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Italy and Germany Become Unified nations


On May 11, 1860 an almost incredible military campaign began with the landing of Guiseppe Garibaldi on the western tip of Sicily. Garibaldi was a handsome, dashing, reckless warrior patriot. With him were a thousand devoted followers, clad in red shirts. Maybe red shirts were easier to shoot at than green or gray, but for every bullet, they attracted a recruit from the ranks of the enemy. The island of Sicily was one of the two parts of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The other “Sicily” was the southern third of the peninsula of Italy. The capital of the Kingdom was the beautiful but overcrowded city of Naples, where a king of the Bourbon family headed one of the worst governments in Europe. Garibaldi hated the King of the Two Sicilies for two reasons: (1) The King’s misrule was an insult to all true Italians and (2) even a good separate government at Naples would have stood in the way of bringing Italy together into a single, unified free country. Garibaldi felt that war had to be made against the King. No country already in existence would send troops on such a mission, but that didn’t bother Garibaldi. He resolved to wage his own war as a patriotic citizen of a country not yet born. He set out from Genoa, sailed westward for a few miles and then made for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The story of what followed is a story of how freedom overcomes tyranny if it has half a chance to do so. The King’s army had no heart for fighting. It melted away and as it shrank, Garibaldi’s army grew. Within a week after landing in Sicily, Garibaldi had won his first battle against the King. Two months later, Garibaldi controlled all of …

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The Roman Empire Preserves and Extends Civilization

roman empire

Today we speak the words, “I am a World citizen,” with pride. To the people of the ancient world the statement, “I am a Roman citizen,” was a badge of high honour. Beginning as a small city state in Italy, Rome grew into a vigorous republic and finally into an empire so mighty that it included the whole of the Mediterranean world. Even after Rome’s grandeur had waned, its influence lived on among later peoples. Rome’s history is a reminder that the destiny of a nation rests more on the wisdom of its leaders and the character of its people than it does on military might and economic strength. Consider for a moment the two following scenes from Roman history. (1) The year is 216 B.C. It is a sad day in Rome. Word has just been brought of a great disaster. A Carthaginian general named Hannibal has invaded Italy and has just wiped out the Roman army that faced him. Rome’s allies are wavering in their loyalty. Some have already gone over to the enemy. An immediate attack on Rome is expected. Yet, the Senate (Rome’s council of state) refuses to give up hope and calls upon the citizens for fresh troops and supplies. It puts the city in a state of siege, or on the alert for final defense against destruction. It refuses to pay a ransom for Romans taken prisoners by the Carthaginians. When the Roman general who lost the battle returns with a handful of soldiers, he is not criticized. Instead, the Senate praises him for not giving up hope of saving the state. The confidence of the Senate was justified. Fifteen years later, it was Carthage and not Home that was conquered. In this crisis you see the Romans showing qualities which made them great: courage …

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The Unification of Italy 1831-1870


ITALY HAD long been divided into small states. All their governments, except that of the Kingdom of Sardinia, were unpopular and continued to rule largely because they were supported by Austria. Italians had a special reason for wanting freedom and unification. They could remember that once the Roman Empire had ruled the world and that later Italy had been the home of free republics. For three hundred years Italy had been invaded and plundered again and again. The last of the invaders was Austria and before the Italians could form one nation they would have to free themselves from the Austrians. The leaders of the unification movement in Italy were all liberals — that is, they wanted a constitutional government controlled by the middle classes rather than a democracy controlled by the common people. Among them was Giuseppe Mazzini. He had been a member of a secret society, the Carbonari, which attempted to win freedom by revolution in 1820 and 1830. Each time the revolt was put down by Austrian troops. In 1831, Mazzini openly organized a society called Young Italy. Through it he was able to reach the great mass of Italians and he urged them to rise up and throw off their native and foreign kings. All kings were bad, he said; Italy should unite and establish a republic. During the Revolutions of 1848, Mazzini and the famous revolutionary fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi set up the Roman Republic in the Papal States, but French forces sent to protect the Pope overthrew the new republic. The truth was that Mazzini could stir the people with his speeches and writings, but he had no practical plan for achieving unification. CAVOUR AND NAPOLEON III Far more practical was Count Camillo Cavour, who became prime minister under Victor Emmanuel, King of Sardinia, in …

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The Monk from Wittenberg 1505-1546

ON A SULTRY JULY DAY IN 1505, a young law student, Martin Luther, was walking along a country road in Germany when a summer storm blew up. The air grew heavy and black clouds filled the sky. Before Luther could take shelter, thunder began to crash. A bolt of lightning struck the road almost at his feet. Thrown to the ground, he lay shaking, not certain whether he was alive or dead. “Help me, Saint Anne,” he cried, “help me and I will become a monk.” After a moment, Luther’s trembling stopped. He stood up, found that he was not hurt and continued his walk toward Erfurt, the town in which he attended the university. He did not forget his promise to Saint Anne. He spent a week or so thinking and making plans. Then he told his professors that he could come no more to their classes. He sold his books, bade farewell to his friends and went to the monastery of the Augustinian friars and said that it was his wish to become a monk. When Martin’s father, old Hans Luther, heard what his son had done, he was puzzled and angry. Hans had worked hard all of his life. Though his ancestors had been peasant farmers, he had managed to set himself up in a little business. But he was far from rich; he had scrimped and saved to send his son to school and to the university. He had long looked forward to the time when Martin would be a lawyer, a man of standing who would make his parents proud and earn the money to care for them in their old age. Now those plans were ruined. As a monk, Martin would never win fame or riches. Hans was furious and he wrote to Martin …

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England’s Elizabeth: Queen of Words and Music 1511 – 1603


In 1600, the Duke Virginio Orsini‚ nephew of the Medici ruler of Florence, arrived in England. He came to spend the New Year’s holidays and to see for himself the woman who fascinated all Europe. She was Elizabeth, queen of England and she was already a legend. To aristocratic travelers, such as the Duke Orsini, she was the most important tourist sight in England. Years later, she would still be as fascinating as any woman in history, for in her time — the Elizabethan Age — her country flourished as never before and the Renaissance blossomed in England. As a girl of twenty-five, Elizabeth had come to the throne of a kingdom torn by religious hatred and civil wars. Her towns were poverty stricken, her farmlands unsown and her army and navy devastated by a series of disastrous foreign wars. Her subjects were weary and confused after years in which short-lived monarchs had alternately honoured and defied the pope and the church of England had split away from the church at Rome. Across the English Channel, the kings of France, Spain and other Catholic nations prepared to attack. They were sure that England, with only a woman to lead it, would soon be easily conquered. THE “FLORENTINE” QUEEN Yet forty years later, when the Duke Orsini came to London, Elizabeth was still queen, the ruler of a kingdom as great as any in Europe. This seeming miracle was the queen’s own doing. “I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman,” she had told her people, “but I have the heart and stomach of a king.” She had lived up to her words, for she proved to have the commanding air of her kingly father and grandfather, Henry VIII and Henry VII. England had never known …

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Florence, First City of the Renaissance 1200-1480


March 25, 1436, was the Feast of the Annunciation and the city of Florence was decked out for a celebration. Banners flew everywhere, ribbons and garlands of flowers decorated the houses and draperies of cloth-of-gold were looped across the shop-fronts. The city bustled with excitement, for on this Annunciation Day the pope was to dedicate the Duomo, the wonderful new Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, then the largest church in the world. At dawn, the people began to fill the streets. They crowded around the high wooden walk that led to the cathedral from the monastery where the pope was staying. At mid-morning, when a blare of trumpets signaled the start of the ceremonies, a great procession filed along the walk. The pope, robed in white and crowned with a tiara, was attended by seven cardinals, clothed in scarlet and 37 bishops and archbishops, all in purple. There were the priors, the governors of Florence and the representatives of the people of sixteen districts of the city. Each representative carried a standard marked with the emblem of his district, such as the lion, the unicorn, or the viper. Marching in a solemn line came the leaders of the seven great guilds — the wool merchants, the Silk weavers, the bankers, the notaries, the druggists (who also dealt in spices and jewels), the furriers and the calimala, the ancient and honoured guild of cloth merchants. Behind them came the officers of fourteen “Guilds of Lesser Arts” shoemakers, bakers, innkeepers, grocers, carpenters and the like. As the procession entered the cathedral, all the church bells in Florence rang out. Their deep voices called across the city, resounded in the fields beyond and echoed in the hills of Tuscany. Triumphantly they proclaimed the greatness of the new Duomo that the Florentines said …

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The Sound of Bells and Trumpets in Europe 1300 – 1600


Bells and trumpets sounded across Europe in the time that men would call the Middle Ages. Knights in glistening armour rode forth to serve God and their kings; life was like a stately procession winding through a landscape marked by castles and cathedrals. Each man knew his place. He was a prince, a knight, a squire, a priest, a craftsman, or a serf. He wore the clothes that belonged to his rank — the armour and family emblems of a nobleman, the robes of a churchman, or the rough wool jerkin of a serf. He lived according to an age-old set of rules — the knightly code of chivalry, the vows of a monk, or the duties of a serf to the lord who owned the land he farmed. Such, it was said, was the will of God. It seemed impossible to imagine that life could ever be any different and indeed, almost no one remembered that it had been different in the past. In Athens, once the most beautiful and exciting city in the world, the palaces and temples of the Greeks were vacant ruins, overgrown with weeds. In Rome, the vast arenas and the Senate House were silent. The Forum, the ancient gathering place of Roman throngs and center of the greatest empire man had known was now a cow pasture. Hidden away in the castles and cathedral libraries, manuscripts that held the science, poetry and wisdom of two thousand years of life and discovery lay dusty and unread. All this, too, it was said, was the will of God. To the men of the Middle Ages, ruins taught a lesson: life was short, the works of mankind soon fell to dust and a man’s time on earth should be spent only in preparing for death and what came …

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Feudal Germany 936 -1250


THE WINTER of 1077 was one of the coldest on record in Italy. Ice and snow choked the mountain passages in the north and snowdrifts were piled high well into the south — as far south as the castle of Canossa, which was southeast of Parma. The fortified castle belonged to the countess of Tuscany and here Pope Gregory VII had taken refuge, fearing an attack by his enemies. On January 25, a man stood outside the Castle gate, barefoot in spite of the snow and cold. He was no ordinary penitent come to ask forgiveness of the pope. He was Henry IV of Germany, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He had made a long and perilous journey with his wife, his young son and a few followers. For three days the emperor waited for the pope to pardon him and lift the ban of excommunication. Excommunication was banishment from the Church and was the most terrible punishment that could be given to a believer of the Middle Ages. Excommunication meant that he was deprived of all the privileges of a Christian. He could not attend church services, he was denied the sacraments, he could not be buried in consecrated ground. In excommunicating Henry, Pope Gregory hoped to force him to acknowledge the pope’s authority to appoint his own bishops. Henry knew that until the ban of excommunication was lifted his nobles would not accept him as king; he had little choice but to humiliate himself. Pope Gregory, for his part, knew that Henry would be a dangerous opponent once he was restored to the throne, but Gregory, too, had little choice; it was his Christian duty to take back into the Church anyone who begged so humbly for forgiveness. As Gregory later wrote, Henry “came in person to …

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Charles, Called the Great 771 – 814


IT WAS COLD INSIDE the great cathedral of St. Peter in Rome on Christmas day, in the year 800. The breath of the closely packed worshipers rose like steam. Although their heads were bowed in prayer, many of the worshipers stole a quick glance at the man kneeling near the high altar. He was tall and heavy, with fair hair and a flowing mustache; he was dressed in a simple tunic and a fur-trimmed cloak. When the devotions came to an end, the tall man started to rise. At that moment, Pope Leo III, Splendid in his gold-encrusted vestments, stepped forward quickly. Placing a gold Crown on the tall man’s head, the pope said in a loud voice, “To Charles Augustus, crowned of God, great and pacific emperor of the Romans — life and victory!” The crowd in the cathedral cheered‚ just as Roman crowds had cheered so many times in the past at the coronations of the Caesars. The new emperor was no Caesar; in fact, he was not even a Roman. He was a German and the king of the Franks. His name was Charles and at the time of his coronation he was called Charlemagne, which meant “Charles the Great” in French. Charlemagne was born in the year 742, the eldest son of Pepin the Short and the grandson of Charles Martel. In 752, when Charlemagne was ten years old, his father became king of the Franks. Charlemagne and his younger brother, Carloman, were proclaimed King Pepin’s rightful heirs and after Pepin died in 768, his realm was divided between them. Carloman died three years later and Charlemagne was sole ruler of the Franks. He immediately began the first of the many wars that marked his reign. Altogether, he conducted fifty-four campaigns — against the Lombards, the …

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Byzantium and Russia 400 B. C. – 1240 A. D.


THE BEGINNINGS of Russian history date back to the centuries when Byzantium was at the height of its glory. A thousand years before that Herodotus, the Greek explorer, found Greek settlements on the northern shore of the Black Sea. They traded with the Scythians, a tribe of nomads living on the open plains that stretched eastward for thousands of miles to the mountains of Asia. Bordering these plains on the north were the forest lands and above them, in the far north, stretched the frozen wastes of the arctic tundra. In all that vast land there were no barriers, no high mountains to serve as national boundaries. Even the rivers gave little protection against invasion, for they could be crossed when they froze in the winter. As a result, there was a constant shitting of tribes, the strong pushing back the weak. The Scythians who once held the grassy plains above the Black Sea were pushed away by the Sarmatians and they in turn gave way to the Goths in the third century. An invasion of Huns from the Mongolian desert in the fourth century overran everything in its path. It pressed far into Europe, threatening both Constantinople and Rome. All the conquered peoples, including the Slavic tribes of the forest, were forced to pay taxes to Attila, king of the Huns, for many years. Upon his death in the fifth century, the power of the Huns was broken and the tribes won their freedom again. Then followed a series of tribal wars and a general shifting of populations. Where the Slavs came from originally is not known, but they first appear in history on the Vistula River in the fifth century, as subjects of the Huns. It is possible that the name Slavs really meant slaves, since the Huns …

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