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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 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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Parceling Out a Continent 1841-1910

africa

Africa, the second largest continent in the world, extends south from the Mediterranean Sea four thousand miles. Along its north coast is a strip of land known to Europeans since ancient times. South of this strip lie mountains and deserts. The Sahara, an empty “sea” of sand and rock, crosses the continent in a belt several hundreds of miles wide; it is hot and dry, vast and rugged. Europeans knew very little about the lands beyond it. Almost all they knew of Africa were the coasts, which they could reach by sea. As late as the time of the American Civil War and the unification of Italy and Germany, Africa was still largely unknown – the “Dark Continent.” The people of North Africa were white — descendants of the early inhabitants and of Arabs who had conquered them for Islam. South of the Sahara lay “Black Africa” a land of Negroes. The Negroes were divided into thousands of tribes, but had no organized states. They spoke hundreds of languages, but had no writing. They lived by hunting, raising cattle and simple farming and worshiped tribal gods. All of Black Africa was Negro except for a few places on the Indian Ocean where Arab traders had settled and the southernmost part of the continent, where some European families had settled. STANLEY AND LIVINGSTON In the sixteenth century, Portuguese and Spanish ships had begun to stop at points on the Atlantic shore of Africa to trade. Later, traders came from other European countries. The names they gave to stretches of shoreland — the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Slave Coast — show what they came for. The Europeans found that the sultry coastland was ridden with disease. So many of them died there that West Africa came to be known as …

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The Race for Empire 1870-1914

imperialism

While the peoples of the West were concerned with the problems that grew out of industrialization, their governments were taking part in one of the greatest land grabs in history. By the end of the nineteenth century they had brought within their grasp most of the earth’s land surface and half its inhabitants. This development created new empires and enlarged old ones, it was called imperialism. Imperialism came about in many ways, from armed invasions to polite talks that led native rulers to place their countries under the protection of an imperialist power. It took many forms, from colonies which one power ruled outright, to “spheres of influence,” in which one power enjoyed rights, particularly trading rights, denied to other powers. So, it arose from many causes — economic, political and cultural. Empire-building was not new; it was as old as civilization. In ancient times, the Romans had built a vast empire that ruled peoples in Europe, Asia and Africa. In the fifteenth century, European nations had colonized the Americas and conquered the Indians. Elsewhere they had not challenged native rulers, being content to set up trading posts, where they bought native wares for resale at home. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, most of British North America became independent, as did the United States. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, almost all of Latin America won its freedom from Spain and Portugal. During the next half-century, while industry went through its first slow stage of growth, goods circulated freely throughout the world and governments cared little about building up their empires. The French, to be sure, occupied Algeria, the British strengthened their hold on India, the Dutch developed the East Indies and the western powers, including the United States, opened Japan to trade and started …

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Democracy in Latin America 1811-1823

bolivar

DURING THE years when Napoleon and Spain were at war, Spain’s American colonies began their long fight to win independence from the mother country. Some of the earliest revolts were quickly defeated. The leaders were executed, but their deeds were remembered. In the early 1800’s, the leader of an unsuccessful revolt in Bolivia said, as he faced death: “I die; but the torch which I have lighted no one will be able to extinguish.” Francisco Miranda won fame for his unsuccessful revolt in Venezuela in 1811 and 1812. In Mexico, an old priest named Miguel Hidalgo, who wanted freedom for the Indians, led a force of 80.000 followers against the Spaniards in 1810. A great battle raged for hours. It seemed that the victory would go to Hidalgo’s forces, until a fire started in the grass near their position. Flames and smoke drove them back and in the confusion, the enemy butchered thousands of the rebels. Hidalgo’s head was cut off and placed in an iron cage as a warning against revolt. Although there were many revolutions, only Haiti, Paraguay and a province of Argentina had won independence from Spain by 1816. A year later José de San Martin of Argentina invaded Chile, using more than 9,000 mules and 1,600 horses to carry his heavy supplies over the Andes Mountains. With a small army of less than 4,000 men, he crossed high mountain passes that were 12,500 feet above sea level. Taking the Spaniards by surprise, he won a great victory at Chacabuco and freed Chile from Spanish rule. Later he invaded Peru and helped that nation, too, win its independence. Another great revolutionary leader, Simon Bolivar of Venezuela, defeated the Spaniards in Venezuela and Colombia and sent one of his armies into Ecuador and into what is now Bolivia …

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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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A Divided Country 1776

british

One chilly morning in April, General Howe stepped out of his Boston headquarters and stared in amazement at a hill called Dorchester Heights, to the south of the city. It had been fortified during the night by George Washington’s rebel army. Strong breastworks of ice blocks and brown earth ran along the crest of the bill. Above the steepest slopes, barrels filled with rocks stood balanced, ready to be sent tumbling down the hill in the path of attacking troops. Studying the hill through his glass, Howe could make out several companies of riflemen and some units with muskets. What disturbed him most were the cannon, all well placed on the top of the hill where they could pound Boston and a good part of the Royal Fleet in the harbour. None of the British cannon, from their low positions‚ could possibly place their shots farther than the bottom of the hill. Howe made ready to attack, then changed his mind, probably haunted by the horrors of Bunker Hill. The British began making preparations to withdraw from the city. For the redcoats, the act of leaving Boston must have seemed like an escape from a prison city. They had been hemmed in there for many months, overcrowded‚ short of food and fuel. The civilian population had increased steadily, for a constant flow of colonial refugees had poured into the city to seek the protection of the British army. These refugees supported the mother country and called themselves loyalists because of their loyalty to the king. During the winter they had caused serious food and housing problems and greatly endangered the health of all. WASHINGTON TAKES BOSTON It may have been one of the loyalists who carried smallpox into the city. The disease had spread rapidly and raged for several weeks. …

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England Tightens Her Grip, 1763 – 1765

colonies

There had been few serious misunderstandings between the colonies and the mother country before the French and Indian War, but that was mainly because England had allowed the colonies to do pretty much as they pleased. They had been free to set up their own governments, make their own laws, have their own armed forces, print their own paper money and manage most of their local affairs as they saw fit. England’s American colonies had enjoyed far more freedom and independence than had any of the colonies of France or Spain. Not that England planned it that way. She had merely neglected the colonies for well over a hundred years. At first she had neglected them because they were small and far away and did not seem very important. Later she had neglected them because she was busy fighting one war after another with her most serious rivals, France and Spain. England had finally brought that struggle to an end with the great victory in the French and Indian War. It was the kind of victory she had been trying to win for seventy years. She won Florida from Spain and Canada and the wilderness east of the Mississippi from France. On the other side of the world, England had won French possessions in India as well. Her powerful navy ruled the seas and she was the strongest nation on earth. At the same time, the war had left England with many problems. She was deeply in debt, yet she had to support a large navy to protect her vast empire. To provide business for her many new factories, she had to find ways of increasing her trade with the colonies. England could no longer afford to neglect her American colonies. She had to tighten her grip on them and …

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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 Counter Reformation 1521-1648

loyola

THE BLAST OF MUSKETS and the clang of swords against armour echoed across the plains of Italy, Spain and the Lowlands. Warriors of the king of France were clashing with the Spanish infantry and German knights of the Holy Roman Emperor. Control of the nations of Europe was the prize both nations sought. They schemed and plotted; their generals planned campaigns; their soldiers marched out to victory or defeat. Victories counted for little, for much of Europe’s future was decided by another, different kind of war – a war for the minds and souls of men. Village squares and royal council chambers, churches, university lecture halls and schoolrooms were the battlefields of this new war. Its troops were armies of preachers whose battle-songs were hymns and whose weapons were Bibles and textbooks. Reformers were on the march, Lutherans and Calvinists. Their thundering voices shook the domes of ancient cathedrals and wakened bishops dozing in their palaces. The Reformers won no easy victories‚ however. The forces of the pope were also on the march and the strongholds of the Church were well defended. Frightened by rebellions in Germany and Switzerland, the Catholic leaders in Rome took further measures to strengthen the Church. “There is but one way to silence the Protestants’ complaints‚” a learned churchman told the pope “and that is not to deserve them.” Lowly monks and the powerful cardinals alike began to talk of reform, of hard work, of honesty and godliness. Gradually there were deeds to match the talk — a great Church house-cleaning that one day would be called the Counter-Reformation. Meanwhile, in Europe’s towns and colleges‚ new soldiers of the Church appeared. Their uniforms were the simple black robes of monks, but their minds were as keen as dueling swords — much too sharp and smooth, …

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