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The Election of 1936

townsend

As Roosevelt’s first term in office neared its end, many people in the United States — and in other countries — wondered if the New Deal could really solve America’s problems. More than that, they wondered if Americans would continue to follow the path of democracy. A wave of totalitarianism was sweeping the world; would it reach as far as America? There was no doubt that there were some Americans who supported Hitler and the Nazis. Members of the German-American Bund paraded in brown shirts and held a mass meeting in New York’s Madison Square Garden, but there were comparatively few Bundists. Many people felt that a more serious threat to democracy and to the Roosevelt administration came from three native American political leaders — Huey P. Long, Father Charles E. Coughlin and Dr. Francis Townsend. Most colourful of the three was Huey Long, a senator from Louisiana. Calling himself the Kingfish, he had come to power in his native state and he ran it, his critics said, as a dictatorship. He was a rousing orator and in front of a crowd he would spout folksy humour, crack sharp political jokes and play the simple country boy. His opponents, however, charged that he was a combination of brutal hoodlum and a shrewd political boss who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. He would promise the people anything — and he did keep some of his promise. He saw that Louisiana got better roads, schools and hospitals. In return, he got power. Huey Long was not satisfied with the power he had won in Louisiana; he had his eye on the White House. At first a supporter of the New Deal, he turned against it and began attacking Roosevelt. He called Roosevelt a “scrootch owl,” explaining that “a …

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The United States and Destiny 1848-1914

united states

THE UNITED STATES entered the race for colonies last of all the powers, at the end of the nineteenth century. Long before then, however, Americans were accustomed to taking over territory; they had, in fact, built their country westward from the Atlantic by settling lands they had bought or seized. In the Mexican War of 1845-48 they had taken a huge tract of land from Mexico by force. Many Americans, including Abraham Lincoln believed that the Mexican War was simply an invasion of a weak country by its powerful, land hungry neighbour. Others maintained that the move was justified by the country’s needs. They pointed out that the United States was the largest, richest and most advanced nation in North America, with the fastest-growing population. For these reasons, they said, it was entitled to take the land it needed. This was the doctrine of “manifest destiny.” Its supporters believed that before long the United States was bound to dominate the continent, if not the entire hemisphere. With the land it had gained in the Mexican War, the United States spanned North America from ocean to ocean. Talk of manifest destiny died down, for most Americans felt that the country had reached its limits. When Secretary of State, William Seward, bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, he was widely criticized. People said Alaska was nothing but a frozen wasteland and called it “Seward’s Icebox.” For a time they were too busy building up their own country to bother much about other lands. By the 1890’s, however, the United States was a great industrial power and had trade links with several other parts of the world besides its old trading partners in Europe. Millions of American dollars were invested in neighbouring Latin American republics and American trade with the Far East, especially …

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The Conquest of England 1066-1265

england

IN THE DIM LIGHT of early morning, the Frenchmen were preparing for battle. Squires helped the knights put on their armour, grooms brought up the horses‚ archers tested their bows, foot soldiers began to assemble, while mounted messengers hurried busily here and there. The date was October 14, 1066 and before the sun set that day a kingdom would change hands and a new era in English history would begin. The battle, one of the most decisive ever fought, would be known as the Battle of Hastings. The cause of the battle was ambition — the driving ambition of Duke William of Normandy to win himself a kingdom and a crown. The son of a Viking pirate chief, William inherited the French duchy of Normandy in 1035, when he was only eight years old. At the age of twenty he began to govern Normandy himself and he proved to be a stern and able ruler. Under his firm guidance, Normandy prospered and its population increased, until William had become the French king’s most powerful vassal. Unable to seek new lands and glory in France, because of his feudal oath of loyalty to the king, William decided to invade England. Anglo-Saxon England was a loosely knit, rural land which had never really recovered from the Viking raids. The petty kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxon chiefs had finally been absorbed into the Viking empire of King Canute. Then, during Edward the Confessor’s reign, the country again became weak as the feudal lords struggled with each other for power. One of these lords, Harold Godwinson, seized the English crown for himself. Three weeks after Harold had taken the throne‚ Duke William crossed the English channel with an army of 5000 men and landed 41 Pevensey Beach. Now King Harold and his hastily gathered army …

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Feudal France 814-1314

france

AFTER THE BREAKUP OF CHARLEMAGNE’S Empire, France, the western half of the empire, was ruled by a series of weak kings. They were so weak that they were known as the “do-nothing kings,” and indeed, they could do nothing to stop their powerful and greedy nobles from fighting among themselves. Finally the Carolingian line came to an end and the Franks, as the French were then called, elected a new king. He was Hugh Capet, a relative of the famous Count Odo who had directed the defense of Paris against the Vikings. With Hugh began the line of Capetian kings who were to rule France for many generations. The king actually held several positions. He was the sovereign of a vaguely defined nation called France; at the same time he was the feudal lord of his own lands and overlord, of Suzerain, of all other French lords. He was supposed to be defender of the realm, protector of the poor and champion of justice, but he was actually little more than a figurehead, for he had neither soldiers nor money enough to enforce his authority. Like the German monarchs, the Capetian kings faced the problem of winning control of the powerful lords. Also like the Germans, they took the first step by establishing good relations with the Church. In their coronation oath, the French kings swore to defend the Church. In return, for hundreds of years, the Church supported the monarchy against the feudal lords. The hereditary fief of the French kings was the Ile de France, a small, compact area surrounding Paris and it was infested by lawless vassals who terrorized the roads leading to the city. King Louis VI waged war against them. The French nicknamed him Louis the Fat, but his enormous size did not harm his …

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