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Leadership of Churchmen and Nobles in the Middle Ages

churchmen

The civilizations of India, China and the Moslem world progressed to about the year 1500 A.D., but what had been happening in western Europe in the centuries after Roman power began to decline and barbarian tribesmen had overrun the lands once part of the proud Roman Empire? What had taken the place of Roman might, government and law in western Europe? As Rome’s rule faded away, western Europe entered a period known as the Middle Ages or the medieval period. For a long time there was neither a single empire nor nations as we know them to day. Central governments, such as there were, had little power. Warfare and violence were the rule rather than the exception. Bands of armed men roamed the countryside robbing and killing. Commerce dwindled from a stream to a mere trickle and cities diminished in number, size and importance. Men’s interest in art and learning became less and less. Only in the churches and monasteries where the men of God prayed and worked was there peace and learning. During the later Middle Ages forces were at work which were to bring about great changes in western Europe. For most people, however, the years from about 500 A.D. to 1300 A.D. were years of grinding toil on the little farms that encircled the villages. They were years of obedience to, and fear of, the grim armour clad fighting men who lived in the castles and manor houses dotting the countryside. They were years when the knowledge that had been developed by the Greeks and Romans was largely forgotten and the new learning of the Moslems was as yet little known. They were also years of ever growing religious faith. During that time the Catholic Church was not only the guardian of men’s consciences and souls; it …

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War in Korea 1945-1953

korea

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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A World at War 1939 – 1941

world war 2

Now the people of Europe began to hear a new sound, a sound that would haunt them throughout the years of war — the wail and shriek of air-raid sirens. At night, the lights of Europe went out and the “blackout” made familiar streets strange places of darkness. Street lamps were left unlit and windows were covered with heavy draperies. Any stray gleam of light might help guide enemy bombers to their targets. Hurrying about their wartime duties, the people of Britain and France began to wonder. They had not wanted war and yet war had come. Why? What had happened? It seemed mysterious and impossible to understand, but as they thought about it, certain things became clear. Some of the problems that led to World War II were left-overs from World War I. Germany and Italy had remained “have-not” nations. They needed more territory for raw materials and more markets for their goods. The Germans felt that the Versailles Treaty was humiliating, unjust and the Allies had done nothing to change it. The League of Nations, especially without the participation of the United States, had been weak and had not carried out its promise of real disarmament. The United States had not wanted to get involved in Europe’s problems and had followed a policy of “isolation.” These were some of the causes of the war; there were others as well. France had suffered greatly in World War I and was afraid of being drawn into another conflict. Her generals had hesitated to send troops against Hitler at a time when it was still possible to stop him and then there was the distrust of the Soviet Union and Communism. Many French and British statesmen, such as Chamberlain, had believed that Fascism would protect Europe against Communism. Unlike Churchill, they …

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Totalitarianism Versus Democracy

totalitarian

AS THE 1930’s drew to a close, only eight countries in Europe, besides Great Britain and France, were still democracies. They were Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Three of Europe’s most important nations were dictatorships. The Soviet Union was communist; Germany and Italy were fascist. There had been dictatorships before, but these went further; they were totalitarian. The word “totalitarian” comes from the word “total,” and total control is what these dictatorships were after — total control of their people, total control of their actions and thought. There were differences between the totalitarian countries. While Stalin exterminated his opponents as ruthlessly as the fascists, he sought to spread his power less by war than by internal revolt. Nor did the Soviets openly preach racial war and genocide. In Germany, however, the Nazis loudly boasted that the Germans were the master race, destined to conquer all other, inferior, peoples. “Today Germany,” they said, “tomorrow the world.” Furthermore, the fascists claimed to be the only ones who could stop Communism and the communists considered the fascists their worst enemies. As a result, the communists in some countries found themselves lined up with the defenders of democracy against fascism. In France they were part of the Popular Front. In the United States they supported Roosevelt and the New Deal. In Spain they fought against Franco side by side with men who believed in democracy, although the communists later betrayed the Spanish democrats. Three ideologies competed for control of the world and as events turned out, one totalitarian nation — the Soviet Union — would finally be forced to stand with the democracies against the totalitarians of Germany, Italy and Japan in the most terrible war in the history of the world.

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Stalemate in the West, Decision in the East 1914 -1917

trench warfare

Germany’s generals had for some time expected that they would have to fight both France and Russia, and Count Alfred von Schlieffen had devised a battle plan that took this into consideration. The Schlieffen Plan was a good one and it might well have brought the war to an early end — if General Helmut von Moltke, who succeeded Schlieffen as the German commander, had followed it. The plan called for the German army to be divided into an eastern force and a western force. Russia, vast and with few good roads or railroads, would need more time than France to bring up its troops; a fairly small German force could therefore hold off the Russians during the first weeks of the war. Meanwhile, a huge German force would invade France and would defeat it in six weeks. Then the victorious German troops in the west would be sent east to join their comrades in a massive thrust against Russia. The heart of the plan was the strike into France and at the start of the war, the huge German army in the west was poised along the French and Belgian borders. Its left wing, running north from Switzerland, consisted of only several divisions, each of 15,000 men, but its right wing, farther north, was made up of most of the German foot-soldiers under arms. The army was supposed to move like a gate swinging on a hinge. Its right wing was to advance rapidly across Belgium into northern France, catch the French army on its left and hurl it back. Caught between the German right and left wings, the French would have to give up or be destroyed. For the plan to succeed, the right wing had to be very strong. Count Schlieffen, had understood this; his last words …

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Storm Clouds over Europe 1882-1907

alliance

AS THE year 1899 drew to a close, Europeans and Americans began to wonder when, exactly, the nineteenth century would end and the twentieth century begin. Most people thought that this would take place at midnight of December 31, 1899, but historians disagreed. They pointed out that the first hundred years after the birth of Christ had ended with the final seconds of the year 100. Therefore, they said, the twentieth century would not begin until January 1, 1901. As they toasted the new century that New Year’s Day most people in Europe and America were satisfied and hopeful. Life was better for them than it had been for their fathers and grandfathers, they were certain that it would be better still for their sons and grandsons. They believed in human progress and looking back over the century just past, they could find good reasons for this belief. There had been no widespread fighting in Europe since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. The last war between European powers, the Franco-Prussian War, had taken place in 1870. Since then, thirty years of peace had brought tremendous benefits to the advanced countries of Europe. The growth of industry and trade had steadily enriched these countries and raised their living standards. With the spread of education, millions of people had learned to read and write. Democratic ideas were advancing everywhere; by now, most European countries had law-making assemblies with elected members and more people had the right to vote than ever before. As the powers had acquired territories on other continents, European ideas, beliefs and methods had come to dominate the entire world. Europeans were proud of their civilization and confident of the future. True, they had problems at home and abroad, but they were sure that their parliaments and …

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Nationalism and the Germans 1848-1870

GERMANS

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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Russia Under the Tsars 1462-1796

tsars

IN THE LAST PART of the fifteenth century, the monks and courtiers of Moscow began to say that Moscow was destined to become the “Third Rome.” The first Rome, they said had been great as the centre of Christianity; but when the Romans had recognized the pope, Rome had been punished by destruction. The second Rome had been Constantinople, the centre of the Orthodox Church; but Constantinople, too, had briefly recognized the pope, and it, too, had fallen. Now Moscow, where the Orthodox faith still remained pure, was to become the Third Rome — the great centre of the Christian world. It would remain so, “for two Romes have fallen, the third stands and a fourth will not be.” Once Moscow had been small and unimportant, but the dukes of Moscow had been bold and ambitious, seizing every opportunity to make Moscow stronger. Sometimes they acted more like thieves than princes. Grand Duke Daniel once invited another prince to dinner, pretending friendship. When the guest arrived, Daniel threw him into prison and seized his lands. Daniel’s son, Ivan, who was called Ivan Moneybags, made Moscow the home of the Metropolitan, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Ivan Moneybags also became the tax collector for the Tatar overlords and he kept a good part of the taxes, for himself. Other dukes stole or bought or conquered new lands to make Moscow greater. THE BOYARS So, when Ivan III became Grand Duke in 1462, he inherited one of the most powerful kingdoms of Russia. Ivan acted very much as though he believed the story of the Third Rome. He married Sophia, niece of the last Byzantine emperor. He put the two-headed eagle of Rome on his own state seal. He sometimes even called himself tsar, which was the Russian way of …

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The Sun King 1642 – 1715

louis

ALL HIS LIFE Cardinal Richelieu had been a sick man, but by the spring of 1642 he was dying. He carefully made his will, leaving to the king his elegant town house, eight sets of tapestries‚ and three beds. On December 2, he received the last sacraments of his church. “Does your Eminence pardon your enemies?” asked the priest and Richelieu answered, “I have no enemies but those of the State.” When Louis XIII learned that Richelieu had died, he said, “A great statesman is dead.” To take Richelieu’s place, Louis chose Jules Cardinal Mazarin, Richelieu’s own choice for his successor. A Sicilian and a clever diplomat, Mazarin had entered Richelieu’s service in 1639 and had adopted French citizenship. He was black-eyed, handsome and seemed as pleasant and reasonable as Richelieu was stern. He took up Richelieu’s work with energy. A year later, Louis XIII died of tuberculosis. He left his four-year-old son, Louis XIV, to rule France in name: the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria became regent and Mazarin continued to direct policy. The magistrates of the parlement, or high court, of Paris now looked forward to having their advice taken by the agreeable cardinal‚ who seemed so easy-going. The parlement quickly learned that Mazarin was as hard as Richelieu. They and the great lords began to hate him, to call him a thief, a buffoon, a peddler, an Italian imposter. To add to their annoyance, the long war against the Hapsburgs had been costly and they resented the high war taxes. In 1648 the parlement of Paris rebelled and demanded reforms and more power. Mazarin ordered the parlement’s leaders arrested and sent a guard to seize old Pierre Broussel, the most honest and popular of the magistrates. Broussel was eating lunch with his five children when  the guard …

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The War Spreads 1625 -1648

Richelieu,

THE BLOOD-LETTING in Germany aroused new ambitions in many of the kings of Europe. In Denmark and Sweden, the strong Protestant king: who were taming opposition at home began looking to Germany as a land ripe for conquest. Furthermore, in attacking Germany they were also attacking the hated power of Roman Catholicism. Quickest of all to act was Christian IV, king of Denmark. Christian did not doubt that he was equal to the task. At the age of five he had learned fencing and the use of firearms‚ waking at five each morning and practicing long hours. He became king when he was eleven, but did not really rule Denmark until he was fully grown up. Then he held a glorious coronation to celebrate his manhood. Surrounded by his courtiers and the ambassadors of the Protestant princes, he was proclaimed king. With his royal sword, he hacked at the air in four directions to show how he would protect the four corners of his kingdom and he grasped the Bible to show that he was a defender of Protestantism. Christian had a wild zest for life and loved a good fight, but he refused to allow too much disorder in Denmark. He ordered bishops and clergymen not to break their beer cups on their neighbour’s heads during funerals; noblemen who broke the heads of royal guards had to pay the damages. To keep order, Christian raised the hangmen’s pay, to a dollar a head, with an extra dollar for torture and four dollars for burning a witch. He also laid down laws to protect the Danes against the plague. Mothers were not to throw their babies in wells, lice-infested heads were to be washed in strong lye and children were to drink beer instead of water. Altogether, Christian proved to …

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