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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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The Victors Reconstruct Europe 1918 – 1919

Versailles

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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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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India and the Indies 1856 – 1914

indies

In 1856, Great Britain was at war with Russia in the Black Sea area and with the Chinese emperor in south China. Many British troops had been withdrawn from India to fight on these battlefronts. As a result, nine-tenths of the 200,000-man army guarding Great Britain’s largest and richest possession, the subcontinent of India in south-central Asia, consisted of native soldiers called sepoys. At the time, the British were putting a new type of rifle into service in the Indian Army. To load it, a rifleman had to insert each cartridge separately and the cartridges were covered with grease. In January of 1857, rumours began to circulate among the sepoys in the Ganges Valley. The cartridge grease, it was whispered, came from animals. Moslems believed that it came from pigs, which their religion taught them to shun in any form, while Hindus believed it came from cows, which they held sacred. So sepoys of both religions refused to handle the new rifles. THE SEPOY REVOLT This refusal to bear arms was an act of mutiny which the British felt they could not leave unpunished, but punishment only made the sepoys desperate. On May 10, troops at the key post of Meerut massacred the British officers and their families. Other garrisons rebelled and hordes of peasants, villagers, Moslem and Hindu, joined them. The uprising was supported by native princes, who were either fretting under British rule or feared that the British would soon take over their lands. By June, most of northeast India was in rebellion. The Sepoy Revolt, as the rebellion was called, was the bloodiest event of Great Britain’s long history in India. Hundreds of Englishmen were slain, some with their families and countless thousands of Indians slaughtered in revenge by British troops and loyal sepoys. Cities were burned, …

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Stepping-Stones for the West, 1869

suez

ON NOVEMBER 16, 1869, the sun rose over the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and shone on the blue water. The squat buildings of Port Said, on the shore of Egypt, glowed against the clear sky. A new town, Port Said had begun to rise only ten years before from the barren plain that joins Africa to Asia. In the man-made harbour were crowded eighty ships. Some were warships, others merchantmen, but all were strung with brightly-coloured pennants. On board were distinguished visitors, among them the emperor of Austria-Hungary, the crown prince of Prussia, the prince of Holland and ambassadors, generals, admirals from many lands. As the sun climbed higher, passengers began to appear on the decks and hundreds of other people gathered on the piers and the seawall. At eight o’clock‚ the warships’ big guns boomed out salutes to the European monarchs‚ to the khedive’s of Egypt and to the khedive’s overlord, the sultan of Turkey. When the smoke cleared, a trim, graceful vessel came steaming toward the harbour — the French imperial yacht Aigle. Again the cannon thundered, to welcome Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III. She was the guest of honour and as her yacht glided past, the sailors on the other ships stood at attention, cheering, while music blared from several bands. The black-haired empress, standing on the Aigle’s bridge, smiled to left and right. She looked happy, proud and by the time her yacht had docked, everyone agreed she was as beautiful as she was said to be. In the afternoon, the visitors, in uniforms, frock coats and formal gowns and Egyptians‚ who wore flowing robes, all trooped out onto the desert. There, perhaps for the first time, Christians and Moslems worshiped side by side. The Moslems were led in prayer by the …

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Democracy Spreads 1867-1905

DEMOCRACY IN the Scandinavian countries, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland followed the pattern of the three large democracies. Everywhere during this period there was a trend toward constitutional government, elected law-making bodies, cabinet ministers with responsibility to the people, liberty, personal rights and voting rights for all men in the lower classes. In Canada, the most difficult problem was nationalism. At the time of the Civil War in the United States, Canada consisted of a number of British provinces, most of which were independent of each other. The oldest of these was the province of Quebec in the Saint Lawrence valley. As it was originally a French colony‚ its people still spoke French, obeyed laws similar to those of France and worshipped in the Catholic Church. Although they had lived under the British flag for many years, they were afraid that the great flood of immigrants from England would destroy their way of life and felt that as Frenchmen they should form a nation of their own. At the same time, British subjects in other parts of Canada felt that all the provinces should join together in one large nation. The problem was finally solved by uniting all the provinces in one nation, but allowing each province to retain control of local affairs. The Canadians wrote a constitution for the new nation, which was approved by the British Parliament in 1867 when it passed the British North America Act. The constitution provided that the Dominion of Canada should have a parliament with a cabinet responsible to the political party in power. At that time, the Dominion consisted of four provinces — Quebec‚ Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Manitoba became a province in 1870 and British Columbia in 1871. The Canadian Pacific Railroad was built to connect these western provinces with …

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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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The Road to Yorktown 1777 – 1781

yorktown

The big English setter did not look like a stray dag. When it came wandering into Washington’s camp one day in the fall of 1777, a soldier brought it to his officer. The officer took it directly to Washington’s headquarters and pointed out the name on the dog’s collar–“General Howe.” Washington had the dog fed while he wrote a polite note to General Howe. Half an hour later, the dog and the note were sent to the British camp under a flag of truce. The incident was not important, but it gave the Americans something to laugh and joke about for several days. There had not been much cause for laughter in recent weeks. General Howe had taken Philadelphia, America’s capital and its largest city, after defeating Washington at Brandywine and at Germantown. Washington’s losses had been heavy. He was now camped in the hills of Valley Forge, some twenty miles from Philadelphia, in desperate need of supplies of all kinds. In the North, moving down from Montreal, General Burgoyne had captured the fort at Ticonderoga and had continued on to Fort Edwards on the Hudson. Burgoyne, however, was having his troubles, too. He was almost out of food and his supply base at Montreal lay 185 miles north, through almost trackless wilderness. Burgoyne knew that east of him there were large stores of food and many cattle at Bennington, in what is now Vermont. He sent out a detachment of 1,300 men to raid the place and to bring back all the cattle and horses they could find. The detachment marched into a trap which had been set for it by John Stark and his New England militia and when the short battle was over, the British had lost. American losses were thirty killed and forty wounded. The Indians …

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The Boston Tea Party 1773 -1774

East India Company

Due to the taxes on tea, many of the colonists began drinking coffee or cocoa, or bought tea smuggled in from Holland. Within a few years, the British tea trade with the colonists dropped from 900,000 pounds to 237,000 pounds and in England the warehouses of the East India Company were filled to overflowing. The East India Company was Britain’s largest and most important trading company and to save it, Parliament passed the Tea Act. The East India Company was given a monopoly on tea trade with the colonies — that is, it was the only company allowed to sell tea to the Americans. It was also permitted to sell its tea through its agents directly to retail stores. This plan would cut out the profit made by British and American shippers and importers. Even after the tax had been paid, the British tea could be sold in the colonies at a price far below that of smuggled tea. The British believed they had hit upon the perfect way to solve the troublesome tea problem. The colonists would rush to buy tea at a low price, the East India Company would be saved, the government would collect its tax and everyone would be happy. To the surprise of the British, nothing of the sort happened. The Americans were angrier than ever. The merchants feared that if the direct-selling plan of the Tea Act was successful, England would decide to sell other goods in the same way, and many businessmen would be ruined. It was clear, too, that England had deliberately kept the tax on tea to show that Parliament had the right to tax colonial imports for the purpose of raising money. Leading American lawyers denied that Parliament had such a right. An import tax on low-priced tea was just …

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The Stamp Act, 1765 – 1772

stamp act

Another unpopular step England took after the war was to reorganize her defense system in the colonies. The French and Indian War had proved to the British that the colonies could not be depended upon to defend themselves. Some new system had to be worked out in North America, to defend not only the colonies, but also Canada, Florida and the wilderness east of the Mississippi. England decided to leave this task to a standing army of ten thousand British redcoats. Such an army would cost a great deal of money. Taxpayers in England were already paying very high taxes and could not be asked to pay more. Their taxes supported the powerful British navy, which protected the colonies as well as the mother country. It seemed no more than fair that the colonies should pay at least part of the expenses of the standing army in North America. The soldiers were there, after all, for their own protection. Accordingly, the colonies were given a year to raise the money themselves. They were warned that England would have to tax them if they failed to do so. For a year the colonists did nothing. They saw no need of supporting an army they had not asked for and did not want. Since the French forces had been driven from American soil, a large standing army seemed unnecessary. The colonists suspected that the real purpose of the army was to strengthen British control over all the colonial governments. England’s law-making body in London, the British Parliament, finally passed the Stamp Act in 1765. It required the colonists to buy stamps from British tax collectors. These stamps were to be placed on all newspapers, playing cards, dice and almanacs sold in the colonies and also on certain papers having to do with …

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