In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
The 17th Century and the Dawn of the Global World
“This is a spellbinding book… a telling antidote to the doctrine that art exists in some pure, ethereal realm, abstracted from the lives people lead… as a guide to the world behind the pictures Vermeer’s Hat is mind-expanding.”
“This is a fabulous book that drags Vermeer away from our complacent Eurocentric assumptions of his insular domesticity… it persuasively argues that our present global predicament is nothing new but stretches back at least as far as the 17th century… The writing is effortless but compelling and Brook is a wonderful storyteller…I doubt I will read a better book this year.”
“[Brook] is too good a scholar to treat Vermeer’s paintings as straightforward windows into the past, but he does show us how pictorial sources can open “doors” into “corridors” linking up diverse regions of the globe… His approach is not merely eclectic, but shows a consistent ability to depict the lives if individuals against a background of impersonal forces.”
“In this exhilarating book [Brook] watches for those moments or places where a “door” (his word) opens in a Vermeer interior, allowing the viewer to step through into the teeming social, economic and political context which lies beyond… Vermeer’s Hat is a brilliant attempt to make us understand the reach and breadth of the first global age… What Brook shows is that with a driving intellectual design and a detailed understanding not just of “here” but “there” too, a history of commodities and the way they circulate is no mere novelty but a key to understanding the origins of our own modern age.”
“Many of 2008’s best history books are, in one way or another, global histories or histories of globalisation – or both. Brook’s Vermeer’s Hat traces global trade networks via a single painting.”
The Independent UK
“In this creative blend of social, cultural and art history, Brook succeeds in capturing the dynamism of the seventeenth century, the flow of people and goods across oceans, the way things took on new meanings when relocated from one setting to another…Brook’s expertise in [the Ming] period of Chinese history enables him to write authoritatively about a critically important dimension of the seventeenth-century world in a way that specialists in European history cannot.”
Timothy B. Weston
World History Connected
“Brook brilliantly discussed the development of silver as currency, smoking as a global habit and the European obsession with supposed riches to be had in China. A real eye opener of a book for those of us who tend to get a little ghettoized in nineteenth and twentieth century history. I doubt I’ll read anything more engrossing or informative or thought provoking this year.”
China Rhyming blog