The Greeks Lead the Way

If you had been a citizen of the ancient Greek city of Athens on a fine spring morning in 409 B.C., you would have gathered with thousands of your fellow citizens on a hillside inside the city. You would then have listened carefully to the discussion of various matters of business, conducted by the chairman and secretary of the meeting from a platform below and facing you. You would have seen an Athenian citizen thread his way from the hillside to this platform. This was a sure sign that he had a proposal to make to the voters. The citizen turned toward the assembled throng and spoke in a strong, clear voice. A man named Thrasybulus, he said, should be rewarded with a golden crown for his services to Athens. When the speaker paused, another citizen came to the platform. Yes, by all means thank Thrasybulus and give him a golden crown, urged the second speaker. He went on, these acts were not enough, because Thrasybulus was a foreigner, the best reward for serving Athens so faithfully and so well would be to make him an Athenian citizen. Would the voters of Athens do this? he asked. The chairman called for a vote by a show of hands and tellers counted the votes. A majority was in favour of the proposal and it was declared officially to have been approved by the voters of Athens. The secretary had a copy of the proposal carved on a marble slab to make the record permanent and there the record is to this day, over 2800 years later, but still readable! This old record tells us that Athenian citizens held meetings, discussed their own problems, and decided for themselves What they would do. The voters, instead of a pharaoh or a king, made …

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Early Civilization Spreads by Land and Sea

Now Hiram, King of Tyre, sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him King. . . And Solomon sent word to Hiram, “ . . . I purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God. . . Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me; and . . . I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set; for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians [people of the city of Sidon].” . . . And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “. . . I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon; and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct and I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it; and you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” So Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired. while Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors [measures] of wheat as food for his household and twenty thousand cors of beaten oil. . . And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and the two of them made a treaty. And King Solomon built a fleet of ships. . . And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea. . . These words adapted from the Bible tell the story of trade agreements between two kings who ruled about 1000 B.C. You have probably heard of Solomon. He had the reputation of being the wisest king of ancient times. But …

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The Growth of Egyptian and Mesopotamian Civilization

People satisfy their important needs in different ways. For example, most of you obtain water merely by turning on a faucet in your home. The water is pumped from large reservoirs and piped considerable distances before reaching your home. Many however, get water from wells. The water is raised in a variety of ways — by pumps operated by hand, by windmills, by gasoline engines, or by electric motors. In earlier times the well sweep, or pole with a bucket at one end, was often used. If you should travel along Egypt’s Nile River today, you might see a farmer on the bank dipping up water with a bucket attached to a long pole. The pole rests on an upright support. At the Opposite end of the pole there is a heavy weight which balances the water-filled scoop. This device, which is called a shadoof, is like the American well sweep. It helps the farmer to raise his filled bucket and to empty it into an irrigation ditch that is above the river level. Egyptian farmers are thus able to irrigate fields that otherwise would be baked hard and dry under Egypt’s intense sun. The shadoof has been in use for more than 5000 years. Egyptians today have more efficient methods for irrigating their fields, but the shadoof has not completely disappeared. It is a link between Egypt today and Egypt in ancient times. The Nile is not the only great river where you could see reminders of the long ago. On the muddy Tigris River, beside the great city of Baghdad in Iraq, you might see men floating along in great round watertight baskets used as boats. These boats, called gufas, have been in use for thousands of years. There are other, more impressive links with the distant past …

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stone age

Man’s Long Road Up From Savagery

Perhaps you have asked yourself, “What would I have done?” as you have read an adventure yarn or the true story of some person set down in a wild and remote spot. One of the most famous stories in the English language recounts the adventures of’ Robinson Crusoe, who was shipwrecked and cast ashore on an uninhabited island. Crusoe was completely alone and had only the few materials which he saved from the wreckage. With these and with what he found on the island, Crusoe had to provide his own food and shelter. Days and even weeks were required to fashion the simplest tools and furniture. Just to keep alive was a constant struggle. If you stop to think of it, Robinson Crusoe possessed tremendous advantages over the men who first inhabited this earth in the dim and distant past. He, atleast, had some equipment with which to work. More important, he had thousands of years of man’s experience on which to draw. In contrast, the earliest men had none of these advantages. They did not know how to use fire, how to build the simplest of shelters, or how to fashion the crudest of tools. They had no good means of communicating with one another. They did not even know that by planting seeds they could grow food. How did early peoples get the experience and develop the skills needed for civilized living? The big questions are, 1. What was the earth like before men lived on it? 2. How did men live during the Old Stone Age? 3. What great advances were made by people in the New Stone Age? 4. How did ways of living improve in the Bronze Age? To answer these  questions. 1. What Was the Earth like Before Men Lived on It? Our world …

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Man Faces the Future 1957-1965

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union announced to an astonished world that its scientists had launched into orbit an artificial satellite of the earth. The Russians called the satellite “Sputnik,” or little moon. With the invention of the air plane, man had broken the bonds that confined him to the earth; now he could go beyond the ocean of air that surrounded the earth and explore the wonders of space. The way was open for discoveries that promised to surpass those of the age of exploration of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The United States sent up its first satellite, Explorer I, on January 31, 1958. It weighed only three and a half pounds, but three months later the Russians launched a Sputnik that weighed 3,000 pounds. By the end of 1960, the Russians were launching space ships and on April 12, 1961, they sent up the first man in outer space; he landed successfully after making one orbit around the earth. The next year, two more “cosmonauts,” as the Russians called them, made space flights, to be followed by three more in 1964. One of Russia’s most spectacular feats in space came on March 18, 1965, when a cosmonaut left his space ship and floated in space for ten minutes while traveling at a speed of 17,000 miles an hour. Meanwhile, the United States was also making extraordinary progress. The first American “astronaut” went into space on February 20, 1962. Other astronauts soon followed, although they did not remain in orbit as long as the Russian space men. Whilst the United States still lagged behind the Soviet Union in the size of its spaceships and the thrust of its rockets, it was ahead in other forms of space exploration. By 1965, American satellites were transmitting radio and telephone …

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civil rights act

The Great Society 1964 – 1965

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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civil rights act

“We Shall Overcome” 1954-1965

On May 17, 1954, all was quiet and solemn, as it usually is, in the chambers of the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. on that day the Court handed down a decision in the case of Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka — a decision that burst on the United States like a clap of thunder on a fair day. Brown was the name of the man who represented the Negroes of Topeka, Kansas. They charged that Topeka’s board of education had violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which says, “No state shall…. deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Negroes of Topeka argued that the board of education was denying them “the equal protection of the laws” by assigning their children to separate Negro schools. These schools, they maintained, were inferior to the schools attended by white children. The Supreme Court agreed and ordered the board of education to integrate its schools. The decision had an effect that went far beyond Topeka. It re-interpreted the Constitution, giving new meaning to the law of the land. It did away with a ruling made in 1896, which had allowed the states to segregate public places and in general, to do as they pleased about civil rights. At that time, the Court said that “equal protection of the laws” could also mean “separate but equal protection of the laws,” thus officially approving segregation. The “Jim Crow” laws passed in the South, the Southwest and even parts of the North, excluded Negroes from places used by whites, while other laws prevented them from voting. The result was that by the early twentieth century most Negroes in the United States had become second-class citizens. Although the case of Brown versus the …

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de gaulle

A Time of Change 1948-1962

All times are, more or less, times of change, but the changes that took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s were extraordinary. This was particularly true in the part of the world dominated by the Soviet Union. During Stalin’s rule, the satellite countries — East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania — were like provinces of Russia. The one exception in Eastern Europe was Yugoslavia. In 1948, the Yugoslav government, headed by Josef Tito, refused to follow Stalin’s orders and insisted on maintaining its independence. This was possible for two reasons. There was no Russian army in Yugoslavia, as there was in other countries and Yugoslavia did not border on the Soviet Union. Tito’s defiance enraged Stalin, who boasted, “I will shake my little finger and there will be no more Tito. He will fail.” Stalin was certain Tito would fail because Yugoslavia carried on almost all of its trade with Eastern Europe and lacked the resources to be self-sufficient. Stalin had not reckoned with the United States. Realizing that it would be wise to support Tito in his struggle with Stalin, the United States gave military and economic aid to Yugoslavia. The little country prospered and gained complete independence from Russia. Stalin and not Tito, had failed. For five years the people of Eastern Europe were quiet. Then in June of 1953, three months after Stalin had died, the workers of East Germany rose up against the government of Walter Ulbricht, who had been hand-picked by Stalin. The Communist government might have been overthrown if the Russian army had not been called in. The troops crushed the revolt and Ulbricht remained in power — but the uprising was a warning of what was to come. Three years later, after Khrushchev’s famous “de-Stalinization” speech, Eastern Europeans asked themselves …

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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 Thaw in the Cold War 1953-1959

Stalin had left behind him a world of suspicion, distrust and fear. Suspicion, distrust and fear were as great in his own country as anywhere else, for he had ruled as a dictator and had never set up a definite procedure for transferring power to another leader. Immediately after his death, a five-man presidium, or council, took over the rule of the Soviet Union. The presidium chose Georgi Malenkov, who had been Stalin’s right-hand man, as the new premier, but a number of factions were struggling for control of the government and one of them was led by Lavrenti Beria, the chief of the secret police. He was a serious threat that at one point tanks were called out to prevent the secret police from seizing the government. On July 10, 1953, Beria was charged with treason; six months later he was shot. In 1955, Malenkov himself was removed from office and Marshal Nikolai Bulganin became premier. It was plain that the real power in the Soviet Union was Nikita Khrushchev, the moonfaced, elderly chairman of the Communist party. On February 24, 1956, Khrushchev made a speech before the Twentieth All-Union Party Congress, a meeting of Communist party delegates from all parts of the Soviet Union. Representatives of almost every Communist party in the world were also present. It was the first such congress since Stalin’s death and the delegates knew they had been summoned to Moscow to hear something of great importance. Even so, none of them were prepared for what they heard that day. For Khrushchev’s speech was a direct and merciless attack on Stalin and Stalin’s policies. For years, Communists throughout the world had insisted that Stalin was a great teacher and humanitarian, a father of peoples, a leader who was showing mankind the way to a …

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