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Tag Archives: North Africa

A World at War 1939 – 1941

world war 2

Now the people of Europe began to hear a new sound, a sound that would haunt them throughout the years of war — the wail and shriek of air-raid sirens. At night, the lights of Europe went out and the “blackout” made familiar streets strange places of darkness. Street lamps were left unlit and windows were covered with heavy draperies. Any stray gleam of light might help guide enemy bombers to their targets. Hurrying about their wartime duties, the people of Britain and France began to wonder. They had not wanted war and yet war had come. Why? What had happened? It seemed mysterious and impossible to understand, but as they thought about it, certain things became clear. Some of the problems that led to World War II were left-overs from World War I. Germany and Italy had remained “have-not” nations. They needed more territory for raw materials and more markets for their goods. The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was humiliating, unjust and the Allies had done nothing to change it. The League of Nations, especially without the participation of the United States, had been weak and had not carried out its promise of real disarmament. The United States had not wanted to get involved in Europe’s problems and had followed a policy of “isolation.” These were some of the causes of the war; there were others as well. France had suffered greatly in World War I and was afraid of being drawn into another conflict. Her generals had hesitated to send troops against Hitler at a time when it was still possible to stop him and then there was the distrust of the Soviet Union and Communism. Many French and British statesmen, such as Chamberlain, had believed that Fascism would protect Europe against Communism. Unlike Churchill, they …

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Parceling Out a Continent 1841-1910

africa

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, extends south from the Mediterranean Sea four thousand miles. Along its north coast is a strip of land known to Europeans since ancient times. South of this strip lie mountains and deserts. The Sahara, an empty “sea” of sand and rock, crosses the continent in a belt several hundreds of miles wide; it is hot and dry, vast and rugged. Europeans knew very little about the lands beyond it. Almost all they knew of Africa were the coasts, which they could reach by sea. As late as the time of the American Civil War and the unification of Italy and Germany, Africa was still largely unknown – the “Dark Continent.” The people of North Africa were white — descendants of the early inhabitants and of Arabs who had conquered them for Islam. South of the Sahara lay “Black Africa” a land of Negroes. The Negroes were divided into thousands of tribes, but had no organized states. They spoke hundreds of languages, but had no writing. They lived by hunting, raising cattle and simple farming and worshiped tribal gods. All of Black Africa was Negro except for a few places on the Indian Ocean where Arab traders had settled and the southernmost part of the continent, where some European families had settled. STANLEY AND LIVINGSTON In the sixteenth century, Portuguese and Spanish ships had begun to stop at points on the Atlantic shore of Africa to trade. Later, traders came from other European countries. The names they gave to stretches of shoreland — the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Slave Coast — show what they came for. The Europeans found that the sultry coastland was ridden with disease. So many of them died there that West Africa came to be known as …

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The End and the Beginning 378- 752

martel

THE FIRST SIGN of the approaching Roman army was a thin column of dust. It rose like smoke from behind the jagged Thracian hills of Northern Greece, which sheltered the Visigoths’ encampment. Moments later, the Visigoths, or German barbarians, as the Romans called them, could feel the ground tremble with the tread of the imperial legions. The Romans were advancing, forty thousand strong, under the personal command of the Emperor Valens. Within the Visigoths’ barricade of wagons, all was confusion. Chieftains bellowed, calling their clans together. Sturdy Visigothic warriors dragged the wagons closer together in a protective circle. Horses neighed and whinnied as their riders leaped astride them; swords were unsheathed and lances brandished. A courier spurred away from camp to summon the main body of Visigothic cavalry, foraging at some distance. It was A.D. 378 and the battle of Adrianople was about to begin. Trumpets blared and the close-packed Romans marched straight toward the barbarian enemy. Suddenly, there was a thunder of hooves on the left. A great swarm of Visigothic horsemen, summoned from their foraging expedition, galloped over the hillside. They swooped down on the Romans, as an eyewitness described it, “like a thunderbolt which strikes on a mountain top and dashes away all that stands in its path.” More horsemen poured in from the right and the front, pressing the tightly massed Romans into a death trap. The men of the legions could scarcely raise their arms to strike a blow. Again and again the horsemen charged, brandishing lance and sword. When night fell, forty thousand Roman soldiers lay dead upon the field, together with the grand master of the infantry and cavalry, the count of the palace, thirty-five commanders of horse and foot corps and the Emperor Valens himself. This great defeat was to mark the …

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Rival Caliphs and Amirs in the West A.D. 750-1492

caliph

IN 750, when the first Abbasid caliph ordered a wholesale massacre of the family that had ruled before him, hardly any of the Omayyads came out alive. One who did was a twenty-year-old youth named Abd-al-Rahman, a grandson of the tenth Omayyad caliph. Fleeing from a Bedouin camp on the Euphrates, he wandered in disguise through Palestine, Egypt and North Africa. Again and again he barely escaped being discovered and seized by Abbasid spies. His desperate flight lasted, altogether, five years. Finally he came to the town of Ceuta, on the northwest coast of Africa, where some Berber chieftains, who were uncles of his on his mother’s side, gave him shelter. The young man sent word across the Strait of Gibraltar to the chiefs of the Moslem divisions in southern Spain. Being Syrians, and therefore loyal to the Omayyads, the officers were overjoyed. They sent a ship to fetch him. Soon, he commanded a sizable army of Arabs and Berbers. When he led his soldiers through the countryside, the cities opened .their gates to him, one after another. The worried Abbasid governor tried to bribe him with rich presents‚ but he refused them. In May, 756, he captured the Spanish capital, Cordova. Within a few years be held all but the northern part of the Spanish peninsula. CONQUEST OF SPAIN Not long after this, the new Omayyad regime successfully defied the two most powerful rulers in the world. In 763, a governor of Spain appointed by al-Mansur was assassinated on Abd-al-Rahman’s orders. Abd-al-Rahman had the governor’s head sent to the caliph wrapped in a black Abbasid flag. Al-Mansur was beside himself with rage‚ but he was too busy fighting his enemies at home to answer the insult with force. In 778, Abd-al-Rahman and his Arab-Berber army defeated an army of …

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Great Church Fathers A.D. 340-430

jerome

IT WAS about the middle of Lent in Antioch, reported Jerome, when “a deep-seated fever fell upon my weakened body, and . . . it so wasted my unhappy frame that scarcely anything was left of me but skin and bone. Meanwhile, preparations for my funeral went on; my body grew gradually colder and the warmth of life lingered only in my throbbing breast. Suddenly I was caught up in the spirit and dragged before the judgment-seat . . .” Then follows a long account of his dream in which Christ scolded him for his devotion to the works of the Roman writer Cicero. In his dream Jerome took an oath that he would never again read a worldly book. “Thenceforth I read the books of God with a zeal greater than I had previously given to the books of men . . .” That was the turning point in the life of Jerome, who went on to become the most outstanding scholar of the ancient western church. JEROME THE SCHOLAR Jerome was born of well-to-do Christian parents about 340. He studied in Rome, where he was baptized at the age of twenty. His brilliant mind and restless energy drove him to explore religion and the classics. From 366 to 370 he traveled about in Gaul from city to city. Later he traveled through the eastern part of the empire. In Antioch he became seriously ill and had the famous dream in which Christ lectured to him. The dream must have been very real to him. As soon as he was well enough, he went into the Syrian desert and lived there as a hermit for six years. Then he returned to Antioch to become a priest. He continued his studies in Constantinople. In 382 he went to Rome and …

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Rome and the Christian Church A.D. 64 -180

church

TRUMPETS sounded the fire alarm in Rome on the night of July 18, in the year 64. It seemed that the flames first broke out in the crowded section near the Great Circus and spread rapidly, driven by a strong wind to row after row of wooden houses. Sparks carried by the wind started other fires. People fled in panic. The fire roared on unchecked, continuing for six days and six nights. When it was finally brought under control, most of the city lay in ruins. People could not believe that one small accidental fire somewhere could have caused all that damage. Some thought several fires had started at the same time. They looked about for someone to blame. Soon they began saying that Nero, the emperor, had set the fire himself. Others said that he had murdered members of his own family and the angry gods were striking back with thunderbolts from the sky. Frightened by such talk, Nero turned suspicion away from himself by blaming the Christians. Not much was known about them, but since they were members of the poorer classes they were looked upon with suspicion. The bread and wine of their suppers, which represented the body and blood of Jesus, led many Romans to believe that the Christians were actually cannibals. There were rumors that Christians killed and ate small children at their secret meetings. Nero’s persecution of the Christians, therefore, proved to be highly popular. The prisons were soon filled with a “great multitude” of Christians and executions and brutal tortures went on day after day in Nero’s Circus, which was located where St. Peter’s Cathedral stands today. Peter and Paul may have been executed during or shortly after this wave of persecution. The “great multitude” that filled the prisons suggests that the Christian …

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The End of the City A. D. 192 – A. D. 476

constantine

ON ROME’S first day, Romulus took a bronze plow and drew a magic circle around seven of the hills that stood beside the River Tiber. The magic of the circle was protection against the evils outside. More important, it bound together the people who were inside, making one city where there had been six towns. Seven hundred years later, Augustus drew another magic circle, this time around all the Mediterranean world. It kept out barbarian and Asian invaders and held together millions of people, making one empire where there had been dozens of races and nations. So long as the circle had its magic power, Rome would exist. There was no magic in the circles themselves. The real magic had been in Romulus himself, a chief who was strong and wise enough to build a city. There had been magic, too, in Augustus, whose wisdom had brought order and peace to an empire. Without such men, the circles were powerless. Invaders and conquerors could break through them. The people and countries they held together would fall apart. That was what happened to Rome after the death of Marcus Aurelius. TOO MANY CAESARS It did not happen all at once. There was still an empire and there were emperors who tried to rule it — too many, in fact. When Commodus was murdered, four would-be rulers, each with a Roman army behind him, fought over the throne. The winner, Septimus Severus, the commander of the Danube troops, held it for eighteen years. When he was about to die, he gave his two sons a piece of advice about ruling Rome: “Stick together, pay the soldiers and forget the rest.” His sons did not stick together. When Septimus was dead, each of them tried to be the emperor. Caracalla, the elder of …

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The City of the World A. D. 117 – A. D. 138

hadrian

ROME was no longer just a city — it was a world. In the reign of Hadrian, the blaring trumpets that announced the comings and goings of the emperor echoed in Spain, Syria and Britain as often as in Italy. Hadrian wanted to know what was going on in all of his empire. He wanted to inspect the troops and forts that held the frontiers and to judge for himself the wisdom of the governors he had sent to rule the provinces. He wanted to visit the towns and cities, to see their ancient buildings, to plan new buildings where they were needed and to build new towns in the frontier provinces. He wanted to meet the people. They were citizens of Rome, even though their homes were hundreds of miles from Italy and they had never seen the Forum. Hadrian’s journey through the empire took eight years. He followed the Roman roads and the sea routes Rome had freed from pirates, until he had visited every part of the world of which he was the sole, all-powerful ruler. He met many other travelers on the roads. Travel was easy now and safe. Rich Romans, imitating the emperor, had become eager tourists. They flocked to Greece; to them it was a quaint place out of another age. They studied its famous buildings, bought statues and pottery for souvenirs and paced out the old battlefields which they had read about in Plutarch’s histories. In Egypt, they went shopping in Alexandria, still handsome and a bustling center of trade. They rode in elegant comfort on sightseeing barges that took them up the Nile to Memphis and Thebes. There they admired the oldest buildings known to man and scratched their initials in the stonework. This eastern area was Rome’s “Old World.” It had …

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