Foreign Exchanges is on Thanksgiving break, but I didn’t want things to be completely quiet this week so here are a few anniversaries of note. Also I wanted to remind those who aren’t subscribed that a monthly or yearly FX subscription is on sale this week for 25% off the regular price! Support FX and unlock more updates, podcasts, essays, and our weekly “Ask Derek Anything” feature today:
November 25, 1120: The White Ship sinks after striking a rock off the coast of Normandy en route to England. What made this particular shipwreck notable is that the vessel was carrying William Ætheling, the only legitimate son of King Henry I of England, as well as Henry’s illegitimate son Richard of Lincoln. This meant that when Henry died in 1135 his only heir was his daughter Matilda, which was problematic because she was married to the Count of Anjou, Geoffrey Plantagenet. Oh, and also because she was a lady. English nobles didn’t like Geoffrey but they really didn’t like the idea of being ruled by a woman and getting her cooties all over themselves. They decided instead to make Henry’s nephew, Stephen of Blois, their new king, kicking off an 1135-1153 civil war known as “The Anarchy,” essentially pitting Norman England against Norman Normandy. That war ended in a compromise, the Treaty of Wallingford, which left Stephen as king but ensured the succession of Matilda’s son, the future Henry II.
An illustration of the White Ship sinking, done in the 14th century (Wikimedia Commons)
November 25, 1177: The Battle of Montgisard
November 25, 1491: The Treaty of Granada
November 25, 1510: Portuguese forces under Afonso de Albuquerque capture the port city of Goa from the Bijapur Sultanate for the second time. Goa became the capital of Portuguese India, a colonial possession that survived in one form or another from the early 16th century until 1961 though it lost most of its towns and cities in the 17th and 18th centuries.
November 26, 1939: The Russian village of Mainila is struck multiple times by artillery shells, which Russian authorities blamed on the Finnish military. In reality the Red Army had staged an attack on the village as a justification for tearing up Russia’s non-aggression treaty with Finland, leading to a planned Russian invasion and kicking off the “Winter War.” The conflict ended in March 1940 with Finland agreeing to make some territorial concessions to the Russians—either more than Moscow wanted or much less than it was hoping to gain, there’s some academic debate about this. The Soviet military was, however, thoroughly embarrassed by the difficulty with which it handled the far weaker (on paper, anyway) Finnish military. Among other outcomes, the Red Army’s faceplant helped convince Adolf Hitler that Russia was vulnerable to invasion, which needless to say didn’t quite turn out the way he’d assumed it would.
November 26, 2008: Ten members of the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba begin a four day killing spree of bombings and shootings across the Indian city of Mumbai. When it ended on November 29, at least 174 people had been killed (including nine of the attackers) and over 300 more wounded. The attack continues to affect relations between India and Pakistan today, between Pakistan’s failure either to extradite or to punish appropriately (alleged) LeT leader Hafiz Saeed as well as lingering suspicions that elements of the Pakistani deep state may have been directly involved in the attack. A Pakistani court also released the alleged ringleader of the Mumbai attack, LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, on bail in 2015, which hasn’t helped relations either.
November 27, 602: A very disaffected Byzantine army under Phocas executes Emperor Maurice, but only after forcing him to watch the execution of six of his sons. They seem nice. This mutiny set in motion the events that led to the 602-628 Byzantine war against the Sasanian (Persian) Empire, as almost immediately after Phocas became emperor the Byzantine governor of Mesopotamia, Narses, declared a rebellion. He appealed to the Persians—whose emperor, Khosrow II, had been crowned in part due to Maurice’s aid—for help, and there’s your war. The extended conflict saw the Persians conquer the Levant and Egypt before they overextended themselves and gave the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, who overthrew Phocas in 610, an opening to counterattack and restore the status quo ante bellum. The conflict battered the two great empires, which worked to the benefit of the new regional power that was just beginning to emerge in western Arabia.
November 27, 1095: During the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II issues his call for what we know as the First Crusade.