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War in Korea 1945-1953


Although the cold war was the most important fact in the politics of the post-war world, few persons could have foreseen that it would lead to fighting in the small, remote country of Korea. Yet, as small and remote as it was, Korea had a strategic location. It was near three large powers — Russia, China and Japan — and the Japanese said it “points like a dagger at the heart of our country.” The Japanese won control of Korea in the Russo-Japanese War and by 1905 they ruled it as part of their empire. During World War II, the Allies promised that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” When Japan surrendered, they agreed that Russian troops would occupy Korea north of the thirty-eighth parallel and American troops would occupy Korea south of the thirty-eighth parallel. A provisional government would then be set up and after a period of no longer than five years, Korea would govern itself as an independent nation. The occupation of Korea was carried out as it had been planned, but the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on a provisional government. Each set up a provisional government friendly to itself and in 1947 the United States brought the dispute before the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly decided to hold elections in Korea, but the Soviet Union refused to allow United Nations representatives to enter its occupation zone. Elections were held outside the Russian zone and in 1948 the Korean Republic was established in South Korea. The city of Seoul was made the capital and Syngman Rhee was elected president. Thirty-two nations, including the United States, recognized the new government; the Russians and “their supporters did not. Instead, the Soviet Union helped to set up a new and separate …

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“On the Dole” 1918 – 1936


IN Europe as in America, the leading democratic nations — Great Britain and France — faced the problems of the great depression. In those nations, too, the question arose: Could democracy survive, or would it give way to totalitarianism? Would the people turn instead to fascism or communism? Although Britain had a brief period of prosperity immediately after World War I, of all the world’s democracies, it was struck hardest and soonest by the depression. For Britain had a special problem. A highly industrialized country, it lived by its exports. It sold manufactured goods and coal to other countries and imported its food. Even before the war, Britain had begun to lose its markets. Other countries were making wool and cotton cloth, which was one of Britain’s most important exports. New fuels were developed that were replacing coal. More and more countries were using high tariffs to keep out foreign goods. After 1918, the situation became even worse. The fact that Britain had long been an industrial country was now working against it. Its machinery and manufacturing methods were old-fashioned and could not compete with the modern machinery and methods of other lands. Exports fell, factories shut down and millions of Britons were out of work. Britain had had unemployment insurance as early as 1911. Now the payments were increased and the unemployed went “on the dole,” as they called it. The government also provided old-age pensions and some medical and housing aid, but the people felt that the unemployment and other benefits were too small and they were dissatisfied. They began to turn to the Labour party. Up to this time, Britain’s strongest political parties had been the Conservative party and the Liberal party, with the Labour party a poor third. In 1922, the Labour party became second only …

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Parceling Out a Continent 1841-1910


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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Industry Transforms America 1865-1914


VETERANS or the Union Army, returning to their home towns in New England or the Middle Atlantic states after the war were surprised at what they saw. They had grown up in towns where most of the people lived by farming, while the rest sold things to farmers or worked in local workshops. Perhaps a mill and a factory had stood on the bank of the town’s river. The farms, stores and workshops remained, but now there were many new brick buildings used for factories, mills and warehouses. American industry, concentrated in the river valleys and ocean ports of the northeast, had grown with a rush during the Civil War. Behind the fighting lines, factories had turned out rails and telegraph wires, rifles and bullets, boots, uniforms, blankets, tents — all the articles needed for the Union forces. These products of Northern industry made a big difference on the battlefields. Before the war, the South had been an agricultural land, with large plantations worked by slaves and smaller farms worked by poor white farmers. Cotton was the big crop and great quantities of it were sold, especially to the mills of Great Britain. The wealth of the South, based on the unpaid labour of slaves, had given it as much influence within the nation as the North, which was partly agricultural and partly industrial. The South had little industry. When war came, it was unable to keep its fighting men supplied with weapons and other needs. The ill-equipped Southerners were worn down by the well-equipped Northerners, until finally they were completely defeated. The victory of the Union upset the balance of power between the North and the South. With the freeing of the slaves, most of the Southern planters were ruined, while the leaders of industry in the North were …

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A House Divided 1833 – 1859


BEFORE ELI Whitney invented the cotton gin, Southern plantation owners were beginning to wonder if they should not give up their slaves. There was a good market for cotton; the English were buying all the cotton they could get to make into cloth in their new factories. It took too long to separate raw cotton from the seed and raising cotton simply did not pay. If the plantation owners stopped raising cotton, they would really have no need for slaves. Then after the invention of the cotton gin, raising cotton began to pay — and pay well! Cotton became the South’s big cash crop and the more cotton the plantation owners raised, the more slaves they needed. So, slavery grew in the South while it was dying out in other parts of the world. Slavery had been outlawed in the British colonies in 1833, in the French colonies fifteen years later; by this time, too, most of the Latin-American republics had liberated their slaves. The economy of the South was based on slave labour and the vast estates of the plantation owners, with their mansions, slave quarters and outbuildings, resembled the manors of feudal Europe. As a matter of fact, there was much in Southern society that resembled feudalism. The plantation owners formed a kind of aristocracy and lived the lives of country gentlemen; they owned most of the slaves and most of the land. The poorer Southerners also lived by farming, but their land holdings were small and they worked in the fields beside the one or two slaves they could afford. The South had little industry. In the North, on the other hand, while thousands of people still lived by farming, industry was growing day by day. The North needed free labour rather than slaves and Northerners began …

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Men against Machines 1733 – 1812


FEAR HUNG over the Yorkshire countryside in northern England. It was the spring of 1812, a spring the people would long remember. Hardly a night passed without some frightened countryman hearing the tramp of marching feet or the sound of gunfire. Sometimes shouts rang out and flames lit up the sky as some building was mysteriously set on fire. The most frightening sound of all was a gentle tapping on a cottage door in the dead of night. The man who heard it knew what it meant — a visit from members of a secret society of mill workers. Why had they come? Possibly to demand his firearms, or to threaten him with a lashing or even death unless he kept certain information to himself . If he himself happened to be a member of the society, he could expect his visitors to insist that he join them in raiding a nearby cotton or woolen mill. Such mills, or cloth factories, dotted the Yorkshire countryside and were the main targets of the secret society. Most of the mill owners had been warned. The society had sent them unsigned letters, threatening to raid their mills unless they stopped using labour-saving machinery such as weaving frames. The owners of small mills usually became so terrified they stopped using the machines. Those who continued to use them ran the risk of having their mills destroyed by fire. Usually the raiders simply broke in to smash the weaving frames and other machinery that did the work of men. William Cartwright, the owner of one of the largest textile mills in the area, was not easily frightened. He believed in progress and to him progress meant using machines, for they could do the work faster and cheaper than men. Whenever he installed new machinery in …

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The Old Fox 1776-1777


The cold winter winds howled through the streets of New York, but the houses were filled with warmth, good cheer and the merry crackle of hearth fires. It was late in December of 1776. Six months earlier the city had been the headquarters of General Washington’s ragged army of patriots. Now it was in the hands of the British and they were in a mood to celebrate. Some redcoats were making ready for Christmas. Others were writing long letters home to England, saying that the war was almost over. They told how Washington had been driven out of New York, how the British had stormed Fort Washington just north of the city and captured 2,600 American troops and large stores of military supplies. They told how Washington’s army had crossed the Hudson River and how General Cornwallis, with a large force of redcoats and Hessians, had chased him across the state of New Jersey. At his headquarters in New York, General Howe was preparing to spend a pleasant winter among his loyalist friends. He had many reasons for being cheerful. On December 13th, he had captured General Charles Lee, second in command of the American forces under Washington. The British had met with little resistance as they chased Washington through New Jersey and now some British units were as deep into New Jersey as Bordentown, only twenty-five miles from Philadelphia. Howe was particularly pleased by the fact that thousands of colonists in New Jersey had welcomed the British and had taken advantage of his offer to pardon all who renewed their oaths of allegiance to King George. What was left of Washington’s army had escaped across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Howe knew that most of the troops under Washington would be free to go home after their term of …

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The Final Break 1776


The fog was lifting over New York early on the morning of June 29, 1776, when a man named Daniel McCurtin happened to glance out over the bay. At first he saw nothing but mist hanging low over the water then suddenly he blinked and stared in amazement. Later he tried to describe the scene. He wrote that he had “spied as I peeped out the Bay something resembling a wood of pine trees trimmed. I declare, at my noticing this, that I could not believe my eyes, but keeping my eyes fixed at the very spot, judge you of my surprise when in about ten minutes, the whole Bay was full of shipping as ever it could be. I declare that I thought all London was afloat.” Washington’s lookouts on the share of Long Island were blinking, too, as General Howe’s mighty fleet of 130 ships arrived in the Lower Bay. This was the Army Howe had taken to Halifax after being forced out of Boston, but now it was greatly strengthened. The fleet anchored near Staten Island, shifting its anchorage in the bay several times during the next few days. The Americans waited, trying to guess where the attack would come. At Manhattan? Or Brooklyn? Or would Howe sail up the Hudson and attempt to join forces with a British army coming down from Canada by land? Howe finally put his army ashore on Staten Island at the month of the harbour, which was not defended. The British were not yet ready to strike. They were awaiting reinforcements from England. The delay gave Washington more time to fortify his positions in Manhattan and across the East River on Brooklyn Heights. To defend both places meant splitting his small army in half, with the East River between them. Had …

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A Divided Country 1776


One chilly morning in April, General Howe stepped out of his Boston headquarters and stared in amazement at a hill called Dorchester Heights, to the south of the city. It had been fortified during the night by George Washington’s rebel army. Strong breastworks of ice blocks and brown earth ran along the crest of the bill. Above the steepest slopes, barrels filled with rocks stood balanced, ready to be sent tumbling down the hill in the path of attacking troops. Studying the hill through his glass, Howe could make out several companies of riflemen and some units with muskets. What disturbed him most were the cannon, all well placed on the top of the hill where they could pound Boston and a good part of the Royal Fleet in the harbour. None of the British cannon, from their low positions‚ could possibly place their shots farther than the bottom of the hill. Howe made ready to attack, then changed his mind, probably haunted by the horrors of Bunker Hill. The British began making preparations to withdraw from the city. For the redcoats, the act of leaving Boston must have seemed like an escape from a prison city. They had been hemmed in there for many months, overcrowded‚ short of food and fuel. The civilian population had increased steadily, for a constant flow of colonial refugees had poured into the city to seek the protection of the British army. These refugees supported the mother country and called themselves loyalists because of their loyalty to the king. During the winter they had caused serious food and housing problems and greatly endangered the health of all. WASHINGTON TAKES BOSTON It may have been one of the loyalists who carried smallpox into the city. The disease had spread rapidly and raged for several weeks. …

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Good King George and the Dragon 1775

King George

Samuel Adams was an unhappy man. He moved among the other delegates to Congress like a lonely, silent shadow, keeping his thoughts to himself. He dared not open his mouth for fear of saying too much. Months had passed since the Battle of Bunker Hill. Colonial troops had made an unsuccessful attempt to drive the British from Canada. Congress had organized the Committee of Secret Correspondence to find out what help to expect from European countries in their war with England. In December of 1775, Congress had ordered the building of an American navy. Yet, in spite of all these warlike activities, Samuel Adams and other radicals did not dare speak openly about independence. It was not fear of England that kept them silent. They were already marked men and knew they would all probably hang if they fell into British hands. They were afraid the cause of freedom might be harmed if they spoke out too soon. They knew that most Americans were not yet ready to break away from the British Empire. One of the most serious obstacles to independence was the people’s feeling about King George. The colonists not only remained loyal to him, but believed him to be innocent of any wrongdoing. The radicals themselves were largely to blame. They had always been careful not to say anything critical about the king. They had believed that they could more effectively stir up public opinion against Parliament if they also proved their loyalty by praising King George at the same time. Now they did not dare to speak out against the king for fear of offending the people. The false picture of a saintly king had to be destroyed before the people would be willing to fight for independence, but Samuel Adams and other radical leaders did …

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