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The Hapsburgs and Rivals Keep Europe in Turmoil

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There he sat in the great hall in the German city of Worms. His bright eyes and wide forehead gave him an air of distinction. You would not quickly forget that face. Before him was gathered an assembly of high ranking nobles and churchmen from many parts of Europe. For this man was Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Archduke of Austria, ruler of the Netherlands and half of Italy, as well as King of Spain and master of Spain’s vast possessions in the New World. Yet Charles, who belonged to the famous Hapsburg family of Austria, was only 21 years old when he came to Worms in the year 1521. He had been elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire only two years before and he hoped to settle many pressing problems in conference with the assembled notables. Perhaps it was just as well for the young monarch that he could not look into the future. Perhaps it was fortunate that he could not foresee some thirty-five years of struggle within his empire. He did not know that he would be fighting French men and Italians and Turks, as well as the Protestants of his own empire. Nor is it likely that in 1521 Charles V would have believed that the time would ever come when he would gladly and freely hand over his vast powers and lands to others. Yet after a reign of 37 years Charles told another group of nobles: “I am no longer able to attend to my affairs without great bodily fatigue. . . . The little strength that remains to me is rapidly disappearing. . . . In my present state of weakness, I should have to render a serious account to God and man if I did not lay aside …

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The United Nations and the End of Colonialism 1946 -1965


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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“My Name Will Stand Forever” 1933 – 1938

adolf hitler

ABOVE THE German town of Berchtesgaden, in a large, imposing house in the mountains, a man stared out a window. It was a fine February day in the winter of 1938 and the snow-covered peaks of the Alps glistened in the clear air. The man at the window seemed not to see the peaceful mountains. Berchtesgaden was close to the border of Austria and he seemed to see beyond the mountains into the heart of Austria itself — an Austria filled with marching troops‚ cheering crowds and the swastika banners of the Nazis. Staring at this vision, he smiled — for he was Adolf Hitler and he had many reasons to be pleased with himself. He remembered how he had arrived in Austria after World War I. He had been a vagabond — unknown, shabby, dirty, penniless. Now he was dictator of Germany, the ruler of millions of people. He had come to power in 1933 and looking back on the five years that had passed since then, he smiled again. Things had gone well for him — very well indeed. From the beginning, Hitler had been determined to smash the Versailles Treaty, which Germany had been forced to accept after its defeat in World War I. The treaty compelled Germany to disarm and give up some of its territory. Quietly and secretly, Hitler had begun to re-arm and when word of this reached the Allies, the nations which had fought Germany, they did nothing. Among the territories that had been taken away from Germany was the Saar region. Small, but important because of its coal mines, the Saar had been governed by a commission of the League of Nations. In 1935, under the conditions of the Versailles Treaty, the League held a plebiscite, a vote of the people living …

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Revolution in a Beer Hall 1923 – 1924


ON NOVEMBER 8, 1923, about three thousand men were sitting at the tables of a large beer hall on the outskirts of Munich. They had come this evening not just to drink beer; they were to hear a speech by Gustave von Kahr. He was the head of the government of Bavaria, one of the states of Germany. Conditions had been bad in Germany since the end of World War I and Kahr’s audience was anxious to learn what the government intended to do. Kahr was still speaking when there was a commotion at the back of the ball. Several men had come in and one of them leaped up on a table and fired a pistol into the air. He wore his hair combed down over one eye and had a small moustache that resembled Charlie Chaplin’s. Kahr recognized him. His name was Adolph Hitler. He was the head of a political group, the National Socialist German Workers party, whose members were usually called Nazis. Hitler and his companions pushed their way to the speaker’s platform, where Hitler shouted, “The National Revolution has begun!” The building was surrounded by his brown-shirted storm troopers, their machine guns ready. Soon, he said, the Nazi flag with its black swastika would be flying over Bavaria. Then the Nazis would march on Berlin and take over all of Germany. As it happened, Hitler was a bit too optimistic. He would not take over Germany quite that soon. Forcing Kahr and two other important government officials into a back room, Hitler threatened them with his pistol. He thought he had won them over and could expect their help, but again he was mistaken. In the confusion they managed to slip away and Kahr issued an order dissolving the Nazi party. The next day, disappointed …

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After the Peace of Paris 1919 – 1920


DURING THE war, three great empires — the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the German –had vanished forever. Then, by the Treaty of Sévres, a fourth empire, the Ottoman, was quietly put to death. Turkey was confined to Asia Minor and became a republic. Of its former possessions, the League of Nations assigned Syria and Lebanon to France and Palestine and Iraq to Great Britain. Trans-Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which had fought the Turks under an adventurous British colonel named T. E. Lawrence, became independent kingdoms. In Europe, there were seven new states: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. The first six, with Rumania, formed a zone that blocked Russian communism from spreading westward. Rumania had grown larger at the expense of Hungary, Russia and Greece at the expense of Turkey. Hungary and Austria were made small independent states, with no link between their governments. The South Slavs, who had triggered the crisis that brought on the war, saw their dream come true in a free, united Yugoslavia, but some Yugoslavs were still dissatisfied, for the Allies, in line with their secret treaty of 1915, had given Italy the port of Trieste and some islands on the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic. Italy also received the Trentino and South Tyrol, former Austro-Hungarian lands. AMERICA AND THE LEAGUE Although the five treaties of the Peace of Paris changed the map of the world, it left more than one nation resentful and discontented. The Italians felt that the Allies had betrayed them by not giving them any of the German colonies. The Japanese felt cheated of their rightful gains in the Pacific and the Germans were particularly bitter, for they felt they had been unjustly treated in almost every way. When the peace conference began, they had expected that the Allies …

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The Victors Reconstruct Europe 1918 – 1919


IN THE closing weeks of the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire came apart. Its subject peoples proclaimed their independence, through “national councils” set up in Paris and London. On November 12, 1918, the last of the Hapsburg emperors, Charles I, abdicated and the next day Austria became a republic. Hungary became a republic a week later. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia also came into existence and Rumania helped itself to the slice of Hapsburg territory called Transylvania. Before any peace conference could meet, the empire’s former subjects had redrawn the map to suit themselves and the Allies formally recognized the new nations. THE KAISER ABDICATES Unlike its ally, the German Empire held firm almost to the end. Earlier in the war, the liberals, democrats and socialists in the Reichstag, Germany’s legislative body, had put off their demands for the sake of national unity. Power had become concentrated in the hands of the generals, led by General Ludendorff. On September 29, 1918, Ludendorff told the Kaiser that Germany must sue for peace. Furthermore, he urged the immediate formation of a new government along democratic lines, based on the important parties in the Reichstag. The kaiser was astonished, but he soon realized that the army must be in a desperate situation for Ludendorff to suggest such a step. He knew, too, that the proud military aristocrats who commanded the army could not bring themselves to surrender; the task must be left to civilians. Sadly the kaiser gave his consent and Prince Max of Baden, a liberal nobleman, agreed to head a cabinet that included the socialists. By October it had put through a number of reforms, but the socialists were not satisfied. They threatened to quit the government unless the kaiser abdicated. Meanwhile, as word spread of the disastrous military situation, the German people began …

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The Unification of Italy 1831-1870


ITALY HAD long been divided into small states. All their governments, except that of the Kingdom of Sardinia, were unpopular and continued to rule largely because they were supported by Austria. Italians had a special reason for wanting freedom and unification. They could remember that once the Roman Empire had ruled the world and that later Italy had been the home of free republics. For three hundred years Italy had been invaded and plundered again and again. The last of the invaders was Austria and before the Italians could form one nation they would have to free themselves from the Austrians. The leaders of the unification movement in Italy were all liberals — that is, they wanted a constitutional government controlled by the middle classes rather than a democracy controlled by the common people. Among them was Giuseppe Mazzini. He had been a member of a secret society, the Carbonari, which attempted to win freedom by revolution in 1820 and 1830. Each time the revolt was put down by Austrian troops. In 1831, Mazzini openly organized a society called Young Italy. Through it he was able to reach the great mass of Italians and he urged them to rise up and throw off their native and foreign kings. All kings were bad, he said; Italy should unite and establish a republic. During the Revolutions of 1848, Mazzini and the famous revolutionary fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi set up the Roman Republic in the Papal States, but French forces sent to protect the Pope overthrew the new republic. The truth was that Mazzini could stir the people with his speeches and writings, but he had no practical plan for achieving unification. CAVOUR AND NAPOLEON III Far more practical was Count Camillo Cavour, who became prime minister under Victor Emmanuel, King of Sardinia, in …

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Nationalism and the Germans 1848-1870


DESPITE THE development of democracy in some parts of the world, several of the most important nations established in the nineteenth century went in a different direction and among them was Germany. In the early part of the century, the Germans lived in a number of small states and two large ones Prussia and Austria. France was at least partly responsible for this, for it had long been her policy to keep the Germans weak and divided. Napoleon, too, had followed this policy when they came under his rule, but he had given some of them practical governments and a good system of laws called the Napoleonic Code. Many Germans had been influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution. At the same time, they were becoming more and more nationalistic; they felt that all Germans belonged together in one large, united nation. This feeling increased when they fell under the rule of the French. Only by uniting into one nation could they be strong enough to rule themselves. After the French Revolution of 1848, the German liberals broke out in open rebellion. They, too, wanted a constitutional monarchy. Joined by the radicals, who wanted a republic, they threw up barricades in the streets of Berlin, acting so swiftly that King Frederick William of Prussia was taken by surprise. When he went out on the balcony of his palace to talk to the people, they refused to listen until he had removed his hat as a sign of respect. Trying to calm them, he promised them a constitution. The revolutions of 1848 gave the liberals control of the smaller German states. As the first step toward unification, these states elected representatives to an assembly at Frankfurt. Some members of the assembly were in favour of a republic similar to that …

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Democracy in Latin America 1811-1823


DURING THE years when Napoleon and Spain were at war, Spain’s American colonies began their long fight to win independence from the mother country. Some of the earliest revolts were quickly defeated. The leaders were executed, but their deeds were remembered. In the early 1800’s, the leader of an unsuccessful revolt in Bolivia said, as he faced death: “I die; but the torch which I have lighted no one will be able to extinguish.” Francisco Miranda won fame for his unsuccessful revolt in Venezuela in 1811 and 1812. In Mexico, an old priest named Miguel Hidalgo, who wanted freedom for the Indians, led a force of 80.000 followers against the Spaniards in 1810. A great battle raged for hours. It seemed that the victory would go to Hidalgo’s forces, until a fire started in the grass near their position. Flames and smoke drove them back and in the confusion, the enemy butchered thousands of the rebels. Hidalgo’s head was cut off and placed in an iron cage as a warning against revolt. Although there were many revolutions, only Haiti, Paraguay and a province of Argentina had won independence from Spain by 1816. A year later José de San Martin of Argentina invaded Chile, using more than 9,000 mules and 1,600 horses to carry his heavy supplies over the Andes Mountains. With a small army of less than 4,000 men, he crossed high mountain passes that were 12,500 feet above sea level. Taking the Spaniards by surprise, he won a great victory at Chacabuco and freed Chile from Spanish rule. Later he invaded Peru and helped that nation, too, win its independence. Another great revolutionary leader, Simon Bolivar of Venezuela, defeated the Spaniards in Venezuela and Colombia and sent one of his armies into Ecuador and into what is now Bolivia …

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Another Napoleon 1848-1906


IN DECEMBER of 1848, the French elected Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte as president of the Second French Republic. What he stood for was not very clear, but to most Frenchmen that did not seem important. He was the nephew of the great Napoleon and the very sound of his name stirred them like a battle-cry. Since the defeat of the first Napoleon in 1815, there had been little in French politics to capture the imagination. As the years passed, the French looked back on the Napoleonic era as the time of their greatest glory. The writer Victor Hugo wrote poems about Napoleon. The Arch of Triumph, built in Paris in honour of Napoleon’s many victories, was completed in 1836. In 1840, Napoleon’s body was brought from his prison island, Saint Helena and buried in Paris on a bank of the Seine River. Pictures of Napoleon, usually showing him visiting the wounded or lying on his deathbed, could be found in the cottages of most peasants. Although it was not so, the peasants liked to think that it was Napoleon who had given them free ownership of their land. Louis-Napoleon knew the magic of his name and intended to make the most of it. No one ever saw him angry or excited. He was not much to look at, but he had a strange sort of charm. An Englishman who had just met him for the first time wrote, “When Prince Louis-Napoleon held out his hand and I looked into his face, I felt almost tempted to put him down as an Opium eater. Ten minutes afterwards I felt convinced . . . that he himself was the drug and that everyone with whom he came in contact was bound to yield to its influence.” The new president traveled about France, meeting the …

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