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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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War in Korea 1945-1953

korea

Although the cold war was the most important fact in the politics of the post-war world, few persons could have foreseen that it would lead to fighting in the small, remote country of Korea. Yet, as small and remote as it was, Korea had a strategic location. It was near three large powers — Russia, China and Japan — and the Japanese said it “points like a dagger at the heart of our country.” The Japanese won control of Korea in the Russo-Japanese War and by 1905 they ruled it as part of their empire. During World War II, the Allies promised that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” When Japan surrendered, they agreed that Russian troops would occupy Korea north of the thirty-eighth parallel and American troops would occupy Korea south of the thirty-eighth parallel. A provisional government would then be set up and after a period of no longer than five years, Korea would govern itself as an independent nation. The occupation of Korea was carried out as it had been planned, but the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on a provisional government. Each set up a provisional government friendly to itself and in 1947 the United States brought the dispute before the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly decided to hold elections in Korea, but the Soviet Union refused to allow United Nations representatives to enter its occupation zone. Elections were held outside the Russian zone and in 1948 the Korean Republic was established in South Korea. The city of Seoul was made the capital and Syngman Rhee was elected president. Thirty-two nations, including the United States, recognized the new government; the Russians and “their supporters did not. Instead, the Soviet Union helped to set up a new and separate …

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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 Coming of the Storm 1905 – 1913

balkan

ALREADY HEMMED in on two sides by France and Russia, the Germans were dismayed to see Great Britain join their rivals. They feared that they would be surrounded by unfriendly powers and they decided to test the Entente Cordiale. They were anxious to find out how strong it was and how far Great Britain would go in backing up its new ally. The place they chose for the showdown was Morocco, where the French, now with the approval of the British, were policing large areas and taking over territory and rights. So, in March of 1905, a German warship suddenly appeared off the Moroccan port of Tangier. Kaiser Wilhelm came ashore and made a speech. He startled his listeners by declaring that Morocco ought to be an independent country. When the diplomats of the world heard of this speech they guessed what the kaiser was up to. He did not really care whether or not the French stayed in Morocco. He was simply trying to break up the new understanding between France and Great Britain. Events soon showed that the diplomats were right. Germany summoned the European powers and the United States to a conference, to discuss Morocco’s future. The conference met in 1906, in the Spanish city of Algeciras, but instead of supporting Germany‚ all the powers except Austria-Hungary sided with France. In the end, Germany’s attempts break the Entente only made it stronger. Even before the Algeciras conference was over, French and British Generals and admirals were planning the joint defense of their countries. In 1911 came a second Moroccan crisis, when the German gunboat Panther anchored in the port of Agadir. The Germans said they were merely protecting their interests, but it was soon clear that they intended a kind of international blackmail. They said they would …

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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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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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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 Rise of the Assyrians 1600 B. C. – 539 B. C.

ASSYRIANS

During the century after the Hittites had raided Babylon and rose to power in Turkey and Syria, Mesopotamia was a divided unproductive land. In the south, Babylonia fell under the rule of foreigners, first the Kassites from the northeast and then the Elamites from the southeast. Neither of these people seemed able to make any advances in civilization. Northern Mesopotamia came under the Mitanni kingdom, which at least introduced trained horses and chariots to the Near East. By the time the native Babylonians regained control and the Mitanni kingdom fell, another people was disturbing the land – the Assyrians. The Assyrians who wrote and spoke Akkadian, were close relatives of the Babylonians and had played a minor part in Mesopotamian affairs for some time. They made their home in the upper reaches of the Tigris River, where once had been some of the earliest farming communities in the world. The region later came under the influence of various early Sumerian and Babylonian kingdoms to the south. By about 2000 B. C., the Assyrians themselves became independent enough to carry on a thriving trade with people in Turkey. But around 1800 B. C. the Hittites put an end to that and then the Mitanni kingdom set itself over Assyria. The Warrior Kings Centuries passed and the Assyrians overthrew a weakened Mitanni kingdom, but even before this they were struggling with Babylonia for control of Mesopotamia. Year after year, lands, cities, trading routes and outposts changed hands, until the Assyrians gradually won out. By 1100 B. C., under their king Tiglath-Pileser I, the Assyrians were strong enough to begin expanding. Fighting off enemies on all sides, Assyria began to dominate the metal trade with the north and the commercial centres of the Syrian coast. Loot and tribute made Ashur, the capital of …

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Hittite Warriors Build a Kingdom 1750 B. C. – 700 B. C.

Within 150 years of the death of Hammurabi, the cities of Mesopotamia were powerless and other peoples took up the struggle for the Near Eastern world. Among them were the Hittites, who had taken the city of Babylon. The rough Hittite tribesman hardly knew what to do with such a splendid city, let alone with an empire, so they went back to their strongholds in the highland plains of central Turkey. They had been living there for several centuries, ever since they had left their homeland in the steppes of central Asia. When the Hittites first moved into Turkey, they had found a land of peasants and small city-states unable to unite in resistance. The Hittites allowed the people to keep their own gods and languages, recruited officials to manage affairs and left the farmers and craftsmen to their work. It was a bleak, rocky land, hot and dry in summer, cold and windswept in winter but, there were grains and cattle and the people made beer and wine and kept bees for honey. The land was rich in metal ores, too. Later the Hittites were among the first to use iron. The Hittites set themselves over the native peoples as an aristocratic warrior class. For many years, rival Hittite tribes and chieftains fought among themselves before Labarnas established himself as the first true king. He led the Hittites in expanding their power throughout Turkey and his son Hattusilis I, extended it to Syria. Hattusilis made the city of Hattusas his capital. It was strategically located near the crossroads of the main trade routes in central Turkey. As his reign neared its end, Hattusilis could take pride in the kingdom he was leaving to his people, but he had one unpleasant task to perform. He had raised his nephew as …

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Mesopotamia, Where Civilization Began 4000 B.C. – 1750 B.C.

mesopotamia

By 4000 B. C., many different groups of people  were working out their lives in a variety of ways. In a great arc from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, across the Turkish plains and through the highlands of Iraq and Iran, groups of peoples had settled and were farming, tending animals, making pottery and building towns, markets and forts. In the deserts, mountains and steppes, nomadic tribesmen lived by herding animals and by hunting and raiding. As all these populations grew, they began to compete for land, food and supplies. One of the areas that was to become most sought after was a stretch of land almost at the very centre of these various peoples. It was only about 150 miles wide and 600 miles long and extended from the foothills of northwester Iraq to the Persian Gulf. Two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, drained the area and gave it its name, Mesopotamia – “the land between the rivers”. For the next 3,500 years, Mesopotamia was to witness the rise and fall of many cities and cultures. Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldaeans – these were only some of the people who took root and flourished in this land. Finally the Persians came and reduced Mesopotamia to a mere province but from the first unknown settlers to the mighty Nebuchadnezzar, this land gave rise to much that would affect all civilization. The first settlers in Mesopotamia set up their villages and farmed in the upper reaches of the Tigris. These were among the earliest farming communities anywhere in the world, but they gradually declined and it was many years later before this region came to be known as Assyria. Mesopotamia’s southern region, which was later called Babylonia, was especially hot and dry and did not seem to attract early …

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