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Contact with the West Brings Changes in Asia (the East)

asia

In July 1858 a small fleet of American warships steamed into Tokyo Bay in Japan. The commander, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, had served during the War of 1812 and the war between the United States and Mexico (1846-1848). Perry’s voyage into Japanese waters did not mean that Japan and the United States were at war. Instead, Perry was bound on a peaceful mission, although it was expected that a show of force would help him to accomplish his purpose. For years American and European ship captains had tried to enter Japanese ports to trade and obtain supplies, but without success, for the Japanese mistrusted Western peoples and Western ways, but the Japanese were impressed by Perry’s steamships (the first they had seen) and by the big guns these vessels carried. The Americans were allowed to land and present their request that Japan begin to trade with the United States. Then Perry sailed away, giving the Japanese time to make up their minds. When he returned some months later in 1854, the Japanese rulers agreed to a treaty whereby American vessels could trade and obtain supplies in two Japanese ports. Within a few years, more generous terms were granted both to Americans and to Europeans. Perry’s voyage showed how keen was the interest of Western nations in trade with Asian countries even in the mid 1800’s. Later, as Western nations became more and more industrialized, the same scramble for trade took place in Asia and the Pacific as in Africa. Countries sought greater trading privileges, or areas which they could control, or outright colonies. There was, however, one major difference between imperialism in Africa and imperialism in much of Asia. In many parts of Africa the colonizing powers could ignore the Africans. Statesmen could sit around the table with explorers’ maps …

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The New Deal 1933

Roosevelt

WHEN Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nominated in 1932, he was fifty years old. A fifth cousin of former President Theodore Roosevelt, he came of a wealthy family. He grew up on a large estate at Hyde Park, New York, overlooking the Hudson River. At the age of twenty-four he married Eleanor Roosevelt, a distant cousin and a niece of Theodore Roosevelt. Several years after graduating from Harvard and studying law at Columbia University, he entered politics and was elected to the state senate. In the presidential campaign of 1912 he supported Woodrow Wilson, who named him assistant secretary of the Navy. In 1920, Roosevelt ran for vice president, but he and his running-mate, James M. Cox, lost the election to Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Even so, Roosevelt had become nationally known and it looked as though he had a bright future in politics. Then, less than a year later while on vacation, he fell ill of poliomyelitis. At first he was paralyzed from the waist down, but slowly, painfully, he fought his way back to health. He would never be able to walk normally and he would be forced to use a wheelchair most of the time. He learned to get about with the aid of braces on his legs, leaning on canes or crutches. In 1924 he made his first Public appearance since his illness. He hobbled on crutches to the speaker’s platform at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he placed Alfred E. Smith’s name in nomination before the Democratic presidential convention. The cheers of the audience were as much for Roosevelt as they were for Smith. HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN Roosevelt’s battle against illness had left him a changed man. Francis Perkins, who later became his Secretary of Labour, said that he “emerged …

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The 1905 Revolution

revolution

SOME DAY there would be no tsars, but there was little sign of that during the last years of the nineteenth century. Alexander III still held Russia in a firm grip. When he died in 1894, his son Nicholas II came to the throne. Nicholas was twenty-six years old. He was a handsome young man and a few months after his father’s death he was married to a German princess. They were in love and it looked as though Nicholas would be a popular ruler. His reign began badly. In 1896, a great crowd gathered on a field in Moscow to celebrate his coronation as tsar. It was the custom to hand out little presents, such as handkerchiefs and cups, at these celebrations. Afraid that there might not be enough for everyone, the crowd surged forward. When mounted police tried to hold back the crowd, men, women and children were pushed into ditches and two thousand persons were killed. To make it even worse, that same night the tsar and the tsarina, his wife, danced at a ball held at the French embassy. People grumbled that the tsarina was a foreigner who had no feeling for Russians and the tsar was not much better. Nor did the people like the tsar’s reply to a message of congratulation from the officials of a town near Moscow. The officials said that they hoped “the rights of individuals and public institutions will be firmly safeguarded.” Nicholas answered that he would support the principle of absolute rule just as firmly “as it was preserved by my unforgettable great father.” It was plain that under Nicholas the Russians could expect no greater freedom than they had had under Alexander III. There would be no civil liberties, no better treatment of the peasants and of minority …

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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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Japan Meets the West 1853-1905

tokyo

The date was July 8, 1853; the place, Yedo, a sprawling collection of wooden houses overlooking an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Yedo, later known as Tokyo, was the chief city of the Japanese islands, off the east coast of Asia. It was larger than London or Paris, but since Japan had been out of touch with the rest of the world for centuries, few foreigners knew it. Yedo was also the residence of an official called the shogun, who theoretically governed the country in the name of the emperor. As they stared out at the bay that day, the people of Yedo could hardly believe what was happening before their eyes. In spite of a strong wind blowing seaward, four black ships were moving steadily toward them, trailing streamers of black smoke. Panic seized the onlookers and they rushed to defend themselves. The strange craft turned out to be warships from a distant land called the United States. They were commanded by an officer named Matthew Perry. Perry had not come to attack Yedo; instead, he bore a friendly letter from the American president to the Japanese emperor. He asked the shogun’s representatives to deliver it and sailed away, promising to come back. The following February, Perry returned, this time with seven black ships. The officials who greeted him enjoy the whiskey and other liquors he gave them and marveled at working models of a telegraph system and a steam locomotive. After a round of parties, talks began between the visitors and their hosts and on March 31, 1954, a treaty was signed between Japan and the United States. Although this treaty opened only two small Japanese ports to American traders, it was of great importance, for it cleared the way for many other treaties between Japan and the …

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