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TOEFL listening: A university lecture by a professor of History (2)

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    TOEFL Listening Comprehension Transcript

    Narrator
    Listen to part of a university lecture by a professor of History.

    Professor: You know, sometimes the study of history can be fun, so let''s spend a few minutes having some. I''d like make a not-so-scientific comparison of two events-- the naval attacks of the Mongols on Japan in 1274 and 1281, and the naval attack of Spain on England in 1588. These two famous historical events took place three hundred years apart and halfway round the world from each other, and they are quite unrelated, but some of the details of these battles are intriguingly similar, if only by chance.

    But first, let''s review the two adventures very briefly. Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, in his drive to expand his empire, attempted to invade Japan twice. His first invasion, in 1274, managed to establish a beach head in Kyushu, in southern Japan, but, anticipating Japanese reinforcements, his commanders withdrew their troops to their ships, and this fleet of some 900 ships was caught in strong winds that claimed as many as a third of his forces, the rest returning crippled to the mainland. Kublai Khan''s second effort, in 1281- which was composed of two fleets totalling some 3500 ships and 100,000 soldiers- suffered an even worse fate. On July 30th, they were caught up in a two-day typhoon that sank or drove away both fleets.

    Three hundred years later, a similar fate awaited King Philip the Second of Spain. In July of 1588, Spain''s armada of 125 invading warships was caught by gale-force winds in the English Channel. They were driven north around Scotland, and then west and south around Ireland. They were harried by the weather and by the English all along the way, and only a few of the ships of Philip''s proud armada returned to the Spanish coast.

    The best known facet of these battles is that the two aggressors were both defeated by the wind. This was so remarkable at the time that both Japan and England- both of them second-rank island nations threatened by larger and more powerful mainland enemies- both nations memorialized and deified these saving storms. England''s Queen Elizabeth had a medallion struck, with the words, "God blew and they were Scattered" engraved on it, and all England believed that the storm had been the work of their Protestant God in defeating Catholic Spain. And Japan preserved its reverence for its typhoon saviour in its myth of the "Kami Kaze", the Divine Wind- and they preserved this myth right down into the twentieth century, when it emboldened Japan''s suicidal fighter pilots at the end of World War Two.

    Both nations got a lot of help from the wind gods, but they both got some human help, too. First of all, their invaders rushed into battle with more haste than care. Both Kublai Khan and Philip the Second were angry, impetuous leaders. Both had been irritated by the actions of their small island adversaries, and they were over-eager to punish them. And in both cases, the invading forces failed to mount a coordinated attack. Kublai Khan''s Eastern and Southern fleets of 1281- one sent from Korea and the other sent from China- didn''t arrive together. The smaller Korean fleet arrived first, and without waiting for the Chinese fleet, it rushed to the attack and was driven off before the Chinese arrived. As the fleets regrouped, the typhoon hit.

    In 1588, the Spanish Armada, en route to England, arrived in Holland to pick up its fighting troops, commanded by the Duke of Parma, Philip''s nephew. But the Duke was not there yet, and the Armada was blown north before they were able to combine their forces.

    The Japanese and the English helped themselves, too, using some similar naval tactics. For instance, when the invading Mongol fleets anchored, the Japanese samurai rowed out in small boats in the dark of night, and set fire to many of the Mongol ships. With the same idea in mind, the English commander, Lord Howard, sent fire ships careening into the anchored Spanish fleet at midnight. Of course, this tactic is common to many early navies, so this should not be a surprising coincidence.

    But maybe the most surprising comparison between these two historical events is that they were both also very historic- but in very different ways. Kublai Khan, who was now suffering budget problems because of his disastrous expeditions, gave up his attempt to subdue Japan. And Japan, believing that it was protected by the gods, withdrew from the rest of the world into the security of its home islands- and it maintained this isolationist policy for the next six hundred years, until Japan was finally opened up by US Commander Matthew Perry and his four black ships in 1848.

    With the English, however, quite the opposite occurred. The defeat of the "invincible" Spanish Armada turned England from a second-rate sea power into a first-rate one, and it went on from that success to explore and trade throughout the world and establish the greatest global empire the world has ever known, so that the "sun never set on the British Empire".

    Two important events in world history, in some ways so similar, but with such different results- these kinds of studies are what make history so interesting.

    50 TOEFL lectures
    50 TOEFL lectures
    A great variety of English listening comprehension tests that will help you increase your TOEFL test score.
  • based on TOEFL academic lectures
  • written and recorded by experienced US authors and voice-over specialists
  • 50 TOEFL lectures   50 TOEFL conversations




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