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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 Nations Disunited 1943 -1949

united nations

So at last, in the Pacific as in Europe, the guns were silent; the nations that had brought so much death and destruction to the world had been defeated, but victory alone was not enough. Governments had to be set up for the defeated nations, the destruction of war had to be repaired, hungry people had to be fed, industry and commerce had to be set in motion. Even more important, a way had to be found to keep war out of the world, to settle disputes between nations by peaceful means rather than by violence. The League of Nations, which had been set up for such a purpose after World War I, had failed, but the attempt had to be made again, for a third world war might well destroy all of civilization. Even before World War II ended, President Roosevelt had been looking ahead to the future and the United States proposed the establishment of a new international organization. Her wartime allies were quick to agree. Meeting in Moscow in October of 1943, the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China declared: “The four powers recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security.” Representatives of the same four nations met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington from August 21 to October 7, 1944, to discuss plans for the new organization. When Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met at Yalta in February of 1945, they agreed that the United Nations Conference on International Organization be held at San Francisco in April. The conference was held as scheduled and it was attended by representatives of fifty nations at …

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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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“Peace in Our Time” 1938 – 1939

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia was a country of many peoples. The largest groups were the Czechs and the Slovaks, but in the region called Sudetenland lived 3,000‚000 Germans. Although Sudetenland had never belonged to Germany — it had once been under the rule of Austria — Hitler was determined to “bring the Sudeten Germans home.” The Nazis had been active in Sudetenland for some time and after Hitler took over Austria they became busier than ever. Throughout the spring and summer of 1938, the Sudeten Germans made demands on the Czech government. In Germany, there were threatening troop movements. Hitler also began the construction of what became known as the Siegfried Line — fortifications that ran along the Rhine River, stretching from Switzerland to the Netherlands. It seemed as if war would break out at any moment, but Hitler had France, the Soviet Union and Britain to reckon with. France and the Soviet Union had agreed to aid Czechoslovakia if it was invaded and Britain supported France, so at first, Hitler moved cautiously. Then, in August, danger of war flared up again. The German armed forces called up nearly a million and a half men for maneuvers. At the same time, the Sudeten Germans were carrying on negotiations with the Czech government. The government agreed to give them almost complete control of the Sudetenland, but would Hitler be satisfied? The answer would come on September 12, when Hitler would make a speech to the congress of the Nazi party at Nuremberg. As that day approached, Britain and France did what they could to strengthen their defenses. The day arrived and Hitler made his speech in a stadium packed with shouting Nazis. He demanded “justice” for the Sudeten Germans. They must have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to join Germany. …

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Dictatorship and Civil War 1926-1939

franco

THE END OF World War I brought many changes of government in Europe, but in a number of countries the old aristocrats and landowners still had power and the new governments could not solve the problems that faced them. Among these countries was Poland. A democratic form of government had been established, but conflicts between various parties and their leaders kept it from being very effective. General Joseph Pilsudski had helped to set up the new government of Poland. He retired from public office in 1922, when Poland adopted a democratic constitution. Pilsudski wanted a bigger and stronger Poland and he was dissatisfied with what the government was doing. In 1926 he led his armed followers on Warsaw, the nation’s capital and the tramp of marching men sounded in Poland, as it did in Italy and Germany. Within a few days, Pilsudski was in control of the government. Although from time to time he held various offices in the government, Pilsudski was really the dictator of Poland until his death in 1935. Shortly before he died, Pilsudski put through a new constitution. While it called for certain democratic procedures, such as the election of a parliament, it merely made official Pilsudski’s military dictatorship. Pilsudski’s place was taken by General Edward Smigly-Rydz, the inspector-general of the army. He ruled with the aid of a group of military men known as the “colonels.” Although Poland’s political organization was looser than that of Germany or Italy, its form of government was very close to fascism. Much the same thing was true in the countries of the Balkans — in Greece, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria and Rumania. During the 1920’s and early 1930’s Greece tried various forms of government. It was at times a monarchy, at times a dictatorship and at times a democratic republic. …

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Rasputin and War 1914-1917

rasputin

THE TSARINA Alexandra was a religious woman. That was why she was immediately interested in Rasputin, when he was introduced to her in 1905. Rasputin was neither a priest nor a monk. He was a starets, or Holy Man. There were a number of such Holy Men in Russia at that time. They left their homes and families to wander about the country, living on charity and devoting themselves to religion. Often people came to them, hoping to hear words of wisdom and advice on how to conduct their lives. The tsarina, too, felt the need of someone to give her advice and words of wisdom. She was troubled by the problems of the tsar; she kept urging him not to give up any of his power and then there was her fifteen-month-old son. He was the tsarevitch, the prince who would someday be tsar — if he lived. For he suffered from hemophilia, a hereditary disease that prevented his blood from clotting properly. Even a slight wound might cause him to bleed to death. THE HOLY MAN Rasputin became a frequent visitor to the palace. It turned out that he had a strange ability to soothe and comfort the tsarevitch and make him forget his pain. Some people said that he hypnotized the boy. At any rate, Alexandra came to believe that her son’s life depended on Rasputin and her faith in him grew from day to day. With his long beard and his long hair that reached to his shoulders, Rasputin did indeed look like a Holy Man, but the life he led had little to do with holiness. He had an enormous appetite for food and drink. It was no secret around the palace that he spent many a night in wild, drunken parties, staggering home early …

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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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Industry Transforms America 1865-1914

industry

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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