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The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965

colonialism

Even before the Korean War, the United Nations had proved that it could take effective action to control serious conflicts. It first took such action in the conflict over Palestine. During World War I, the British had ousted the Turks from Palestine. When the war was over, the League of Nations placed that land under the authority of Britain. The British then issued the famous Balfour Declaration, which promised the Jewish people that Palestine would someday become their homeland, but the Arabs of Palestine and the surrounding countries strongly objected to this and year after year passed without the British making good their promise. During and after World War II, Britain refused to allow Jewish refugees from Europe to enter Palestine. In 1946 Jewish terrorists began to stage raids against the British army and a year later Britain turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations. The General Assembly set up a special committee to investigate the situation and make recommendations and several months later the committee delivered its report. It recommended that Palestine be divided into two independent states, one Arab and one Jewish. Although the Arabs, who formed a majority of the people in Palestine, said they would never allow the existence of a Jewish state, the General Assembly approved the committee’s report. Britain was expected to carry out and enforce the recommendations. Instead, the British suddenly left Palestine in the spring of 1948 and war broke out between the Arabs and the Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were supported by troops from the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt, but the Jewish army, which included many hardened veterans of World War II, won battle after battle. With every victory, the Jews added to the territory originally granted them by the United Nations special committee. Most …

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Victory in Europe 1941 – 1945

Even before Pearl Harbour, there had been cooperation between the United States and Britain. In August of 1941, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met secretly, on a cruiser at sea off the coast of Newfoundland. There they drew up the Atlantic Charter, a document stating the principles on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world. They pledged that neither country would seek more territory. They hoped that, “after the final destruction of Nazi tyranny,” all men in all lands could “live out their lives in freedom from want and fear,” and they called on all nations to give up the use of force and disarm. With the United States in the war, the cooperation among the nations fighting the Axis powers became still closer. There were meetings between the heads of the nations and their representatives — the first of many that would take place throughout the war. Out of the early meetings came an important decision. All possible strength must be thrown against Germany, for once Germany was defeated, Japan would surely fall. On January 1, 1942, all twenty-six nations fighting the Axis signed a pact. Calling themselves the United Nations, they agreed to abide by the Atlantic Charter and not to make a separate peace with the enemy. As the year began, the Germans started an offensive in Africa. General Rommel and his Afrika Korps won back El Agheila, which the British had taken the previous April. By the end of June, 1942, the British had lost 80,000 men and had been forced to retreat 400 miles to El Alamein, in Egypt. This was only 60 miles from the city of Alexandria and there was danger that Rommel would cut off the Suez Canal. Rommel could not take El Alamein. The British …

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Rivalries in the Middle East 1856 – 1912

ottoman

THE MIDDLE EAST where Europe, Asia and Africa meet had long been known as one of the great crossroads of the world. Most of its people were Moslems, but among them were many Christians and Jews. They spoke languages as different as Arabic and Latin, Slavic and Turkish. They had little in common except that they were all subjects of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire — so called after its early founder, Othman — was the last of several empires to rule over a large part of Islam. Unlike the earlier empires, it was dominated not by Arabs, but by Turks. Centuries before, the Turks had fought their way west from Central Asia and founded a new homeland in the West Asian peninsula of Turkey. From there, they had pushed outward, conquering lands and peoples. In 1699, however, they had lost Hungary to the Austrians. After that, while the nations of western Europe grew stronger, the Ottoman Empire became weaker. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman sultans had to combat enemies both within and without their empire. Their foreign enemies were the European powers, which snatched up their outlying lands. Their enemies at home were the subject peoples, especially in the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, who demanded their freedom. Unrest was chronic and the Ottoman Empire, which was usually called simply Turkey, came to be known as “the sick man of Europe.” By the 1850’s, Turkey had lost lands north of the Black Sea to Russia and Algeria‚ in North Africa, to France. Of its former Balkan holdings, Greece was independent and both Serbia and Rumania had some freedom. A native Arab dynasty ruled much of Arabia. In Egypt, a former Turkish governor had set himself up as hereditary khedive, or viceroy, …

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The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte 1796-1802

napoleon

In March of 1796, a new commander named Napoleon Bonaparte was placed in charge of the French army on the Italian front. The soldiers and officers were amazed when they first saw him. He was short, thin, pale, only twenty-seven years old and spoke French with an Italian accent. Napoleon was not an unknown. He had first come to public attention as the young artillery officer who drove the British fleet from the harbour at Toulon. Later, as a brigadier general, he had successfully defended the Convention from an uprising in Paris. What most people did not know was that he had been a rebel most of his life. He had been born on the island of Corsica, a rebel stronghold, where fighting for independence from French rule was considered the duty of patriots. His father had been a rebel leader and the boy Napoleon had dreamed of the day when he, too, would lead a Corsican rebellion against the French. He had kept that dream alive during his years in French military school and even after he had become an officer in the French army. During one of his visits to the island, while on leave, he had actually tried to stir up a rebellion in Corsica. The attempt failed and that put an end to his boyhood dream, but he still remained a rebel at heart. Napoleon’s new army was a small one of only 30,000 troops and most of them were suffering for want of food and clothing. This was the army with which he was expected to fight the Austrian troops in Northern Italy. According to French war plans against Austria, the Italian campaign was supposed to keep enemy troops busy on the southern front while the main attacks were launched by two large French armies …

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Prince Henry’s School 1415 – 1499

Vasco da Gama

IN 1415, WHEN ALL OF CHRISTENDOM belonged to one church and Christians battled pagan Turks instead of one another, a force of Portuguese marines set sail for the coast of Africa. They planned to attack a town called Ceuta. A stronghold that guarded the narrow passage connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic, Ceuta was the end link in the chain of fortresses and well-armed ports that the Turks had tightened around the southern and eastern boundaries of Europe. Held in by this chain, European merchants could not trade in the luxury-filled markets of the east, pilgrims could not journey to Jerusalem and missionaries could not carry the word of God to the countless “lost souls” of Africa and the Indies. While the Turks held Ceuta, it was dangerous for the merchants of northern and southern Europe merely to trade with one another. So the king of Portugal sent out an expedition of his toughest marines. At their head he placed his own son, Prince Henry, who was young but skilled in the tactics of war. With a favourable wind driving his ships at top speed, Prince Henry caught the Turks by surprise. He sank their fleet, destroyed their docks‚ burned their town and triumphantly sailed home to announce that the sea routes were free once more. The king rewarded his son by naming him master of the Naval Arsenal at Sagres, the port of Lagos and all of the Cape of St. Vincent, the rocky headland that jutted like a pointing finger from southern Portugal into the Atlantic. Prince Henry was delighted. Ships and the sea were his love and his life and he had many ideas for the fleet that now was his to command. These ideas were the beginning of a great age of exploration. They would …

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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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The Holy Book of Allah A. D. 632-732

koran

Mohammed sometimes dictated his thoughts to his secretary, Zayd, but when he spoke in public no one wrote down what he said. Instead, his listeners learned his speeches by heart and mistakes crept in, as they usually do. Only a short time after Mohammed’s death people were repeating his sayings in quite different ways. If Mohammed had been anyone else, this would not really have mattered. It would have been enough to remember what he had said without bothering too much about how he had said it. But the Moslems believed that God himself had addressed them through Mohammed. Every word the prophet had spoken was therefore divine and even every pause between words. The more the different reports of his teachings multiplied, the more confused his followers became. THE KORAN Mohammed’s old companions soon realized that if this confusion Were allowed to go on, Islam could easily split up into quarreling groups. Eventually, either Abu Bakr or a later head of the movement, Othman, ordered Zayd to prepare a text of Mohammed’s teachings that would be correct and complete. Gathering written and remembered fragments of his master’s words “from the ribs of palm-leaves and tablets of white stone and from the hearts of men,” Zayd brought them all together in a book. This book afterwards came to be called the Koran, meaning “the reading aloud” in Arabic. To Moslems, its contents are the very word of Allah. Four-fifths the size of the New Testament, the Koran is made up of 114 suras, or chapters. These suras are not arranged in the order in which Mohammed first spoke them, but by length, beginning with the longest. Most of them, short and fiery, came to Mohammed during his early years of struggle in Mecca. They deal with such things as the …

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The New Capital: Constantinople A. D. 306-532

CONSTANTINOPLE

EMPEROR Constantine’s decision to build a new capital for the Roman Empire in the East did not come as a surprise to the people of the empire. Rome had lost much of its influence as the seat of government and emperors avoided the city. They preferred to build castles for themselves in distant provincial cities. Emperor Maximian, for example, had ruled from Milan. Emperor Diocletian had moved to Nicomedia, far to the east in Asia Minor and ruled from there. Constantine had many good reasons for turning eastward in searching for a site for his new capital. Most of the important activities and interests of the empire lay far to the east of Rome. The great trade centers at Ephesus, Antioch and Alexandria were all in the East. For centuries, the kingdoms beyond the eastern frontiers had been weak and peaceful. Now the Sassanids, a new royal family of Persia, had risen to power and become a serious threat. The East German tribes, particularly the Goths, had also become a threat, building up their strength on the Danube. As a man of the sword, Constantine knew well that the empire was in danger of being invaded. A capital city in the East, within striking distance of the Danube and the eastern front, would help the empire standoff attacks from either direction. There was also an advantage in having the capital city close to the Balkans, for there the empire recruited its finest soldiers. Constantine himself had come from there. His personal pride may have been still another reason. Many Roman emperors were great builders. They were proud men and they liked to build roads and great buildings which would stand for centuries as memorials to their greatness. A new capital city would bring him fame and glorify his memory for …

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The Growing Church A. D. 100-500

christian

AT THE beginning of the second century, the Christian Church was a loosely organized group of independent local churches. There had been no strong leadership since the days of the apostles, no recognized authority to whom they could turn to settle their differences concerning the faith. Paul’s epistles had cleared up many points for them, but new questions were constantly arising. The Roman church had been taking a leading role for some time. There were a number of reasons for this. According to tradition, both Paul and Peter had died in Rome. It was the only church in the western half of the empire associated with any of the apostles. The fact that it was located in the capital city of Rome naturally added to its standing. The churches of Asia Minor had lost strength as a result of false teachings and disagreements within the churches themselves. Jerusalem, having been destroyed in the Second Jewish War in the year 133, had practically ceased to exist. Furthermore, it was in Rome that the Apostles’ Creed was written and the New Testament authorized. Antioch was still an important centre, but no outstanding leaders came from it during the second century. By the end of that century, therefore, Rome was recognized as the church with the greatest influence in the Christian world. The church continued to grow in spite of the great general persecutions that began in the middle of the third century. These persecutions came in waves for a period of over fifty years. During the worst of them, Christians of Rome held their meetings in the catacombs, or underground cemeteries, where hundreds of tunnel and chambers offered them safety. DISPUTES IN THE CHURCH New questions of interpretation were constantly coming up to threaten the traditional faith. These questions usually had to …

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The City Where Money Ruled A.D. 54 – A.D. 192

roman

“IT is impossible to find peace and quiet in this city!” Seneca, in Nero’s Rome for a visit, was not enjoying his stay and he wrote about it in an angry letter to one of his friends in the country. “The room I have rented is right over‚ a public bath and I might as well have taken a bed in the Tower of Babel. When the athletic bathers do their exercises, I hear every grunt as they strain to lift the dumbbells and the awful wheezes as they drop them again. In the ball court, a loud-mouthed coach calls out the score at the top of his voice. Then a rowdy starts a quarrel, a pickpocket gets caught in the act (he howls, of course) and some idiot chooses his bathtub as the place to sing a concert. There is a regular parade of human elephants flopping into the swimming pool, each trying to make a greater splash than the last and a chorus of drink sellers, sausage vendors, pastrymen and hawkers for the restaurants — each of them with his own noisy way of spoiling my rest and interrupting my work.” A bathhouse, with its pools and game rooms and restaurants and locker rooms, was probably as noisy as any spot in Rome. Seneca would not have found much quiet in any neighborhood in the city. There were just too many people. In the years since Augustus had made Rome the capital of his empire, the city had grown bigger, busier and noisier than ever. In the mornings, when the shops were open and the merchants’ carts went out to make deliveries, it was hard to get through the streets at all. The tenements were jammed full. The great town houses overflowed with guests and slaves. Still the …

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