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Tag Archives: Latin America

The Peoples of America Win Control over their Own Affairs


Even though you are familiar with the story of the American Revolution, perhaps you do not realize that only nine short days at Christmas time in 1776 changed the course of the English colonies’ fight for freedom. Within that short space of time, General Washington’s ragged, dwindling army captured the hired German troops at Trenton, New Jersey and routed a British force at nearby Princeton. To win such surprising victories and to keep the American Revolution from collapsing took the devoted leadership and military skill of General George Washington. It took patriot soldiers whose term of service had run out but who fought on, though they were poorly clothed, halfstarved and ill. In short, the struggle for independence continued because there were men who saw beyond the cold, hunger, danger and weariness of war. Wherever freedom is won, there are able leaders, men of courage and devotion. Turn, for example, to South America in the year 1819, In a mountain hut General Simon Bolivar, one of the great leaders in the struggle of the Spanish-American colonies for independence, huddled with his staff officers over a candlelit map. Ahead of Bolivar rose the towering cloud-covered summits of the Andes. Somewhere in the valleys beyond were the Spanish troops that Bolivar had to defeat. Quickly he decided to make use of a high, windy, fiercely cold mountain pass. No Spaniard would look for a force of 2100 men from that direction! Up, up climbed Bolivar’s forces. Trees grew stunted and bent. Wind buffeted and snow blinded the men and horses. Some dropped from exhaustion; others slipped and vanished into the fog-filled canyons. What was left of Bolivar’s army crept down the other side. Not a single cavalry horse had survived and abandoned cannon, like snow-covered mileposts, marked Bolivar’s route. The exhausted forces were …

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Europeans Explore and Settle Other Lands


Visitors to the Portuguese city of Lisbon, on a certain day in 1499, would have found the people in a holiday mood. Groups of townsmen who gathered here and there talked excitedly about the arrival of two ships and there was good reason. In the two years since these vessels had sailed down the river and slipped out of sight, they had completed the first trip from Europe around Africa to India and back. Such an event indeed deserved to be celebrated. Not only had the fearless captain of this expedition, Vasco da Gama, performed a great feat of navigation, but he had brought back spices and other goods worth 60 times the cost of his voyage. No wonder the people shouted. No wonder King John of Portugal rubbed his hands with glee and heaped honours on da Gama. For here, reasoned King John, lay the key to power and prosperity. Suppose each Portuguese ship returned laden with goods worth 60 times the cost of its voyage. Portugal quickly would become rich and powerful. How much better off he was, the king thought, than if he had listened to Columbus! That man had pestered him for years to provide the ships, money and men to sail westward across the Atlantic to India. To be sure, Columbus had finally obtained backing from the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella. What had he accomplished? For the most part, all he had found was a tropical wilderness peopled with savages and he had brought back little to compare with the rich cargoes in the holds of da Gama’s vessels. Yes, in 1499 it looked as if little Portugal would get ahead of all other European countries in the race for wealth and power. Several years passed before other voyages across the Atlantic proved …

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The Great Society 1964 – 1965

civil rights act

In the United States election campaign of 1964, President Johnson was the candidate of the Democratic party. His Republican opponent was Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who was known for his controversial stand on many issues. Goldwater called for a radical change in the Policies of the government. He opposed the reforms enacted since the early 1950’s, as well as attempts to match agreement with the Communist nations, arguing that Communists understood nothing but force. He deplored United States recognition of the Soviet Union and on occasion, even advocated that the United States withdraw from the United Nations. In answer to these attacks, Johnson began to speak of creating “the Great Society” in America. He did not give details of his plans, but what he meant, evidently, was a society in which poverty would not exist, the aged and the sick would be cared for and opportunity would be open to people of all races and nationalities. All men would be free to develop their minds and cultivate the arts and beauty would grace the cities and the countryside. The strategy of the Democrats was to show that President Johnson represented the broad centre of American public opinion, while Senator Goldwater represented a smaller group, mostly on the right. Democrats even denied that Goldwater was a genuine conservative, for conservatism, they claimed, meant ”to conserve” and not to retreat into the past. The returns of the election, in which President Johnson received forty one million votes to Goldwater’s twenty six million, gave the Republican party its most serious defeat since the great depression of the 1930’s. President Johnson received close to sixty two percent of the total vote — the highest percentage of any candidate in American history. The Democrats also won control of the House of Representatives and the …

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A Time of Crisis 1960-1963


One of the sources of trouble was Cuba. In 1956 a small group of revolutionaries, led by a 29-year-old lawyer named Fidel Castro, rose up against the government of Fulgencio Batista. Batista was perhaps the most brutal dictator in all Latin America. Few people believed that Castro had much chance for success, for Batista was as efficient as he was cruel and his soldiers were well armed. Within two years, however, Castro had gathered around him a large, well-organized band of guerrillas. By January of 1959, Batista had fled the country and Castro had taken power. His amazing victory seemed a triumph of democracy and he was enthusiastically welcomed when he visited the United States later that year. The friendship between Cuba and the United States soon turned sour. Castro seized sugar plantations and industries owned by American companies and the Eisenhower administration demanded that he at least pay the companies for the property he had taken. Castro answered that these companies had been mistreating the Cuban people for more than fifty years and that Cuba owed them nothing. Even more disturbing was Castro’s increasingly close ties to the Communist countries. Soon he was calling himself a “Marxist-Leninist”– by which he meant a Communist and had set up a dictatorship on the Russian model. He allowed only one political party in Cuba and permitted no opposition or disagreement. Furthermore, he made Cuba into a base for revolutionary activity against the other governments of Latin America. By 1960, Castro was about to openly join the Communist camp and soon he would be receiving substantial aid from Russia to make up for the loss of trade with the United States. A conflict had arisen between the United States and Russia over a country that was only ninety miles from American shores. Another …

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The Race for Empire 1870-1914


While the peoples of the West were concerned with the problems that grew out of industrialization, their governments were taking part in one of the greatest land grabs in history. By the end of the nineteenth century they had brought within their grasp most of the earth’s land surface and half its inhabitants. This development created new empires and enlarged old ones, it was called imperialism. Imperialism came about in many ways, from armed invasions to polite talks that led native rulers to place their countries under the protection of an imperialist power. It took many forms, from colonies which one power ruled outright, to “spheres of influence,” in which one power enjoyed rights, particularly trading rights, denied to other powers. So, it arose from many causes — economic, political and cultural. Empire-building was not new; it was as old as civilization. In ancient times, the Romans had built a vast empire that ruled peoples in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the fifteenth century, European nations had colonized the Americas and conquered the Indians. Elsewhere they had not challenged native rulers, being content to set up trading posts, where they bought native wares for resale at home. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, most of British North America became independent, as did the United States. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, almost all of Latin America won its freedom from Spain and Portugal. During the next half-century, while industry went through its first slow stage of growth, goods circulated freely throughout the world and governments cared little about building up their empires. The French, to be sure, occupied Algeria, the British strengthened their hold on India, the Dutch developed the East Indies and the western powers, including the United States, opened Japan to trade and started …

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Problems of a Changing World 1870-1914

trade unions

WHILE INDUSTRY was transforming the United States, the same thing was happening in Western Europe. The change was most noticeable in Germany, because Germany was not unified until 1870, it started to become industrial much later than Great Britain and France, but it soon began to catch up with its neighbours. Within a few decades it was producing more than they were of several key commodities, including the most important one of all, steel. Like the American government, the German government imposed tariffs on foreign manufactures and encouraged its national industry in other ways. The results were much the same as in the United States. Railways spread across the country in an ever denser network of tracks, connecting farmlands with cities, mines with factories and factories with seaports. New industrial cities came into being, especially in the coal-rich Ruhr Valley, next to the iron-rich province of Lorraine which Germany had seized from France in the Franco-Prussian War. Old cities doubled and tripled in size as country people flocked into them to man factory machines, shop counters and office desks. On both sides of the Atlantic, smoke billowed from factory chimneys, rows of new houses went up in the cities and freight trains carried industrial products off to market and to seaports, for shipments overseas. Such signs of industry’s growth could be seen throughout the industrial West. Elsewhere, in the less developed parts of the world, they were not so evident — but their effects were felt just the same. For, as industry expanded in Western Europe and the United States, it reached further and further afield in quest of supplies for its factories and customers for its products. In Asia, Africa, Latin America and other non-industrial regions, armies of native workers came to depend for their livelihood on the money …

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