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The Hapsburgs and Rivals Keep Europe in Turmoil

central europe

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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A Time of Change 1948-1962

de gaulle

All times are, more or less, times of change, but the changes that took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s were extraordinary. This was particularly true in the part of the world dominated by the Soviet Union. During Stalin’s rule, the satellite countries — East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania — were like provinces of Russia. The one exception in Eastern Europe was Yugoslavia. In 1948, the Yugoslav government, headed by Josef Tito, refused to follow Stalin’s orders and insisted on maintaining its independence. This was possible for two reasons. There was no Russian army in Yugoslavia, as there was in other countries and Yugoslavia did not border on the Soviet Union. Tito’s defiance enraged Stalin, who boasted, “I will shake my little finger and there will be no more Tito. He will fail.” Stalin was certain Tito would fail because Yugoslavia carried on almost all of its trade with Eastern Europe and lacked the resources to be self-sufficient. Stalin had not reckoned with the United States. Realizing that it would be wise to support Tito in his struggle with Stalin, the United States gave military and economic aid to Yugoslavia. The little country prospered and gained complete independence from Russia. Stalin and not Tito, had failed. For five years the people of Eastern Europe were quiet. Then in June of 1953, three months after Stalin had died, the workers of East Germany rose up against the government of Walter Ulbricht, who had been hand-picked by Stalin. The Communist government might have been overthrown if the Russian army had not been called in. The troops crushed the revolt and Ulbricht remained in power — but the uprising was a warning of what was to come. Three years later, after Khrushchev’s famous “de-Stalinization” speech, Eastern Europeans asked themselves …

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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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After the Peace of Paris 1919 – 1920

league

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

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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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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Europe Divided 1825 -1881

decembrist

IN EUROPE and North America, nationalism generally led to the creation of larger states and the centralization of power. In the Austrian Empire, however, nationalism had the opposite effect; it led to the break-up of the empire and the creation of a large number of small states. The reason was that the Austrian Empire was made up of people of different nationalities, each with its own language and customs. Although the German-speaking Austrians were only about one-fifth of the total population, the ruling family, the Hapsburgs, was Austrian and Austrians held most of the important government positions. The German-speaking people lived mainly in Austria and parts of Bohemia. The Czechs lived in Bohemia and Moravia. The majority of the people in Hungary were Magyars. The empire also included many Italians, Rumanians and Slavs. The Slavs, all of whom spoke Slavic languages, were in turn divided into Czechs, Slovaks, Poles and Yugoslavs. The revolutions that took place in the empire in 1848 failed as the different national groups quarreled among themselves. When Vienna was retaken from the rebels, the old leaders — the army officers, the nobles, the wealthy landowners, the churchmen — knew they would regain their power, but Emperor Ferdinand had promised the people too much. He was forced to step down so that his son Francis Joseph could take the throne and Francis Joseph would not be bound by the promises made by his father. The government then became more oppressive than ever. It did away with constitutions and took a firm stand against any form of liberalism or democracy. It called out soldiers to strike down any demonstrations of nationalism. Although the government did make some effort to improve business conditions, it was unpopular with the people. AUSTRIA-HUNGARY In 1867, the two leading national groups, the German …

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The Revolution of 1848; 1830-1848

austria

LOUIS PHILIPPE always spoke of himself humbly as the “citizen king.” Although he was dignified, friendly and tried to do things that would make him popular, his government could not satisfy the needs of the people. The reason was that only one out of every thirty Frenchmen had the right to vote. The Chamber of Deputies represented only the nobles and the rich upper crust of the middle class and often it did not even debate questions that were of importance to the great majority of the people. Many Frenchmen did not like the new king. The republicans were opposed to having any king at all. The “liberals” — people of the middle class who favoured a constitutional monarchy thought his government was too conservative and did not allow enough freedom. As the years passed, more and more Frenchmen, including the workers in the cities, turned against him because he refused to support their demand for the right to vote. The liberals were forbidden to hold meetings at which they could present their demands. To get around this, they decided to follow the British system of holding political banquets. At the first of these, held in Paris in the summer of 1847, they demanded that the election laws be changed to include most of the middle classes. They also wanted freedom of trade and of the press. The banquet was so successful that similar gatherings were held in almost every town in the nation. Then the liberals announced that a great banquet, with a parade and demonstrations in the streets, would be held in Paris on the night of February 22, 1848. When the government refused to allow it, the angry people of Paris gathered in the streets. They milled about, not knowing what to do, for no plans had …

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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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The Thirty Years War 1618 – 1625

bohemia

EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN I of the Holy Roman Empire walked up to a wild lion and pulled out its tongue; his enemies set his house on fire, tried to poison him and ambushed him twenty times; wild bears attacked him three times, stupid servants ignited powder kegs near him and five boats capsized under him, but always he escaped unharmed. He was a greater general than Julius Caesar, a brilliant musician, scholar and inventor. All these stories were proof that Maximilian was a great hero — but they were written by authors whom Maximilian himself hired to do the job. He supplied some of the plots himself and he made sure the stories were properly heroic. Then he had them illustrated by the finest artists of Europe. In real life, Maximilian was indeed a bold soldier and a fine hunter and he was also a shrewd emperor. He did not have much power and one reason he had tales written about him was to encourage the German princes and dukes to give him more authority. Maximilian’s powers were weak because the Holy Roman Empire — Germany as it was later known — was a freak among European lands. The empire was as wealthy as other lands. It had a great trading league, the Hanse; the wealthiest bankers in Europe, the Fuggers; and more people than any neighbouring land. It even had fierce professional soldiers, the Landsknecht‚ who were feared throughout Europe. The empire was made up of scores of petty governments — principalities, dukedoms, margravates, landgravates and cities — which were united under the emperor only in the loosest way. Even its name was freakish, for the Holy Roman Empire was not particularly holy, it was far from Rome and it was so divided into tiny kingdoms that it was almost …

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