaugh
Since 2003, Iraq has experienced significant political unrest and the emergence of ethno-religious divisions.  That there is a sectarian complexion to emerging socio-political movements in Iraq (religious, ethno-political) is not in question. The ‘fear of sectarianism’ has undoubtedly shaped and formed how protest movements in Iraq (and indeed regionally) are constituted.

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The mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon

By Stephanie Dalley
I once gave a general talk about ancient Mesopotamian gardens, and was astonished, when I prepared for it, to find that there was really no hard evidence for the Hanging Garden at Babylon, although all the other wonders of the ancient world certainly did exist.

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The History of the World: Israel becomes a state

From the beginning of the Nazi persecution the numbers of Jews who wished to settle in Palestine rose. As the extermination policies began to unroll in the war years, they made nonsense of British attempts to restrict immigration, which was the side of British policy unacceptable to the Jews; the other side – the partitioning of Palestine – was rejected by the Arabs.

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Understanding the Muslim world

By Robert Repino
While interest in Islam has grown in recent years—both in the media and in educational institutions—there remains a persistent misunderstanding of the religion’s practices, beliefs, and adherents, who now number over one and half billion people. Addressing this problem is not simply an academic exercise, for the past decade especially has shown that our understanding of Islam can have enormous consequences on foreign and domestic policies, as well as on social relations.

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Images of Ancient Nubia

For most of the modern world, ancient Nubia seems an unknown and enigmatic land. Only a handful of archaeologists have studied its history or unearthed the Nubian cities, temples, and cemeteries that once dotted the landscape of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubia’s remote setting in the midst of an inhospitable desert, with access by river blocked by impassable rapids, has lent it not only an air of mystery, but also isolated it from exploration.

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Who really deciphered the Egyptian Hieroglyphs?

By Andrew Robinson
The polymath Thomas Young (1773-1829) — physicist, physiologist, physician and polyglot, among several other things — became hooked on the scripts and languages of ancient Egypt in 1814, the year he began to decipher the Rosetta Stone. He continued to study the hieroglyphic and demotic scripts with variable intensity for the rest of his life, literally until his dying day. The challenge of being the first modern to read the writing of what appeared then to be the oldest civilization in the world — far older than the classical civilization of Young’s beloved Greeks — was irresistible to a man who was as equally gifted in languages, ancient and contemporary, as he was in science.

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Titanic: One Family’s Story

By John Welshman
At the time of the collision, Hanna Touma was standing in the doorway of the family’s cabin. She was talking to one of the other migrants from her village. It was just a jolt, but it made the door slam shut, cutting her index finger. Two of the men went to find out what had happened while Hanna went to the Infirmary to get her hand bandaged. Everyone she passed wondered what had caused the jolt and why the ship had stopped.

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5 July 1962: Algerian Independence

By Martin Evans
On 5 July 1962, Algeria achieved independence from France after an eight-year-long war — one of the longest and bloodiest episodes in the whole decolonisation process. An undeclared war in the sense there was no formal beginning of hostilities, the intensity of this violence is partly explained by the fact that Algeria (invaded in 1830) was an integral part of France, but also by the presence of European settlers who in 1954, numbered one million as against the nine million Arabo-Berber population.

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50 years of Algerian independence

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence. Martin Evans, author of Algeria: France’s Undeclared War, talks about the complexities of Algerian colonial history and the country’s fight for independence in this new video.

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Israel declares statehood

This Day in World History
Late in the afternoon of May 14, 1948, a group of Jewish settlers fulfilled a long-cherished dream and declared, as of midnight that night, the existence of the state of Israel. The announcement created the first Jewish state in nearly two millennia — and outraged the Palestinian people and their Arab allies.

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Constantine dedicates Constantinople

This Day in World History
Six years before, the emperor had ordered the building of a vast new city. On May 11, 330, construction was sufficiently complete for that city to be dedicated. The Emperor Constantine took part in a solemn mass at St. Eirene, his newly built church, that dedicated the new city to the Virgin Mary. He issued an edict that declared the city New Rome, or the Second Rome, capital of the empire. Within a hundred years, though, the city came to be known by another name — Constantinople.

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