Meditation isn’t hard. So why does it often feel like it is?
Meditation isn’t hard. So why does it often feel like it is?
Nick D’Urso is a freewheeling AirBnB rental owner. He teaches people how to make their money work for them (rather than the other way around) at NickDurso.com.
Read my full interview with Nick and many others. Today is the last day to get the Kindle version of The Naked House for 99 cents on Amazon.
Mollie: Have you ever significantly minimized your possessions and simplified your life? Tell me the story.
Nick: In July 2019 I left my corporate job back home in Brooklyn, New York. I bought a car in Phoenix, Arizona to drive to Argentina. I pretty much left everything I owned except a few clothes, my laptop, a camera, and a drone. I built a bed in the back of the car and I have been living on the road ever since, camping at some of the most beautiful places in Mexico. I’m about to enter Belize.
My car is my home and the world is my bedroom.
Mollie: What did you buy along the way? Do you have good camping equipment?
Nick: I haven’t bought much. I bought a new suspension for the car and two front lower control arms. The car is old and I was worried about the rust and being stuck in a country with no parts if something happened. Other than that, I bought a cooler, folding chairs, and a BBQ. At some point I’ll have to buy winter clothes when I reach Argentina but I’ll tackle that when I get there. I also bought a new phone using Google Fi because it works in over 200 countries on their unlimited plan.
Mollie: How long do you plan to travel and what will you do after that?
Nick: Everyone asks me this question. Truthfully I’m planning this trip to find a place where I can build another AirBNB property close to the water so I can run scuba diving excursions. I don’t have a time limit. My goal is to travel around the entire world and it’s taken me 6 months to do all of Mexico. I promised my mom and dad I would spend Christmas with them in 2020. But other than that I don’t have a time limit.
Mollie: What led to this drastic change?
Nick: The thing that led me to this decision was being caught up in the humdrum of everyday corporate life living in New York City. I personally couldn’t take going to work every day to make money to spend at a bar on the weekends with friends, over and over again. I wanted to get more out of life.
Mollie: What do you want to get out of life?
Nick: I would like to teach people that money isn’t everything. It’s a vehicle to get you to where you want to be. We’re all taught that we need to go to school and get a job that pays well. Everyone wants a raise and to earn more money. But the truth is that you most likely make enough money and that money can actually make you more money but your habits prevent that. People look at my Instagram and ask me how I do this. I tell them I drive a ‘98 Chevy Blazer with a bed in it. You don’t need a lot of money to do what I’m doing; you just need to change your habits. And that’s the mark I want to leave. Money is great, but you don’t need to exchange time to earn more. Other than that I would say I just want to be happy and meet amazing people all around the world.
Mollie: What are your most prized beliefs regarding minimalist lifestyle—the ideas you most want to spread?
Nick: My most prized beliefs behind my minimalist lifestyle change is that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about you. I want to spread that to everyone around. With social media nowadays, most people seem to be in competition with people they don’t even know.
Mary Potter Kenyon is a grief counselor and the author of seven books, including Called to Be Creative and Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief. She lives in Dubuque, Iowa. For more information, see MaryPotterKenyon.com.
Read my full interview with Mary and many others. Get the Kindle version of The Naked House for 99 cents for the next three days on Amazon.
Mollie: Have you ever significantly reorganized and decluttered your home? What led to the decision and what did you change?
Mary: In April 2018, I was offered my dream job an hour from where I lived. I made the decision to sell the four-bedroom, two-story house where my husband David and I had raised the last four of our eight children. David had died in 2012 and my seventh child was poised to leave the nest, leaving me with one daughter and a huge house. Not only did I need to declutter in order to sell my house, the house I purchased in my new town was 760 square feet. I had to do some serious purging, with less than two months to do it.
I began by deciding which furniture could come with me, and my heart sank when I realized my four bookshelves, my huge solid oak desk and my mother’s kitchen table would not fit. The owner of the house I was buying agreed to leave a folding IKEA table in the kitchen, the only kind of table that worked. Two living room chairs would need to be sold. A beautiful closed cabinet that was filled with office supplies and photo albums. A kitchen shelf. The one thing I knew had to come with me was a shaker-style cabinet I’d inherited from my mother, but it would need to be emptied of some of her things to make room for the single shelf of books I would keep.
I went through closets of clothing. As I pulled things off hangers, I priced those I thought would sell. I even had a box of my husband’s shirts stashed away, which my sister Joan agreed to take off my hands and make into Christmas stockings for my children. I wasn’t just dealing with stuff, I was dealing with memories, and I shed tears through the process. I went through thousands of books. The first two boxes sold for $150 at a bookstore, alleviating the distress a little. By the time I held my first garage sale, I’d whittled down my possessions drastically. The most daunting task, though, was the paper: a file cabinet and a trunk filled with letters, college papers, photos, and even scrapbooks from high school. I handed my son a bag filled with twenty daybooks (daily diaries) to burn because I couldn’t bear to dispose of them myself.
After two garage sales, several trips to a thrift store, and even filling my front lawn with items I advertised for free on a local online giveaway board, I ended up with less than half my original possessions. By then, it felt freeing to have dealt with years of accumulated clutter—to have made decisions about which things meant the most and gave me pleasure and joy when I looked at them. I would come to regret only the loss of the desk and the daybooks.
While I no longer have a separate office, I do have my own space, a back room that spans the entire width of the house and serves as both bedroom and office. Everything in it was consciously chosen to survive the Great Purge of 2018. The bedroom portion is sparse: an end table and a twin bed topped with a mockingbird quilt that matches the curtains. Outside of a washer and dryer in the opposite far corner, the rest of the large room is designed around the comfy brown recliner my children gave me for Christmas. When I sit in it to write or read, I’m surrounded by things that bring a smile to my face.
There is the Shaker-style cabinet I inherited from my mother, filled with things I treasure: my collection of autographed books, a hand-blown glass turtle my son Michael made, a toy sheep from my childhood, and bricks my daughter Rachel painted to look like the covers of my books. My grandmother’s trunk is topped by one of Mom’s quilts and her hand-carved Saint Michael statue, his sword upraised in regal glory.
Walls are adorned with paintings by my mother and daughter Emily, along with photographs taken by my son Dan, one framed and another on canvas. A rustic wooden rack is attached to one wall, the wire baskets holding stationery and greeting cards. Wooden letters with the cover designs of my six books on another wall spell the word “writer,” handmade by my daughter Elizabeth. Finally, there’s a book-themed lamp atop an end table Katie painted to look like book spines. I love my smaller space.
Read my full interview with Mary and many more. Get the Kindle version of The Naked House for 99 cents for the next three days on Amazon.
We love our bodies, don’t we? It’s just so nice to understand what’s going on inside of all of this skin.
Basic Human Body Science
The eleven systems of the human body: Skeletal system, respiratory system, muscular system, nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, circulatory system, endocrine system, lymphatic/immune system, integumentary system, urinary system
Skeletal system: The framework of bones and cartilage that supports the body and provides hard surfaces for the muscles to contract on
The four types of bones: Flat (example: ribs), long (example: legs), irregular (example: spine), short (example: fingers)
Important bones to remember: Cranium (skull), mandible (jawbone), scapula (shoulder blades), clavicle (collar bone), sternum (breastbone), humerus (upper arm), rib, vertebral column (spine, made of vertebrae), radius (lower arm on top), ulna (lower arm underneath), carpals (wrist bones), metacarpals (finger bones), pelvis (hip bones, including the pelvis), coccyx (butt bone), femur (high leg bone), patella (kneecap), tibia (top shinbone), fibula (bone under fibia) metatarsals (foot bones), tarsals (ankle bones), phelanges (finger and toe/digit bones)
Joint: The places where bones meet. Most joints are movable.
Bone marrow: The store of fat inside the bone cavity
Cartilage: The alternative to bone that’s more flexible. Most baby bones are actually cartilage and slowly turn into bone later.
Muscular system: The system that enables the body to move using muscles
Muscles: Stretchy tissues all over the body that allow for movement. Some pairs work together with one contracting as the other relaxes. They can only contract and relax, not push.
Contracting/flexing: Getting shorter and harder and bulging
Relaxing: Getting longer and softer
Types of muscles: Muscles are either voluntary (quads) or involuntary (heart). They are also either skeletal, cardiac or visceral (intestines).
Nervous system: The system that collects and processes information from the senses via nerves and the brain and tells the muscles to contract to cause physical actions. It is made up of the sensory organs, the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves. The nervous system coordinates both voluntary and involuntary body movements.
Peripheral nervous system: The whole network of nerves throughout the body
Neurons: Nerve cells. They include sensory, association and motor nerves cells.
Nerves: Cords that contain bundles of nerve fibers. Can be sensory, motor and mixed (both).
Spinal cord: The thick bundle of nerves that joins the brain to the rest of the body. It is located inside a tunnel in the backbone.
Nerve impulse: An action of a neuron
Neurotransmitter: Chemical that enables neurotransmission. Sometimes called a chemical messenger.
Reflex action/reflex: An involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus
Brain: Organ under the skull that is made up of millions of neurons and cerebrospinal fluid. It has a cerebrum (for physical activities and thinking), cerebellum (for muscle movement and balance), diencephalon (with thalamus, which sorts and directs incoming impulses) and hypothalamus (which controls hunger, thirst, body temperature, release of hormones from pituitary gland).
Brain stem: Controls automatic functions like heartbeat and breathing. It contains two hemispheres: right and left. There are electrical impulses going on between nerve cells in brain all the time. Brain waves (patterns of impulses) can be measured.
REM sleep: Rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep, REMS) is a unique phase of sleep in mammals and birds, distinguishable by random/rapid movement of the eyes, accompanied with low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of the sleeper to dream vividly.
Sensory organs: Organs that send nerve impulses (signals) to the brain along nerves
Motor nerves: Nerves that receive signals from the brain to the muscles to move
How eyes work: Light enters the pupil through the clear cornea and lens. These bend the light rays so they form an image on the retina and back of eye. (Turns image upside down.) Rods and cones convert the image to nerve impulses which take the optic nerve to the brain. The brain interprets and turns the image right side up.
Stereoscopic vision: Perception of depth and 3-dimensional structure obtained on the basis of visual information deriving from two eyes
Ear: The hearing organ. It contains an outer, middle and inner part.
How ears work: The ear flap funnels sound waves to the ear canal, then to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates. These vibrations pass through bones and holes to the cochlea, then to fluid chambers. Tiny nerve cells in the fluid convert vibrations into nerve impulses, which go along the auditory nerve to the brain. Ears also help keep you balanced through the vestibular system. This works by sensing movement of fluid in ducts and sending that info to the brain. Since you have two ears you can tell which direction sound is coming from.
Chemoreceptors: Small organs in the nose and tongue that detect smells and tastes, which are chemicals, and send this information to the brain.
Nasal cavity: The large air filled space above and behind the nose in the middle of the face
Digestive system: The system responsible for the mechanical and chemical processes that provide nutrients via the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines and eliminates waste from the body.
Liver: The organ that allows us to go between meals without eating by storing food energy. It is the largest organ by mass. Extra energy beyond the liver capacity is stored as fat. The liver also processes waste materials we encounter in our environment.
Nutrients: The vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are used to make body parts, either by facilitating a chemical reaction or by being used as actual material (like calcium an amino acids from protein breakdown), and the carbs and fats that are burned for fuel.
Circulatory system: The system that circulates blood around the body via the heart, arteries and veins, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and cells and carrying their waste products away. It also equalizes the temperature in the body. It includes blood, blood vessels and the heart.
Parts of the heart: Four chambers (two atria and two ventricles), valves to keep blood moving the right direction through the heart (each time one snaps shut there’s a heartbeat), veins and arteries that carry blood from heart to lungs, upper body and lower body and others for the opposite direction.
Arteries: Move blood away from the heart
Integumentary system: Skin, hair, nails, sweat and other exocrine glands
Skin: The soft outer tissue covering of vertebrates. It contains the epidermis, the dermis and subcutaneous tissues (fat cells).
Melanin: Natural pigments found in most organisms
Pores: Tube-shaped sweat glands
Keratin: What skin and nails are made of
Hair follicle: The opening at the base of a hair. Its shape determines whether the hair is curly, wavy or straight.
Respiratory system: The lungs and the passages that lead to them and allow for breathing of oxygen and breathing out of CO2.
Windpipe/trachea: A tube that connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs, allowing the passage of air
Primary bronchus: The tubes between the trachea and each lung. After passing through the bronchus, air goes into the lungs. Then oxygen goes into secondary and tertiary bronchi, bronchioles, air sacs and capillaries and from there is distributed throughout the body.
Lung: A large air sack containing many tubes
Diaphragm: A flat sheet of muscle lying under the lungs. When you breathe in, your ribs move up and out and the diaphragm flattens. When you breathe out, your ribs move down and in and the diaphragm rises.
Voice box/larynx: Top part of the trachea
Vocal cords: Two bands of muscle that open to let air past when you breathe. When you speak muscles pull the cords together and air makes them vibrate. Shorter, faster cords, as in females, make higher pitched sounds.
Internal respiration: The movement of oxygen from the outside environment to the cells within tissues, and the transport of carbon dioxide in the opposite direction.
Metabolism: The set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms
Aerobic respiration: Internal respiration that uses oxygen
Anaerobic respiration: Doesn’t use oxygen
Enzymes: Macromolecular biological catalysts. Enzymes accelerate chemical reactions.
Thermogenesis: The process of heat production in organisms
ATP: Adenosine triphosphate, an organic chemical that provides energy to drive many processes in living cells, e.g. muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, and chemical synthesis.
Basal metabolic rate (BMR): The rate of energy expenditure per unit time by an animal at rest
Calorie/kilocalorie: A unit of energy. A calorie is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere, and the kilocalorie is the heat energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram (rather than a gram) of water by one degree Celsius.
Lactic acid: An important body acid
Endocrine system: The system that provides chemical communications within the body using hormones
Endocrine glands: Groups of cells that make hormones.
Hormones: Any member of a class of signaling molecules produced by glands in multicellular organisms that are transported by the circulatory system to target distant organs to regulate physiology and behaviour. The body makes over 20 types of hormones.
Main glands, hormones and functions:
Pituitary gland: Makes growth hormone, prolactine, which control other endocrine glands, growth, mother’s milk production
Parathyroids gland: Makes parathormone which controls calcium levels in blood and bones.
Adrenals: Make adrenalin and aldosterone which control blood glucose level, heart rate, body’s salt level
The thyroid gland: Makes thyroxin which controls metabolism
The pancreas: Makes insulin and glucagon which control the use of glucose by the body
Urinary/renal system: The system that controls the amount of water in your body and filters blood. It includes two kidneys, a balloon-like sac called the bladder and the tubes connected to them.
Urethra: The tube that connects the bladder to the urinary meatus for the removal of urine from the body
Kidneys: The two bean-shaped organs on the left and right in the retroperitoneal space. They are about 11 centimetres in length. They receive blood from the paired renal arteries; blood exits into the paired renal veins. Each kidney is attached to a ureter, a tube that carries excreted urine to the bladder.
Lymphatic/immune system: The system comprising a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph. It defends the body against pathogenic viruses that may endanger the body. The lymph contains the leftover interstitial fluid resulting from blood filtration.
Lymph: Lymph is the fluid that circulates throughout the lymphatic system
Lymph node: A kidney-shaped organ of the lymphatic system, and of the adaptive immune system, that is widely present throughout the body. Lymph nodes are major sites of white blood cells and important for the immune system.
Reproductive system: The sex organs required for the production of offspring
Reproduction: The process of creating new life
Male reproductive system: Penis, testicles, sperm, prostate gland, and scrotum
Penis: The primary sexual organ that male animals use to inseminate sexually receptive mates
Glans: A vascular structure located at the tip of the penis in males or a genital structure of the clitoris in females
Foreskin: The the double-layered fold of smooth muscle tissue, blood vessels, neurons, skin, and mucous membrane part of the penis that covers and protects the glans penis and the urinary meatus
Sperm: The male reproductive cell
Semen: The fluid made in the testicles that may contain spermatozoa (sperm)
Testicle: The testicle or testis (plural testes) is the male reproductive gland in all animals, including humans. It produces sperm and semen.
Prostate gland: A gland of the male reproductive system
Scrotum: The suspended dual-chambered sack of skin and smooth muscle that holds the two testacles
Female reproductive system: The uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries
Ovulation: The release of eggs from the ovaries
Ovum: (Plural ova.) The egg cell
Menstruation/having a period: The (approximately) monthly discharge of blood and mucosal tissue (known as menses) from the inner lining of the uterus through the vagina
Menopause: The time in most women’s lives when menstrual periods stop permanently, and they are no longer able to bear children
Vagina: The elastic, muscular canal leading to the uterus in which sex takes place
Cervix: The lower part of the uterus that contracts and opens during childbirth
Fallopian tubes: The tubes leading from the ovaries to the uterus
Womb/uterus: The organ in which fetal development takes place.
Labia: The major externally visible portions of the vulva. It has two layers.
Sexual intercourse: The insertion and thrusting of the penis, usually when erect, into the vagina for sexual pleasure, reproduction, or both. This is also known as vaginal intercourse or vaginal sex. Other forms of penetrative sexual intercourse include anal sex (penetration of the anus by the penis), oral sex (penetration of the mouth by the penis or oral penetration of the female genitalia), fingering (sexual penetration by the fingers), and penetration by use of a dildo.
Ejaculation: The discharge of semen (normally containing sperm) from the male reproductory tract, usually accompanied by orgasm
Fertilization/conception: The union of a human egg (ovum) and sperm, usually occurring in the fallopian tube of the mother after sex
In vitro fertilization (IVF): A process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the womb, in vitro.
Contraception: Birth control
Embryo: The newly conceived form of life between the fertilized egg (zygote) stage and the fetus stage
Fetus: The unborn baby who is past the embryonic stage (about nine weeks into the pregnancy)
Placenta: The temporary organ that connects the developing fetus via the umbilical cord to the uterine wall to allow nutrient uptake, thermo-regulation, waste elimination, and gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply; to fight against internal infection; and to produce hormones which support pregnancy
Umbilical cord: The conduit between the developing fetus and the placenta inside a pregnant woman
Puberty: The process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction
Adolescence: Phase of life after puberty and between childhood and adulthood; the teen years
Medical Science Knowledge Checklist
Disease: Anything that stops all or part of your body from working properly (other than injury)
Infection: The invasion of an organism’s body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents and the toxins they produce
Immunity: The balanced state of multicellular organisms having adequate biological defenses to fight infection, disease, or other unwanted biological invasion, while having adequate tolerance to avoid allergy, and autoimmune diseases
Drug: A drug is any substance (other than food that provides nutritional support) that, when inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, absorbed via a patch on the skin, or dissolved under the tongue causes a temporary physiological (and often psychological) change in the body
Preventative medicine: Measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment
Diagnosis: The identification of the nature and cause of a certain phenomenon
Bacteria: A type of biological cell. Among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most of its habitats. Most have not been discovered or studied.
Virus: A virus is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms
White blood cell: The cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders
Vaccination: The administration of antigenic material (a vaccine) to stimulate an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a pathogen
Antibiotics: A substance that kills bacterial. Not antiviral.
Pathogen: The scientific name for a germ. A germ in the oldest and broadest sense is anything that can produce disease, usually a microorganism like a bacteria or virus
Tumor: An abnormal and excessive growth of tissue that starts as a neoplasm, then forms a mass
Senescence: The gradual deterioration of functional characteristics due to age
Medical imaging: Creating images of the internal organs to help diagnose and treat disease
CT scan: Computed tomography scan. Formerly CAT scan. Uses computer-processed combinations of many X-ray measurements taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of internal organs.
MRI scan: Magnetic resonance imaging. Uses magnets and radio waves (not X-rays, as CT scans do) to create images of the internal organs.
Surgery: The use of knives, lasers and other instruments to explore inside the body or change or remove something in the body
Laser surgery: Laser surgery is a type of surgery that uses a laser (in contrast to using a scalpel) to cut tissue.
Alternative medicine: Unproven or disproven medical techniques and substances
Acupuncture: An unproven traditional Chinese alternative medicine in which thin needles are inserted into the body.
Basic Geology, Ecology and Meteorology
As humans, we experience the effects of chemistry, biology and physics every day, but not always knowingly. For this reason, geology and ecology are to me the most visual–even the most sensual–of the hard sciences, the ones that allows us to better understand our immediate environment.
Geology isn’t theory and microscopes; it’s what we see around us every day.
Sometimes, it’s hard to mentally separate geology and ecology. Here’s the short version: geology is the study of all the stuff on the earth, and ecology is the study of the way living things interact with it.
Add: The elements of the earth’s crust (oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium). The parts of the earth (crust—oceanic and continental; mantle—litho-sphere and asthenosphere; outer core; inner core). Types of clouds.
Layers of the earth: Outer crust, mantle (viscous), outer core (liquid metal), inner core (solid metal)
Earth’s crust: The surface of the earth that is made of various rocks and minerals with soil on top. The five main elements found in the Earth’s crust are oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium.
Rock: Collections of minerals formed together into a stone. A compound.
Mineral: A single material of uniform color, texture, luster and structure. Usually made up of two or more elements.
Crystal: A piece of mineral that has a characteristic shape (box or cube). Ex: table salt. Each grain of salt is cube-shaped. Each molecule, too.
Dirt: They are made up of broken down minerals and organic substances through weathering.
Soil: Dirt that is fit to grow plants in
Ore: Any natural, earth material that is mined and processed to obtain a desired metal. Ex: iron ore is rock containing iron.
Metal: The chemical particles, often found in minerals, that are pure metallic elements such as iron, copper, gold and aluminum. They share these properties: 1. shiny; 2. conduct heat and electricity; 3. solid at room temp (except mercury); 4. some are magnetic (iron and nickel).
Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals
Steel: An alloy of iron, carbon and traces of other metals
Sediment: The dirt and sand that is carried away with water and wind and add layers to other places. The layers separate according to the size and density of the materials and eventually harden into rock under the sea and elsewhere.
Fossil: The structure that results when organisms are buried under layers of sediment and pressed on, then cemented into the soil
Clay: A kind of dirt with the smallest particles. Makes a very uniform, soft sdimentary rock, like shale … unlike sandstone. Clay soil holds water well.
The three types of rocks: Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic
Sedimentary rock: Rock formed when other rocks break down into sediment, then gradually reform other rocks due to pressure and layering. The Grand canyon is an example of sedimentary rocks. Its layers are visible. It was once under the ocean.
Igneous rock: Rock formed from magma erupting from a volcano. It forms in an irregular, crystalline pattern combining two or more distinct materials, with less mixing. Come from cooling magma, so form quickly and doesn’t contain fossils.
Metamorphic rock: Igneous, sedimentary or other metamorphic rock that changes due to heat
Geological time: A division of the history of the earth into periods based on the types of fossils found in the layers of the earth’s crust
Radiometric/carbon dating: A way to determine the age of a rock by the amount of carbon it contains
Corrosion: The damaging chemical reaction that occurs when metal is in contact with oxygen. The damage happens because oxide forms on the metal.
Weathering/erosion: The process of the breakdown of minerals, rocks and organic materials through freezing, thawing, melting, abrasion, wind, acids, etc.
Water: A chemical compound that is the most common liquid on earth. It is a solvent that is formed when hydrogen burns in air (oxygen).
The water cycle: The process by which water is continuously recycled between the earth, the atmosphere and living things through heat and evaporation and clouds and rain
Dissolve: To mix something into a liquid
Solution: The result of dissolving something in a liquid
Soluble: Able to dissolve in liquid
Insoluble: Unable to dissolve in liquid
Tides: The rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravity of the moon and the rotation of the earth
Ocean currents: The movement of the water of the world’s oceans due to wind, the rotation of the earth and more
Groundwater: Water under the Earth’s surface. Most groundwater is found in porous rocks.
The water table: The depth at which groundwater is found, which is affected by rainfall or lack thereof
Spring: A place where groundwater emerges from a hillside
Air: The gas that we breathe. Air is oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It helps people breathe oxygen, which they need in their blood. It helps plants make food. It protects people from sun’s UV rays. Nitrogen: 78%, Oxygen – 21%, Other – 1%. Molecules/particles in air are constantly moving and there’s lots of empty space between them. Like water always flows downhill, air always flows toward lower pressure. To separate out the gases in air, just cool and compress it. Each gas liquifies at a different temperature.
Earth’s atmosphere: All of the air that surrounds the Earth. It is held near the earth due to gravity. There is no distinct starting point, but instead a gradual decline; the further up into the atmosphere you get, the less air is held down. Also, the higher air is thinner, with less oxygen, and unbreathable. (Side note: the moon’s gravitational pull isn’t strong enough to hold air down, so there is no air on the moon.)
Air compression: What happens when air particles are pushed closer together (as in a small space). Compressed air is more highly pressurized.
Air pressure: The condition created when air is pushed. When you push more air into a small space, air particles move closer together but try to escape by pushing on the inside walls (of the tire or balloon or whatever). The place on the body we notice air pressure changes is the ear since the eardrum must have equal air pressure on both sides, but air has to go through a bottleneck, and can move unevenly, resulting in popping.
Vacuum: When we suck or otherwise remove air from a container, we create a vacuum. By removing air, air pressure decreases. And since air always flows toward lower pressure, sucking occurs and air and materials from the outside get pulled in. (It’s not the motion of pulling out the air that causes sucking. It’s the higher pressure on the outside wanting to get in!) Outer space has no air, so it is a vaccum. If you went to space without a spacesuit you’d explode because all the air in your body would push outward toward the vaccum at once. Spacesuits provide air pressure.
The magnetic field of the earth: The field of magnetism in the earth with poles near the North Pole and the South Pole that are tilted at a slight angle. The field may be caused by moving metal in the Earth’s outer core. From time to time, these reverse, with north becoming south.
Magnetosphere: The area that stretches into space in which the Earth’s magnetic field can be felt.
Ecology: The study of the way living things interact with their environments
Ecosystem: A group of plants and animals that interact with each other and their surroundings
Biome: A unique climate and soil type
The eleven biomes of Earth: Tropical rainforests, deciduous forests, mountains, coniferous forests, scrub lands, temperate grasslands/prairies, tundra, tropical grasslands, deserts, polar areas, oceans
Habitat: The natural environment in which a species lives
Biodiversity: The huge variety of living things in a particular area. Biodiversity is lost with selective breeding.
Pollution: The unneeded junk (particularly the human-made chemical particles) that gets into the air and water. Water pollution happens both due to poisons in water killing life and to the oxygen in the water being used up by the bacteria (or even plant) overgrowth as they feed on waste materials. When there is inadequate oxygen for fish and animals, the water becomes lifeless.
The Ozone Layer: The layer of ozone (O3) that exists in the upper atomosphere of earth. It is poisonous to humans but protects us from UV rays.
The Greenhouse Effect: The result of an overabundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat and causes a greenhouse-like effect on earth which then results in major climate change
Global warming: The result of the Greenhouse Effect
Sewage treatment: The process by which a city’s waste water is filtered for large particles, then left in tanks where the organic solids sink to the bottom and are broken down by bacteria
Carbon cycle: The process by which carbon cycles in an through plants, animals, minerals and the atmosphere. This happens mostly due to the respiration of carbon dioxide by animals, the incorporation of carbon dioxide by plants during photosynthesis, decomposition and the burning of fossil fuels.
Nitrogen cycle: When the nitrogen cycle is not in balance, global warming and ozone depletion can occur.
Intensive farming: Farming with use of chemicals, machinery, etc.
Fossil fuels: Coal, oil, and gas, which are called fossil fuels because they were formed from the remains of animals and plants that were buried by layers of sediment millions of years ago. They are non-renewable.
Biodegradable: A substance that can be decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms
Sea level change: The change in sea levels caused by temperature changes. During ice ages, sea levels are low due to the great amount of frozen water. Today, sea levels have risen due to global warming.
Weather: The atmospheric conditions caused by changing air pressure and heat from sun
Climate: The long-term weather conditions of a particular area
The four basic climate types: Tropical (hot all year); polar (cold all year); temperate (moderate, seasonal change); deserts (dry all year).
Wind: The movement of air that happens when higher pressure air is moving toward lower pressure air. If there’s no pressure difference, there is no wind.
Storm: Any disruption in the atmosphere producing severe weather, including strong wind, tornadoes, hail, rain, snow (blizzard), lightning (thunderstorm), clouds of dust or sand carried by wind (a dust or sand storm)
Lightning: The visible and audible flow of electricity that occurs during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside a single cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. It produces an audible booming sound called thunder. Since the speed of light is greater than the speed of sound, we hear thunder after we see lightning.
Tornado: A funnel-shaped column of wind, evaporated water, dust and debris that moves rapidly, sweeping up objects in its path. It is formed when a thunderstorm occurs in areas of both cold and warm air.
Hurricane/typhoon/tropical cyclone/tropical storm: A spiral-shaped group of thunderstorms formed over the ocean that forms a cyclone (a circular movement of wind with a low-pressure center)
Earthquake: A sudden shaking of the surface of the earth due to shifts in tectonic plates
Seismic activity: The sum of all of the tremors and earthquakes in a region
Plate tectonics: The movement of the plates that make up Earth’s crust. It is driven by movements deep in the Earth.
Fault line: The deep cracks in Earth’s crust that make those areas vulnerable to extreme movement when earthquakes strike.
Subduction zone: An area where two plates collide and one slides below the other
Volcano: Vents (openings) in the ground from which magma (molten rock), ash, gas, and rock fragments surge upwards, in an event called an eruption. They are often found at boundaries between the plates in Earth’s crust.
Tsunami: A series of huge, destructive waves formed due to major events like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, meteorite crashes and earthquakes. Tsunamis are sometimes mistakenly known by the misnomer tidal wave.
Evaporation: Water vapor that is breaking free from the rest of the liquid
Condensation: The water vapor that collects back into drops on a solid. It comes from the air.
Water vapor: The gas that forms when water evaporates
Dew: The water vapor that forms as the sun rises and begins to warm cold air and humidity into condensation
Humidity: The water vapor in the air
Atmospheric particle/particulate: Microscopic solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere. Some are organic and others are human-made.
Thermometer: A tool to measure temperature
Barometer: A tool to measure air pressure
For me, the fascinating parts of psychology are the specific anecdotes and examples. What happened when that married couple showed early signs of apathy? Did they separate? How did that executive miss that seemingly obvious right move? Was he misled by his confirmation bias? How come that addict recovered while his friend did not?
That said, a few basics on the history of this field are nice, as they’re definitely part of our ongoing cultural conversation. For more in-depth, practical stuff, I highly recommend reading books on positive psychology and marriage books by John Gottman.
Psychology: The study of emotions and behavior and emotions. Psychologists attempt to identify normal, healthy behaviors and distinguish them from abnormal or unhealthy behaviors; to explain why these behaviors occur; and to alter undesired behaviors
Psychotherapy: Counseling with a counselor or psychologist. It usually takes place one-to-one in the therapist’s office (though group therapy is also common). The counselor and client work together to identify problems and goals related to the client’s emotional, mental, relational, vocational or spiritual well-being.
Psychologist: A counselor with a PhD
Mental health counselor or therapist: A counselor with a Master’s degree
Life coach: A counselor without an industry-specific degree
Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who specializes in mood disorders and drug treatments for these disorders
Clinical psychologist: A psychologist who diagnoses and treats mental disorders
Forensic psychologist: A psychologist who studies criminal behavior
Developmental psychologist: A psychologist who studies behavior over the lifespan
Cognitive psychologist or neuropsychologist: A psychologist who studies how the brain (neuroscience) affects behavior
Evolutionary psychologist: A psychologist who studies how human behavior has evolved over time
Other types of counselors and psychologists: Career counselor, school psychologist, occupational psychologist, marriage and family therapist, marriage counselor,industrial-organizational psychologist
Psychiatric disorders: Substance abuse disorders; psychotic disorders like schizophrenia; mood disorders like depression; anxiety disorders; dissociative disorders such as dissociative amnesia; phobias; sexual- and gender-related disorders; eating disorders; sleep disorders; impulse control disorders; adjustment disorders; personality disorders; disorders due to a medical condition; physical-seeming conditions that are not diagnosed, such as hypochondria; and falsely reported disorders by people seeking attention. (There are also some less common categories.)
Basic text used by psychologists for diagnosis of psychiatric disorders: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, often referred to as “The DSM”
Common treatments for mental disorders: Talk therapy, group therapy, family therapy, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, dialectical therapy, existential therapy, psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy, hypnosis, meditation, medication, EMDR
Psychoanalysis: A method of psychotherapy that seeks to bring unconscious knowledge into conscious knowledge through dream interpretation, Rorschach tests, free association and more. (Rorschach tests present ambiguous stimuli in the expectation that people will interpret it in ways that reveal their concerns, desires, and feelings.)
Behaviorism: A method of psychotherapy that seeks to change a person’s behavior through behavioral conditioning. This includes the use of negative and positive reinforcements. In classical conditioning, two stimuli are learned to be associated, such as Pavlov’s dogs and their dinner bell. Salivation, here, is the conditioned response. In operant conditioning, someone must perform some sort of task for their reward. Extinction happens when, by contrast, there is a lack of reinforcement leading to a weaker response. Desensitization is a technique for weakening a strong, undesirable response (such as anxiety about airplane flying) by repeated exposure to the stimulus.
Cognitive therapy: A method of psychotherapy that seeks to change a person’s negative or unhelpful beliefs by analyzing and questioning them. First, the counselor discovers the person’s schema, their belief system through which they interpret the world. Then the counselor and client identify automatic thoughts, fleeting thoughts that, if negative, need to be questioned in order to change one’s beliefs. Finally, those negative thoughts are disputed, logically questioned with the goal of finding more helpful thoughts to replace them.
The ten most well-known psychologists: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Jean Piaget, Erik Erikson, B.F. Skinner, Abraham Maslow; Ivan Pavlov; Carl Rogers, Martin Seligman, Aaron Beck
Sigmund Freud: The founder of psychoanalysis. He is most known for his psychosexual theory of development; his id/ego/superego theory; and his theory of the unconscious. He is also known for his identification of the Freudian slip, an act or spoken thing that is close to the intended, but different, and reflects unconscious beliefs or anxieties, as well as his technique of using dream analysis and stream of consciousness/free association therapy (a way of discovering one’s subconscious beliefs by having them respond quickly to questions or prompts.
Freud’s theory of the unconscious: Most of what ails us psychologically resides in the unconscious or subconscious and must be coaxed out through various therapies.
Freud’s theory of the id, ego and superego: Freud believed that in our unconscious there is an id, a childlike mind who has little impulse control; a superego, a parent-like mind who tries to direct our behavior rightly; and an ego, the more rational self that balances the other two.
Freud’s theory of psychosexual development: A theory that explains human psychological development through human sexual development. Freud coined the term “anal retentive” to describe people who are too perfectionistic and controlled. He also believed boys become sexually attracted to their mothers, which he called the Oedipus complex, and that all women have “penis envy.”
Freud’s ego defense mechanisms: Denial; displacement (making an unrelated party the object of your anger or blame); intellectualization (to avoid emotion); avoidance; rationalization; projection (placing your own quality or desire onto someone else); regression; repression, sublimation (acting out impulses in a socially acceptable way); reaction formation (taking the opposite stance); suppression.
Carl Jung: A friend of Freud’s and also a psychoanalyst who focused on the unconscious and rejected Freud’s sexual focus. There are still many Jungian analysts today.
Jean Piaget: A developmental theorist who created a popular theory of cognitive development. According to this theory, children progress through the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage and the concrete operations stage before they arrive at the formal operations stage, at which they have an abstract and nuanced view of the world.
Erik Erikson: A developmental theorist who focused on the social development of children on their way to maturity. According to him, babies are in the “trust versus mistrust” stage; toddlers are in the “autonomy versus shame and doubt” stage; preschoolers are in the “initiative versus guilt” stage; children are in the “industry versus inferiority” stage, adolescents are in the “identity versus role confusion” stage, young adults are in the “intimacy versus isolation” stage, middle adults are in the “generativity versus stagnation” stage, and older adults are in the “integrity versus despair” stage. The names of these stages reflect the dominant goal of each and the positive and negative results if the goal is achieved or not achieved.
Abraham Maslow: A humanistic psychologist who created a hierarchy of needs, with warmth, rest, food, oxygen and water at the bottom; security and safety one step up; belongingness and love after that; prestige and the feeling of accomplishment after that; and self-actualization at the top. (Self-actualization is the realization of one’s full potential.)
Ivan Pavlov: A behaviorist who studied conditioned reflexes in the body, such as saliva secretions in dogs after hearing a bell stimulus.
B.F. Skinner: The most well-known behaviorist, who performed experiments on people that showed how their behavior could be modified through learning
Carl Rogers: The founder of person-centered therapy who believed that the therapist should not offer advice, but instead guide the internal processes of the client. He emphasized the importance of forming a strong client-therapist bond and the therapist having sincere positive regard for their client.
Martin Seligman: An early proponent of positive psychology, the study of what makes people happy.
Aaron Beck: The founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a type of cognitive therapy that also includes behavioral elements
John Gottman: A couples therapist and researcher who studies and writes about couples he observes in real time. He is possibly the most well-known couples therapist.
Other Useful Psychology Terms
Theories of intelligence: Some researchers believe that there is a general intelligence factor (the “g factor”) which underlies all intellectual processes. Others believe there are many types of intelligence, such as componential intelligence, experiential intelligence, contextual intelligence and emotional intelligence. One researcher proposed the idea of eight types of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical; musical; spacial; bodily-kinesthetic; interpersonal; intrapersonal; and nature.
Crystallized intelligence: Collected skills and knowledge acquired over time. Increases with age.
Fluid intelligence: Ability to deal with totally new problems. Decreases with age.
Type A personality: A high-energy personality type characterized by competitiveness, impatience, and an achievement orientation.
Type B personality: A lower-energy personality type characterized by relaxed and easygoing behavior.
Attachment theory: The idea that securely attached babies develop better physically and emotionally, while others do not.
Dialectical reasoning: A therapeutic process involving identifying and analyzing opposing points of view in order to find the most helpful and rational perspective.
Existential therapies: Therapies that help clients find meaning and purpose in their lives, even in the absence of strong religious faith.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): An evidence-based therapeutic technique in which a client makes rapid back-and-forth eye movements while their counselor guides recollection of traumatic memories.
Systematic desensitization: A therapeutic technique in which the client is suddenly, rather than gradually, exposed to their fear in order to become desensitized to it.
Neurotransmitter: A specialized nerve cell in the brain that receives, processes and transmits information to other cells in the body. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin and endorphins are involved in creating emotions and other states of mind, like appetite and alertness.
Amygdala: A part of the limbic system of the brain that is involved in regulating aggression and emotions, particularly fear
Parasympathetic nervous system: Part of the autonomic nervous system that helps the body maintain calm
Etiology: The cause or origin of a disorder
Histrionic personality disorder: A disorder characterized primarily by attention-seeking behavior
Narcissistic personality disorder: A disorder characterized primarily by a desire to be admired
Antisocial personality disorder: A disorder characterized primarily by a lack of empathy
Avoidant personality disorder: A disorder characterized primarily by social withdrawal
Borderline personality disorder: A disorder characterized primarily by impulsiveness, emotional extremes and low self-esteem
Agoraphobia: The fear of crowds
Catharsis: The release of tension that results when repressed thoughts or memories become conscious
Cognitive dissonance: A tension inside someone who has two seemingly conflicting beliefs that they are trying to resolve
Compensation or overcompensation: A striving to rid onesself of feelings of inferiority in one area by striving harder in another
Compulsions: Repetitive behaviors that are used to relieve anxiety
Confirmation bias: The tendency to accept evidence that supports one’s pre-existing beliefs and to reject evidence that refutes those beliefs.
Egocentrism: The tendency to ignore others’ points of view in favor of one’s own
Fundamental attribution error: The tendency to attribute other people’s behavior to their (flawed) personalities though similar behavior in onesself is often attributed to circumstance.
Learned helplessness: The tendency to give up too easily, often due to a past pattern of failure
Placebo effect: The improvement of a physical or mental condition in people who believe they’ve received a treatment, but have not
Self-concept: The sum of the beliefs and feelings one has about onesself
Self-serving bias: The tendency to attribute one’s successes to internal factors and one’s failures to circumstance
Inferiority complex: A condition in which a person becomes angry or withdrawn because of feelings of insecurity. This concept was identified by Alfred Adler.
Math isn’t that bad. It’s a pain, but doable. Hopefully this list will give you a clear map for mastering these subjects in a self-guided way. Please make use of some of the excellent resources out there, such as the free online lecture series by the Khan Academy, to learn and practice.
Note that I include here more than is strictly necessary for most elementary school and high schoolers to learn. Do learn basic statistics, but skip everything else after algebra I and geometry I if it doesn’t interest you or if it doesn’t fit with your college and career plans. (You’ll be fine, I promise.)
Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1:
Using factors and multiples
Using algebraic symbols (parentheses, brackets, dots, slashes, etc.)
Solving basic algebraic equations
Calculating ratios, rates, percentages and proportions
Calculating exponents, radicals, and scientific notation
Solving algebraic expressions
Solving linear word problems
Systems of equations
Using absolute value
Using rational exponents
Using exponential growth
Using systems of equations
Working with expressions with exponents
Working with polynomials
Working with factorization
Working with quadratics
Working with rational and irrational numbers
Definitely, evaluate and compare functions
Congruence and similarity
Vectors and vector quantities
Finding square roots
Definitely, evaluate and compare functions
Congruence and similarity
Vectors and vector quantities
Construct and compare linear, quadratic and exponential models
Prove geometric theorems
Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically
Make geometric constructions based on a given set of numbers
Understand congruence in terms of rigid motions
Find arc lengths and areas of sectors of circles
Calculating square footage
Graphing lines and slope
Understanding the differences between angles, polygons, lines, circles, triangles, right triangles and shapes
Calculating linear equations
Working with coordinate plane
Working with the Pythagorean theorem
Doing solid geometry
Doing analytic geometry
Construct and compare linear, quadratic and exponential models
Prove geometric theorems
Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically
Make geometric constructions based on a given set of numbers
Understand congruence in terms of rigid motions
Find arc lengths and areas of sectors of circles
Understanding data sets and samples
Knowing common experiment designs and the differences between them
Understanding data distribution
Reading and interpreting data
Graphing and modeling simple data
Understanding and calculating mean, median and average
Understanding and calculating standard deviation
Understanding correlation and regression
Understanding statistical significance
Understanding positive correlation and negative correlation
Understanding bivariate numerical data
Informal inferences and conclusions
Running t-Tests, chi-square tests and ANOVA tests using statistical computation software
Continuing to learn the concepts taught in Algebra 1, including a more in-depth study of graphing and solving equations, inequalities, and functions.
Applying algebra and geometry skills to circular and periodic functions. This includes an understanding of sine, cosine and tangent.
Learning about series and sequences, probability, statistics, limits, and derivatives.
Continuing to learn about the concepts taught in pre-calculus, with an emphasis on integration and differentiation.
Whether or not you’ve studied philosophy, you’re probably already a philosopher. You think about the meaning of life, absolute and relative moral precepts, political ideals and the indelible qualities of human nature. For this reason, the formal study of philosophy isn’t so much about defining or comparing philosophical ideas–something you’re already quite capable of doing–but about the thinkers of the past who famously argued different sides of these questions. Basically, philosophy is history.
Here, I do briefly introduce some of the major questions of philosophical debate, with the caveat that the list is not comprehensive. There is philosophy in everything—every subject. Every … thing. But these are the questions that have so far seemed most fundamental (such as the meaning of life), most practical (such as political ideas) and have been most famously discussed (such as the empiricism versus rationalism debate). Then I introduce you to many of the major philosophers of history and their most notable contributions, which will hopefully give your philosophical discussions and debates more texture, context and depth.
Basic Philosophy Terminology
Philosophy: The study of the meaning and nature of life, consciousness and more. Every subject can be philosophically analyzed to determine the subject’s inherent qualities, purpose and right functioning. For example, the study of medicine has benefited from people asking what the ultimate goal of doctors should be, and then arriving at the Hippocratic Oath (“first, do no harm …”) The word “philosophy” literally means “love of wisdom.”
Some major questions of philosophy: What is the meaning of life? What qualities are fundamental to human nature? How can we know what we know (empiricism versus rationalism)? What is truth? How do we arrive at morality and values? What political structures are most beneficial? How does language shape our beliefs? What is the best way to live? Do humans have free will? What is the nature of existence? What is beauty?
Sub-fields of academic philosophy: Metaphysics (the study of ultimate, nonphysical reality), epistemology (the study of knowledge), ethics, ontology (study of what exists, i.e. God), cosmology (study of the cosmos), aesthetics (the study of beauty), political philosophy, logic and more
Eastern philosophy: The philosophical tradition of China, Japan, India and other eastern countries. Important contributions include Daoism (The Tao Te Ching of approximately 600 BCE), Confucianism (The Analects of Confucius of approximately 500 BCE) and Buddhism (which arose in India around 500 BCE). Eastern philosophy is characterized by an interest in the unknowable, the unspeakable and patterns and cycles. See the “Religions” section of this series for more information on these philosophies.
“The dao that can be told is not the dao.” – Laozi, who taught about the Tao/Dao, also known as The Way, the indescribable ultimate truth which can partly be discovered by acting in harmony with nature and meditating
“Happy is he who has overcome his ego.” – Siddhartha Gautama, later the Buddha, who prescribed meditation, the middle way (life balance) and letting go of suffering through wanting nothing
“Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” – Confucius, who emphasized virtuous living, loyalty and obedience to one’s leaders, sincerity and self-reflection
“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.” – Rumi, a Persian who taught about reincarnation and Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam
Western philosophy: The philosophical tradition of the West dating from approximately 500 BCE with the Greeks (Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), to the Romans (Cicero and Seneca), to medieval Christian philosophers (Aquinas and Augustine) and beyond. Western philosophy is marked by an interest in logic, absolute knowledge and the Christian faith.
History of Western Philosophy
The Greek Period (approximately 600-300 BCE): Thales influenced Pythagoras. Pythagoras influenced Socrates. Socrates taught Plato. Plato taught Aristotle.
Pythagoras combined math and philosophy. Socrates developed the Socratic Method in which he asked question after question in order to confound people who believed themselves to be wise, digging for deeper truths in everything. He was condemned to die due to his ideas. He drank hemlock.
Plato introduced the idea of the world of forms, an imagined place that holds the ideal of each type of real thing. (Example: A table has the essence–the form–of a table, even if it is old and broken. But the real table is a lesser version of the ideal table form.) He used the Allegory of the Cave to show how humans only see a mere shadow of what is ultimately real.
Plato disagreed with this idea. He was not a rationalist (a believer in the primacy of reason and ideas in discovering truth) but an empiricist (a believer in the primacy of evidence and material reality in discovering truth). Plato founded a famous school called the Academy in Athens. After him, Aristotle opened his school, the Lyceum, also in Athens.
Parmenides said that matter can’t die, and something can’t come from nothing, so everything that is real is eternal, unchanging, and containing some invisible unity. Protagoras argued for moral relativism.
“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” – Socrates
“I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” – Socrates
“Earthly knowledge is but shadow.” – Plato
“Truth resides in the world around us.” – Aristotle
“All is one.” – Parmenides
“Man is the measure of all things.” – Protagoras
The Roman Period (approximately 300 BCE to 350 CE): The stoics (stoicism), led by Zeno, taught indifference to pleasure and pain and acceptance of one’s lot in life. By contrast, the epicureans (epicureanism), led by Epicurus, believed that the goal of life is pleasure. The cynics (cynicism) taught that happiness is contentment with little, particularly little material comfort.
The Middle Ages (approximately 350 to 1300 CE): St. Augustine of Hippo wrote extensively about free will. He attempted to explain why both God and evil exist. Boethius wrote about God’s foresight but maintained Augustine’s philosophy of free will. St. Anselm attempted an ontological argument for the existence of God, saying that if you can conceive of the greatest thing that could ever exist, it must exit, because the greatest thing has to exist or it wouldn’t be the greatest. Thomas Aquinas wrote extensively about the logical and scientific nature of Christianity.
The Renaissance Period (approximately 1300-1750): Here, philosophy becomes sharply more humanist. Erasmus introduced modern humanism, arguing that religion is folly. Niccolo Machiavelli argues that government can’t be bound by morality if it wants to succeed. Francis Bacon wrote about the value of the scientific method. Thomas Hobbes wrote that the nature of reality is purely physical, that there is no ultimate meaning to life. He introduced the idea of the social contract, saying that our agreements with each other are what enables a relatively peaceful society to exist.
Unlike Bacon and Hobbes, Rene Descartes was a rationalist. He believed that even the existence of physical matter cannot be proven and the only thing we can truly know exists is our own minds. Blaise Pascal was a practical thinker, arguing that it’s safer to bet on God’s existence than to bet against it (“Pascal’s Wager”). Benedictus Spinoza changed the argument, simply redefining God: everything is one, and everything is God.
John Locke returned us to empiricism, arguing that no truths are universal to all people and all cultures. He came up with the idea of the tabula rasa–the blank slate, which is a metaphor for the unknowing state in which each person is born before they are implanted with cultural ideas. George Berkeley foresaw quantum physics, saying that a thing only exists in so far as it perceives or is perceived, and that there is no material substance.
“To know nothing is the happiest life.” – Erasmus
“Happiness is reached when a person is ready to be what he is.” – Erasmus
“The ends justifies the means.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
“Knowledge is power.” – Francis Bacon
“Man is a machine.” – Thomas Hobbes
“And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” – Thomas Hobbes
“I think, therefore I am.” – Rene Descartes
“Imagination decides everything.” – Blaise Pascal
“God is the cause of all things, which are in him.” – Benedictus Spinoza
“No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.” – John Locke
“To be is to be perceived.” – George Berkeley
The Age of Revolution (approximately 1750-1900): Voltaire, a playwright, said that certainty is absurd. David Hume agreed, saying that custom is the source of knowledge.
Immanuel Kant sought to prove the existence of the physical world. He tried to marry empiricism and rationalism, saying that both reason and perceptions are needed for knowledge. Georg Hegel believed reality is constantly changing and suggested people use dialectic reasoning and avoid assumptions. Arthur Schopenhauer said that we are all limited in our knowledge due to our unique experiences of life.
On the political philosophy front, Jean-Jacques Rosseau argued that though man is fundamentally good, laws and government create injustice and oppression. Adam Smith, an economist, argued that the basis of society is trade. Edmund Burke said that governmental change should be slow and argued for a free market economy. Jeremy Bentham tried to calculate pleasure and proposed that laws are created by considering which give the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Mary Wollstonecraft founded feminism. John Stuart Mill agreed with Bentham, adding that people should be free to do with their own bodies as they wished, but not harm anyone else.
Soren Kierkegaard said that as much as we think we want freedom, we really don’t. He is the father of existentialism, the theory that there is no meaning inherent in existence, that existence precedes essence. Karl Marx said that class struggle is what causes all of the ills of society, arguing for communism, while Henry David Thoreau argued for individual liberty, non-conformism, and conscientious objection through non-cooperation and non-violent resistance. William James founded pragmatism, saying that people should just do the best they can in spite of uncertainty.
“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” – Voltaire
“Custom is the great guide of human life.” – David Hume
“Man was born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.” Jean-Jacques Rosseau
“Man is an animal that makes bargains.” – Adam Smith
“There are two worlds: our bodies and the external world.” – Immanuel Kant
“The greatest happiness for the greatest number.” – Jeremy Bentham
“Mind has no gender.” – Mary Wollstonecraft
“Reality is a historical process.” – Georg Hegel
“Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” – John Stuart Mill
“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” – Soren Kierkegaard
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” – Karl Marx
“Must the citizen ever resign his conscience to the legislator?” – Henry David Thoreau
“Act as if what you do makes a difference.” – William James
The Modern World (1900-1950) and the Postmodern World (1950 to the present): Friedrich Nietsche, an existentialist, wrote about the insufficiency of religion. Bertrand Russell insisted that people attach too much importance to work. Ludwig Wittgenstein described the limits of language and the limits placed on our thinking by language. Martin Heidegger wrote about finding meaning in a meaningless world and about living authentically. Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus agreed, saying that we must create our own life purpose. Simone de Beauvior wrote about the oppression of women, Noam Chomsky argued for adherence to codes of ethics and Jacques Derrida was a deconstructionist who believed that knowledge is limited by language and by our ability (or lack of ability) to interpret it. Life is a series of flawed interpretations.
“God is dead.” – Nietzsche
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Sartayana
“It is only suffering that makes us persons.” – Miguel de Unamuno
“The road to happiness lies in an organized diminution of work.” – Bertrand Russell
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
“We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed.” – Martin Heidegger
“Existence precedes essence.” – Jean-Paul Sartre
“Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female.” – Simone de Beauvoir
“Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.” – Albert Camus
“There is nothing outside of the text.” – Jacques Derrida
“We are all mediators, translators.” – Jacques Derrida
Basic Philosophy Terminology
Idealism: belief that ultimate reality is non-material (mind, spirit and/or merely essence)
Materialism: belief that ultimate reality is materialism
Determinism: belief that ‘nothing can happen other than what does happen, because every event is the necessary outcome of causes preceding it,’ which were caused by events preceding them (even thoughts and decisions)
Mysticism: knowledge that transcends the physical world
naturalism: belief that reality is explicable without reference to anything mystical
Postmodernism: distrust of unifying answers; relativity
Pragamtism: a theory of truth. Holds that a statement is true if it accurately describes a situation, fits well with past observation, etc. Uninterested in the unknowable, impractical
Utilitarianism: theory of politics, ethics that judges actions on consequences—most pleasure/good for the most people = good
Noumenon: the thing-in-itself; the unknowable reality behind what present itself to human consciousness/ultimate nature of something
Phenomenon: an experience that is immediately present and observable
Numinous: anything regarded as mysterious and awesome and somehow beyond natural world
Phenomenology: study of our experience of things without making assumptions about their essential nature as independent things
Semantics: Study of word usage
Transcendental: outside sense experience; belief in things outside sense experience
Basic Logic and Rhetoric
Everyone loves winning an argument. Actually, everyone just loves an argument. It’s stimulating. Challenging. Energetic. If you want to argue better, or just be better able to discriminate between arguments, logic studies will help–a lot. Just keep in mind that once you learn this stuff, it’s hard not to get a bit snobbish about it; I recommend you flavor your powers of logic with tact.
Important note: Many logical fallacies are known by more than one name. I’ve attempted to use the most common in my list, but if you rely too much on memorization, you won’t always recognize other people’s terms. More important, you’ll miss the point.
Finally, a quote to consider: “One and one cannot become two, since neither becomes two.”– Gongsun Long, Chinese logician (c. 325–250 BCE)
I think that pretty much says it all.
Logic: The set of rules that guides the formation of valid arguments and tests argumentative conclusions for validity.
Rhetoric: The art of persuasion
Practical uses for logic: Ethics, politics, computer programming, writing and any situation in which arguments are posited, questioned and defended.
An argument: A defense of an opinion or position. Arguments can be logical or rhetorical. Logical arguments are those which determine whether a particular statement is true or false. Rhetorical arguments are those which attempt to persuade a person or audience that a particular statement is true or false, regardless of whether it actually is true or false.
Premise: An idea upon which other ideas in an argument rely.
Logical form: The formula that an argument uses to arise at its conclusion. Example: All A’s are B’s and all B’s are C’s; therefore, all A’s are C’s.
Valid: Logically correct. Example: All zebras are mammals and all mammals are ugly; therefore, all zebras are ugly.
True: Actually correct. Example: All zebras are mammals and all mammals drink their mothers’ milk; therefore, all zebras drink mothers’ milk.
Rational/sound: Logical, valid and true
How to analyze an argument for soundness: First, notice whether or not the form of the argument makes sense. Does the conclusion follow from the premises? If not, you likely have a formal fallacy on your hands. As a beginning logician, don’t spend too much time figuring out the name of the fallacy; instead, point out the problem and say something like, “The conclusion doesn’t follow the premises.” Step two is to notice whether or not the statements made in the argument are true; if not, there is an informal fallacy. You should be able to identify all ad hominem fallacies and name them as such. You should also be able to call out these fallacies by name: the fallacy of equivocation; the slippery slope fallacy; the poisoning the well fallacy; the straw man fallacy; the appeals to emotion, fear, pity, ridicule and the like; and the appeals to tradition, authority, and popularity. Other fallacies can simply be identified as such, and often, this is enough.
Semantics: The meanings of words. These can often be problematic and unstable, which contributes to illogic.
Inference: A true or false conclusion in the form of “A, therefore, B.”
Implication: A true or false conclusion in the form of “If A, then B.”
Deductive reasoning: Deducing a specific fact from a general principle
Inductive reasoning: Arriving at a general principle from a specific fact or case
Analysis: Deconstructing part-by-part to find deeper meaning
Synthesis: Putting parts together to find deeper meaning
A posteriori: Not known to be valid or true except through observation and experience
A priori: Known to be valid or true by reason alone
History of the study of logic: Logic comes from the Greek word logos, originally meaning “the word” or “what is spoken”, but later meaning “thought” or “reason”. Aristotle was the first known proponent of formal logic, and since then, it has been applied to many scientific areas, including computer programming. Logic studies, though, normally refers to rhetorical logic.
Logical fallacy/non sequitur: A weakness in an argument, often hidden, that causes the conclusion to be invalid or untrue. Informal fallacies have to do with the content of the argument, and formal fallacies have to do with the form of the argument. (Non sequitur means “it does not follow.”)
Formal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the structure of the argument that causes the argument to be invalid, regardless of the content of the argument. Remember, just because an argument contains a fallacy doesn’t mean the conclusion isn’t true. It simply means that particular argument doesn’t prove it to be so.
Informal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the content of the argument. Most often, informal logical fallacies are simple distractions from the actual argument. They point to external ideas or the opponent’s personality and the like. Literally any distraction from the validity of the argument itself can be an informal logical fallacy. Don’t memorize the names–just understand the problem with them in the collective. (For a ridiculously long list, see Wikipedia’s list of logical fallacies.)
Common Formal Logical Fallacies
The affirming the consequent fallacy: An argument that states “If A, then B; B, therefore A.” Example: “If Fred killed Todd, Fred is angry. Fred is angry, therefore, Fred killed Todd.”
The denying the antecedent fallacy: An argument that states, “If A, then B; not A, therefore not B.” Example: “If Fred killed Todd, then he hated him. Fred didn’t kill Todd. Therefore, he didn’t hate him.
The affirming a disjunct fallacy: An argument that states, “A is true or B is true. B is true. Therefore, A is not true.” In fact, both could be true.
The denying a conjunct fallacy: An argument that states that “It is not the case that both A is true and B is true. B is not true. Therefore, A is true.” In fact, both could be false.
Fallacy of the undistributed middle: An argument that states that “All Zs are Bs. Y is a B. Therefore, Y is a Z.” One must first prove that all Bs are Zs.
Common Informal Logical Fallacies
Ad hominem (“to the man”) fallacy: An argument that relies on attacking the arguer instead of the argument. This is really a category of fallacies which includes the appeal to authority/expert fallacy and the opposite of this, the courtier fallacy (which attacks the opposition’s knowledge, credentials or training).
The equivocation fallacy: An argument that relies onthe misleading use of a term with more than one meaning (by glossing over which meaning is intended at a particular time).
The straw man fallacy: An argument that relies onan argument based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position.
The slippery slope fallacy: A slippery slope argument (SSA), in logic, critical thinking, political rhetoric, and caselaw, is a logical fallacy in which a party asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant (usually negative) effect.
The poisoning the well fallacy: A subtype of ad hominem presenting adverse information about a target person with the intention of discrediting everything that the target person says.
The appeal to emotion fallacy: An argument that relies on the manipulation of emotions. This is a general category that includes the appeal to threat fallacy, the appeal to fear fallacy, the appeal to flattery fallacy, the appeal to pity fallacy, the appeal to ridicule fallacy and more.
The false dilemma: An argument that relies ontwo alternative statements are held to be the only possible options when in reality there are more.
The circular reasoning/begging the question fallacy: An argument that relies on the presence of the conclusion within the premise in order to appear logical
The ad nauseam/argumentum ad infinitum fallacy: An argument that relies on mere repetition
The appeal to tradition fallacy: An argument that relies on a conclusion supported solely because it has long been held to be true.
The appeal to the people/bandwagon fallacy: An argument that relies on a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because a majority or many people believe it to be so.
The guilt by association or honor by association fallacies: Arguments that rely on the idea that because two things share some property, they are the same.
The red herring fallacy: A speaker attempts to distract an audience by deviating from the topic at hand by introducing a separate argument the speaker believes is easier to speak to. Argument given in response to another argument, which is irrelevant and draws attention away from the subject of argument.
The cherry picking fallacy: An argument that relies onact of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.
The appeal to consequences fallacy: An argument that relies on describing the terrible things that would happen if the opponent’s position were true.
The appeal to motive fallacy: An argument that relies on attacking the motive of the opponent.
The tu quoque (‘you too’) fallacy: An argument that relies on pointing out the hypocrisy of the opponent.
The etymological fallacy: reasoning that the original or historical meaning of a word or phrase is necessarily similar to its actual present-day usage.
The moving the goalposts/raising the bar fallacy: An argument that relies onargument in which evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded.
The survivorship bias fallacy: An argument that points to a small number of successes of a given process are actively promoted while completely ignoring a large number of failures
The false analogy fallacy: An argument that relies on an argument by analogy in which the analogy is poorly suited.
The hasty generalization: An argument that bases a broad conclusion on a small sample or the making of a determination without all of the information required to do so.
The oversimplification fallacy: An argument that relies on it is assumed that there is one, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient causes.
The appeal to ignorance: An argument that relies on assuming that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa.
The pooh-pooh fallacy: An argument that relies on dismissing an argument perceived unworthy of serious consideration.
The moralistic fallacy: Making statements about what is, on the basis of claims about what ought to be.
Prehistory (to 3500 BCE) and Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
3500 B.C.: Climate changes in the Sahara separated northern and southern African populations and affected migration patterns.
Upper Kingdom and Lower Kingdom:
3000 B.C.: to 776 B.C.: In Egypt, pharaohs began to rule after King Narmer united the Upper and Lower Kingdoms. The country moved through the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom stages. During the Old Kingdom, the Great Pyramid was completed and mummification began.
3200–2600 B.C.: Writing was developed in Sumer (cuneiform) and Egypt (hieroglyphs), triggering the beginning of recorded history.
3300 B.C.: Growth of first Egyptian towns.
3000 B.C.: Upper and lower Egypt united. (find out: did Egypt evolve/discover farming independent of Mesopotamia or brought from there? When did relations with Mes begin?)
Old Kingdom: Egypt surrounded by deserts that cut it off from rest of Africa. But fertile and green due to Nile. History very linked with Middle East. Nile offered transportation and irrigation. Wheat and barley (for beer and bread), flax (for linen); cattle for transportation. Advanced religion, medicine, astronomy, engineering. Polytheists. Papyrus hieroglyphs. Pyramids. Great Pyramid at Giza built (when?) many passageways and chambers. Sought to please gods and make a permanent mark on history. Stones of up to 60 tons each. 2.3 million stones used altogether. Pharaohs. Egypt unified in one kingdom for most of their history. Pharaoh considered a living god. Body mummified when died, buried with treasure for afterlife–even food. Sacred writings on walls for protection. Many cities, all hugging the Nile. Most Egyptians were farmers. Mostly uneducated but all very religious. Then–decline for 100 years. No strong ruler.
2040 B.C.: Start of Middle Kingdom with Mentuhotep, who restored greatness. Fine art, literature. Not great conquerors. Egypt still isolated from rest of world. Did invade Nubia for gold, though. (insert main egyptian gods) (Another 100-year decline, then new kingdom)
1550 B.C.: New Kingdom. Egypt at its largest and wealthiest. Became known abroad. Egypt’s Golden Age. Conquered Palestine. At height during rule of Amenhotep III. This capital at Thebes. (Capital moved regularly.) Farmers still lived simply but nobles were very wealthy, had luxury. By law, men and women were equal. Women owned property. Four professions of women allowed: priestess, midwife, dancer, mourner. Scribes and priests second to nobility in importance.
One pharaoh, Akhenaten, tried to change religion to momotheistm (god Aten) but after he died the priests of old gods regained control. Dead king’s name removed from all monuments and records, and his new capital city was abandoned. Many New Kingdom pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings, including King Tutankahamen, whose tomb was rediscovered in 1922. In time of Greeks, Egypt finally conquered. THen became a Roman territory during Roman era. Romans let writings and monuments be forgotten and ruined.
6000-2000 B.C.: Sahara was wetter, crossable.
3500: Sahara began to dry up but some routes stayed open.
2000 B.C.: Kingdom of Kush grew out of Nubia (Sudan), whichtook after Egypt. Trading partner for Egypt, source of gold.
1500 B.C.: Egypt conquered Kush for 750 years.
700 B.C.: Kush transitioned from stone working to iron working (no bronze) and flourished, supplying places in Africa and the Middle East. Ehipia was more self-contained but also important culture of this time.
600: Growth of Nok culture on Niger River, Nigeria and Meroe, [?], Chad, Bantu. Southern Africa shepherds and hunter-gatherers called Khoisan.
350 B.C.: Meroi collapsed and was replaced by Aksum, which grew rich. Great cities and monoliths. Adopted Christianity. Thrived until AD 1000!
200: Jenne-jeno, the first African city (in West Africa) established. Partly due to introduction of camel to the Sahara, so trade could happen in West Africa.
The Middle Ages (500 to 1500)
AD 500: Bantu-speaking people from Nigeria migrated south, “leaving the rain forests to the Pygmies and the Kalahari Desert to the Khoisan bushmen. Bantu speakers in east started trading with Greeks and Romans.
AD 700-1240: Ghana, the first true African state. Center of gold trade. Located inland and more4 north than modern-day Ghana. Successors were Mali and Songhai. Became rich due to Arabs using camels to cross Sahara for the gold, mined further south and west. Brought in sald, European goods came there and slaves were traded out. Fell in 1076, restored, then fell again and in 1240 became part of Mali.
1240-1500: Middle Ages. Four main kingdoms: Mali/Songhay, Ethiopia, Benin and Zimbabwe.
1240: Mali founed by Sundiata Keita. Well-organized state, fertile farmlands beside the Niger River. Gold trade. Powerful. Many wealthy cities. Great Mosque designed by an Egyptian. City called Timbuktu on Niger. Key destination of caravan routes. 100 schools, a university, mosques, market. Ivory, too. Slaves to Muslim world, Venice and Genoa. Imported salt, cloth, ceramics, glass, horses, luxuries. Became Muslim for a time under a sypathetic ruler.
900-1480: Kingdom of Benin in modern-day Nigeria. Benin: West Africa. Forest kingdom. Benin City, capital. Had wide streets, large wooden houses, long surrounding walls. Bronze carvings. Traded in cloth, ivory, metals, palm oil, pepper, poottery and brass art like masks and carvings. King had a rich palace. Ruled at height by Oba Eware the Great, who modernized and didn’t enslave prisoners or engage in slave trade, which protected it from European colonization till 1897.
900-1450: South: Great Zimbabwe. Large reserves of copper, gold. Walled palace city called Great Zimbabwe. Massive stone structures (granite)–how? by whom? A mystery. (A Zimbabwe is a stone-built enclosure and we call Zimbabwes this because of this famous structure.
1450: Zimbabwe overtaken. 1500: Conquered by Songhay (lower down the Niger River).
1000: Collapse of Aksum in East Africa.
1137: Ethiopia (Abyssinia) founded. Christians. Capital moved from Aksum to Lalibela.
1270-1500s: Ethiopia expanded into mountains of East Africa, taking in many once-isolated tribes. Regarded as a mysterious Christian kingdom. Had an emperor. Built 11 cross-shaped churches carved out of solid rock.
1500s: Declined due to internal discord.Not great warriors and never expanded (or even tried to) by military means.
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900)
1629: Zim’s successor kingdom of Rozvi (?) fell to Portugese control. (They wanted the mines.)
1550-1700: Africa developing rapidly and would have advanced much farther, but Europeans came and took many slaves and imported their culture. “Social divisions increased as chieftans and traders made profitable deals.” Somghay and largest slave trade. Taken over by Europeans, along with the gold, and its wealth collapsed. Moroccan army took it over in 1591.
1600s: New states emerged in the south. Were Muslim and mostly traded with Ottomans and Arabs. Ottomans also mostly controlled Northeast Africa.
1543: Portugese took Ethiopia, set up on coast, drove out raiding Muslims. Increased slave trade.
1600s and 1700s: Key individual states: Dahomey and Ashanti. Portugese and Dutch traded in Ashanti primarily. Millions of slaves shipped to the Americas. Many died either during slave wars between African states trying to capture slaves or on voyages across Atlantic (the Middle Passage). A catastrophe for Africa to lose so many people. Tribal security and unity gradually gave way to increased social distrust and control by greedy chiefs.
1575: Portugese first settled in Angola.
1588: English Guinea Company founded
1637: Dutch drove Portugese from the Gold Coast
1652: Dutch East India Company founded Cape Town.
1700s: Africa relatively peaceful despite European settlemtn. 35,000 slaves each year sent to the Americas.
1787: British established Sierra Leone as a refugee for freed slaves.
1822: Liberia founded for freed slaves from the U.S.
Early 1800s: Most European countries stopped trading in slaves, though Portugese continued till 1882.
Early 1800s: Zulu trive in Southern Africa fought constantly with neighbors. Major bloodshed. Zulu warriors! “Time of Troubles.” Islam still going strong. Most of Africa still owned by Africans, but not united against Arabs and Europeans, so very vulnerable.
1805-1848: Egypt controlled by Ottomans, who expanded Egypt to further up Nile River in Sudan. Egypt now leading power in Southern Mediterranean. Mehmet Al Pasha known for his massacre of the former ruling class of Egypt, the Mamluks. Invited them to a banquet after taking control of Egypt. In Cairo. Had them massacred there.
1814-1910: South Africa. Enormous struggles for power as the British, the Boers (Dutch) and the Zulus all competed with each other.
1836: Cape Colony at Southern tip ruled by British. Expanded northward. Fought Zulus and the Boers for control of area. Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, Cecil Rhodes, sought to unite all of Africa under British rule. Boer Wars.
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
1902: Peace treaty signed making Boer republics part of British empire, though self-governed.
1910: Union of South Africa founded, unifying several African provinces under the British.
1869: Suez Canal opens to shipping.
1875: Britain took advantage of a local financial crisis and bought 50 percent of shares of Suez Canal.
1871: Stanley, an American journalist, met Dr. David Livingstone at Lake Tansanyika (sp?). Livingstone was seeking the source of the Nile.
1876: Belgium took over the Congo.
1882: British occupy Egypt to protect Suez Canal, which cut their time to India hugely. This caused some fighting.
1884: European nations met in Berlin to divide Africa among themselves. Only Liberia and Ethiopia remained independent.
1893: Frech take Timbuktu, Mali, W. Africa.
1899: British-Egyptian rule of Sudan
1912: African National Congress forms in South Africa.
1880-1912: European nations “scramble for Africa.” Led by Britain, France, plus Germany, Belgium and Italy.
Late 1800s: Britain had modern-day Ghana, Nigeria and controlled Sierra Leone, Egypt and the Gambia. Belgium had the Congo in Central Africa. [see map p362]. French were in West Africa, Britain in w, ne, south; belgium in center and other spred-out colonies. New forms of gov3ernment brought to Africa, but most Africans couldn’t vote and tribes were broken up in the “cake-cutting” process. European colonists often took best farmland for themselves. Profits all went to Europe.(here ins: how african nations gained independence)
1967-2000: Famine in Africa widespread. Drought. Civil war, which made sending aid very dangerous.
1960s: Most states gained independence.
1990-2000: South Africa and Apartheid. S. Af was the last country without self-rule. Still imperialist till Nelson Mandella ended apartheid. Apartheid: separation ofr people according to color or race. Started by the Boers in s. af. in early 1900s. Different laws if you were white, black or “colored” (mixed). Blacks and colored forced to live outside cities and movement restricted. White people in power and resisted opposition from the ANC (African National Congress) in the 60s by harsh laws, including making it illegal to have all-black political parties.
1980s: Colored allowed into government but not blacks. Starting in 1978, several reformers for change, inc President Botha, Desmond Tutu (an Anglican leader), PresidentF.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandella, who was released from prison by Klerk after 28 years. Mandella became the head of the ANC, then president. Free elections that included all people came in 1994 andled to end of apartheird. Argued for peacefrul settlement. Focus turned to need for schooling, poverty, lack of electricity and clean drinking water, unemployment and street crime.
Prehistory ( – to 3500 BCE) and Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
Russian prehistory and ancient history summary: Various peoples occupied the area now known as Russia, but very little is known about any of them. At some point, groups of East Slavs, various peoples who spoke Slavic languages, formed. It is thought that Monguls, Huns and other invaders interfered with them sporadically.
The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)
Russian Middle Ages summary: European and Middle Eastern adventurers and merchants traveling through Russia began trading with the leaderless Slavs. In doing so, they significantly affected Slavic culture.
During this time, the East Slavs were joined by various Viking tribes from Scandinavia who came south from the Baltic Sea region. One of these tribes might have been the Rus, the people who, in the late 800s, established the first Russian state, which was centered on Kiev (a loose federation sometimes called the Kievan Rus federation state). (Some scholars dispute this, saying the Rus were another East Slavic people.) The Rus ruler was the first Russian ruler mentioned in Islamic and Western literature.
In Kiev, the Rus blended with the Slavs. At the same time, they and other Scandinavian tribes moved further south, entering Baghdad and Constantinople. In Kiev and along the river routes connecting the Baltic to the Black Sea, these groups became known together as the Varangians.
By 1000, the Varangians were in complete control of the region, and their trade routes were increasing the strength of Kievan Rus. Still, the vast and sparsely populated land was not culturally unified. Clans, each with their own prices, ruled locally with little intervention.
Vladimir, prince of Kiev, greatly expanded Rus and adopted Christianity–a political and cultural shift that began the formation of a national identity. He allowed Constantinople to set up an Episcopal see there, beginning the blending of Slavic and Byzantine cultures; however, he and his successors were unable to achieve political stability in the area.
1000-1400: During the second half of the Middle Ages, Kiev declined, and with it, the Russian state as a whole. Largely, this was due to Mongol invasions of the 1200s which halved the population of Rus, but constant clan warfare and the decline of the trade routes between the Baltic and Black seas had started the process long before. For a time, local princes and their upper class administrators, called boyars, reclaimed control. They taxed the people in their territories but otherwise interfered with these agriculturally based communities very little. There was only a rudimentary written law code. During this time, marked cultural and political distinctions formed from one Slavic territory to the next–distinctions that remain to this day.
In the mid-1200s, Mongols began defeating Russian principalities. Soon, they and the Turkic nomads that joined them, together known as the Tatars or Tartars or the Golden Horde, controlled the entire region. They ruled from the Western city of Sarai and demanded little more than tributes from the local Russian princes under them. They helped the Russians advance in military tactics and transportation. During this time, Russia also developed its postal road network, a census, a fiscal system, and military organization.
After Genghis Khan’s empire broke up, the Tatars converted to Islam and split into four separate factions. From this weakened position, all but one was defeated by Russia. (The Crimean faction was taken by the Ottoman Turks until Catherine the Great reclaimed it in the 1700s.)
During the Tatar reign, Moscow grew and flourished. It cooperated with the Tatars, becoming an important center for them. Then it became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the 1300s, it began the fight to overthrow the Tatars.
In the mid-1400s, Ivan the Great (Ivan III) of Moscow (a land officially known as the Grand Duchy of Moscow) led the consolidation of the Russian land that eventually led to the creation of the Russian national state. He instituted a system of military service by nobles, granting them land in exchange for their service, using this to triple the size of Moscow. At the same time, he completed the overthrow of the Tatars. Eventually, he claimed sovereignty over all of Russia, a claim that continued long after his rule. He also renovated the Moscow Kremlin, the Russian citadel that is now the center of Russian government. (The complex includes several palaces and cathedrals and is surrounded by a towered wall.)
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900 CE)
After the fall of Constantinople, Russia became known as the Third Rome, further increasing its stature.
Ivan IV, following Ivan III, was the first to take the title of tsar. Ruling during the 1500s, he is known as Ivan the Terrible. Though ruthless in his authoritarian standpoint, Ivan the Terrible established a new law code and created the first feudal representative governmental body. However, his son’s reign was followed by a period called the Time of Troubles, partly due to crop failure and a resulting famine and partly due to the lack of an heir to the throne. Russia lost territory to outsiders, but the Russian bureaucracy held the state together until in the early 1600s a national assembly decided on a new leader and dynasty. This was the Romanov dynasty that ruled until 1917.
Threats from outsiders caused the Russian princes to accept Romanov rule and to work with him to defend the state. Also, the Romanovs allowed the princes to not only place a huge tax burden on the peasants, but to make them into serfs who could not freely leave the land they were attached to. Peasant riots became frequent. Still, during the 1600s, the population of Russia increased greatly.
In spite of these advances, Russia was a primitive state until Peter the Great became co-ruler, then soon afterward gained complete control as czar. During his reign ini the 1700s, Russia became a great European power. Peter encouraged fine craftsmanship; spent money carefully; abolished the powers of the boyars, the former ruling class; moved the capital to St. Petersburg; captured a Black Sea trading port for a time; gained Estonia and Livonia on the Baltic coast; centralized the government; stabilized the Orthodox Church under state control; and more.
Peter traveled widely in the West disguised as an ordinary citizen. He learned Western traditions in shipbuilding, medicine, almshouses, factories, museums and more. He hired Western teachers for Russians; created a civil service; and built canals, factories, roads, new industries and a navy. Peter was sometimes forceful and cruel, too, and in spite of his reforms, the peasants still lived in poverty. A European war that weakened Sweden led to Russia becoming the leading power in the Baltic.
1725-1762: Peter’s rule
1762-1796: Catherine the Great
1850–1900: In the 1850s, The Crimean War took place between Russia and Turkey over some Black Sea lands. Britain and France entered the war to check Russia’s power. Russia was defeated, but not before the disastrous Charge of the (British) Light Brigade killed many Russians. This was the first war that was covered by newspapers with photographers.
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
In 1904-5, Russia and Japan fought the Russo-Japanese War over Korea and Manchuria. Japan won. That year, the Russian Revolution began when on Bloody Sunday troops fired onto a defenseless group of demonstrators in St. Petersburg. Worker strikes and riots followed, including mutinies by some members of the military. In response, Czar Nicholas II wrote his October Manifesto promising civil rights and the first Duma (parliament) was set up.
1917: Nicolas did not deliver on his promises, and poor management during World War I led to another round of riots in St. Petersburg, again with many members of the military joining in. Soon after, Nicholas was forced to abdicate and a liberal government was created. However, before the end of that same year the Bolshevik Party (communists) seized power, promising an end to poverty.
Led by Vladimir Lenin, the Bolsheviks made peace with Germany; moved the capital to Moscow; broke up large private estates, giving the farmland to the peasants; and gave control of the factories to the workers. The government retained control of the banks, however.
1918: Russian revolutionaries executed the former czar and his family. Russian Civil War between Reds (Bolsheviks) and Whites (anti-Bolsheviks); Reds win in 1920. Allied troops (U.S., British, French) intervene (March); leave in 1919.
1922: The anti-Bolsheviks triumphed against the Bolsheviks. They renamed Russia the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union for short).
1924: Lenin died. Leading up to the second world war, Trotsky (who had worked closely with Lenin) and Stalin fought for power. Stalin won and dominated as dictator till his death in 1953. Fearing Trotsky’s power, he expelled him from the Russian Communist Party early on in his rule.
1943: As World War II reached its peak, the German army became bogged down in the harsh Russian winter weather at the Russian front. Hitler’s surrender at Stalingrad in 1943 was one of the turning points of the war in the Allies’ favor.
1948: Communists seized power in Czechoslovakia. Berlin blockade begins, prompting Allied airlift. (Blockade ends May 12, 1949; airlift continues until Sept. 30, 1949.) Stalin and Tito break.
1953: Stalin dies. Malenkov becomes Soviet premier; Beria, minister of interior; Molotov, foreign minister. East Berliners rise against Communist rule; quelled by tanks. 1953: Moscow announces explosion of hydrogen bomb.
1954: Soviet Union grants sovereignty to East Germany.
1956: Nikita Khrushchev, First Secretary of USSR Communist Party, denounces Stalin’s excesses. Workers’ uprising against Communist rule in Poznan, Poland, is crushed; rebellion inspires Hungarian students to stage a protest against Communism in Budapest.
1957: Russians launch Sputnik I, first Earth-orbiting satellite—the Space Age begins.
1960: American U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, shot down over Russia. Khrushchev kills Paris summit conference because of U-2.
1962: Cuban missile crisis. USSR to build missile bases in Cuba; Kennedy orders Cuban blockade, lifts blockade after Russians back down.
Soviet Union collapsed in 90s. Many civil wars around the world, often because political boundaries weren’t aligned with cultural and linguistic ones.
1957: USSR launched Sputnik, first artificial satellite to orbit Earth
1945-89: The Cold War: Due to stockpling off nuclear weapons–no actual fighting – despite fact that we were allies in WWII – USSR isolated itself. NATO formed–an alliance of western nations fighting against communist powers. USSR backed by Eastern European states. After WWII USSR controlled East Germany and U.S. …France and Britain had west. Even Berlin divided. Berlin Wall built to keep refugees from moving from east to west.
1962: The U.S. Air Force obtained pictures of a missile launch site in Cuba, where nuclear missiles could easily reach the U.S., beginning the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. began making plans to invade Cuba, but in a victory of diplomacy the Soviets agreed to destroy the launch sites. The two countries greatly mistrusted and feared each other, however. In the late 1980s, the Cold War finally ended.
1989: Gorbachev allowed the communist countries of Eastern Europe to elect democratic governments.
1980s: After the fall of the Soviet Union, various countries around Russia’s borders gained independence from Russia in a succession of revolutions. Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, for instance. During this time, political terrorism increased in the area.
Here, an excerpt from the interviews section of the book.
ZURIE: “We Have Two Big Rules in Our House”
Zurie is 40 years old and has been with her partner for eight years.
Mollie: What have some of your biggest disagreements as couple been about?
Zurie: We don’t have children, just cats, which might be why our biggest fight so far was about cats (except not really). Before that, our biggest struggle was learning to grocery shop together without murderous thoughts.
Mollie: Tell me more about that.
Zurie: It was a thing when we first moved in together. He works from home and I was working in an office. We both dislike the task, so we do it together (unless circumstances prevent it.)
I made a comment a while back about two types of people (on a spectrum): basically, planners and non-planners. My husband is squarely a planner. Lists, schedules, plan of attack. I can (and do) plan, but can also can make a quick decision just to get something done.
So basically, we had several things going wrong.
- I’m an introvert and being at the office all day exhausts me. He works from home, so he’s excited to go out.
- We weren’t functioning off a list, so we were buying random things that we did/didn’t need and still having to figure out dinners after.
- We both wanted to shop how we were used to shopping.
I got mad at him for staring at stacks of American cheese for entirely too long trying to determine the best price on something that I felt didn’t matter. He challenged me when I just grabbed a gallon of milk. “Why that milk? Do you like it better? This one’s cheaper.”
After several months and lots of sit-downs and me being mad, then him being frustrated (not huge fights but intense talks), we’ve figured out and refined our system:
- I frequently save recipes that I think we’ll enjoy that are healthy enough for me and easy enough for him. We pick two for the week and build a list off of that.
- We grocery shop on Sundays so I’m not tired and we have a date night once a weekish so he gets out of the house. He has also finally, just this summer, gotten a laptop to give himself the ability to leave the house once in a while.
- There are brands I’m loyal to. When it’s time to pick up those, I tell him to kick rocks off to the toilet paper aisle to find us the best deal. I give in to him on the generic canned beans because I don’t care and he lets me buy the expensive canned tomatoes without argument.
It works so much better now. We usually have as good a time as you can at the grocery store. And I even stay quiet when he asks the clerk to put the milk in bags (which is silly because the gallons have handles!).
Mollie: You seem like a pretty good problem solver. Do you use these same negotiating skills in other areas of your relationship?
Zurie: We don’t have to formally negotiate too often. We try and function as a team so if one person is doing something, the other dives in to help. We’ve got two big rules in our house:
- Everyone gets what they need.
- You have to ask for what you need.
Spats are usually due to me not being able to sort out what I’m feeling before I get crabby.
Mollie: I love those rules! The needs of one person can be dramatically different from the needs of another. Beautiful way to phrase this concept.
So what was the cat thing about?
Zurie: We fought about when to get a new cat after our last two girls died in the spring. I wanted to get a new one and he wasn’t ready.
Honestly, it was 100 percent me not slowing down to figure out what I was feeling so I could verbalize it. Eventually I just realized that I was in an enormous amount of pain and just wanted something to help. I was deeply disappointed that he wasn’t ready even though it was valid.
Once I worked through all that emotion, I was able to explain what was going on. I apologized and he listened and we compromised. We got new kitties sooner than he was ready for and later than I wanted, but they’re perfect.
Mollie: Is there something about your partner you have tried to change? What was your strategy? How well did it work?
Zurie: Sure, there are things we’ve tried to change about each other. He’s organized, but holy cow was his apartment filthy when he moved out. I’m clean, but completely disorganized. Before we moved in together, we talked a lot about chores and values. He sees the value in having things clean, though he just doesn’t notice it. I see the value in having things organized (being able to find my keys is amazing) but I’m not always as good about it as him.
I think we’ve both really tried to be patient with each other. There are times when I have to remind him that it’s okay if I haven’t put something back where it belongs because there’s a reason I didn’t or whatever. And I have 100 percent complained to myself after he does the dishes that he didn’t scrub down the stove. But I also know that criticizing will just make a person shut down, so I think a lot about “how much does this matter?” I’ve had to teach him how to clean the bathroom and the floors and the kitchen and the reasons behind it. He really gives it a good-faith effort, so I let go of the fact that he doesn’t see the dirt and is always surprised that it’s time to clean. It just doesn’t matter.
Mollie: Can you think of a time you became overly defensive in an argument? Tell me the story.
Zurie: When we first met, he used to tell a joke, then say, “Get it? It’s funny because …” and I used to feel like he thought I was so stupid or not funny if he felt he had to explain every joke to me. My dad was really hard on my brother and me and would ask us if we were stupid whenever we did something wrong, so he was really stepping on a land mine he didn’t know was there. I finally told him one night how much it hurt my feelings. I was angry and asked flat-out if he thought I was an idiot. He was horrified. Apparently, this was just something he had always said as part of a joke. He thought it was funny and had no idea that I took it personally.
While I was relieved that I was misinterpreting, I also made it clear that I was never going to be okay with it. He’d done it for so long that he wasn’t sure he could just stop. So we decided that he would make an honest attempt to say it less and I would make an honest attempt to let it roll off my back if he did say it. And honestly, I haven’t heard it in years.
Mollie: Do you think it’s important to apologize even when you weren’t exactly in the wrong, or do you save your apologies for the important stuff?
Zurie: We tend to apologize to each other when we feel it’s warranted. Honestly, we don’t fight dirty or often so I don’t feel that I’ve had to apologize when I wasn’t exactly wrong.
Mollie: Generally speaking, how much do you enjoy partnership? What do you like about it?
Zurie: I love being married. We haven’t reached a point yet where I’ve considered it difficult or a hardship. I really enjoy being on a team with him. I can be exactly who I am at any given moment with him. I can be ridiculous and silly or sad or a big baby and he understands and loves it. I love doing the same for him. I love hearing him sing songs to the cats or laugh at his podcasts while he works. I am so delighted and thankful to be with him and he seems to feel the same way. We married late-ish—I was thirty-seven and he was forty—so we’d gone through those mid-twenties struggles already and had started establishing our own values when we met. Maybe that has something to do with it.
Mollie: Do you have any ongoing arguments that can’t seem to be resolved, even with your great communication skills?
Zurie: Not that I can think of, so definitely nothing major. Things are tough right now for us, but not between us. I’m lucky: he’s funny, responsible, hard working, compassionate and loyal. We make a good team.
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A Brief History of Europe
2700-1500 BCE: First known Europeans: the Minoans of Crete. Traders. Invented an early form of writing called Linear A.
1600-1100 BCE: Mycenean civilization in modern-day Italy and Greece. Warriors. From Linear A, adapted Linear B.
1100-350 BCE: Formation of Greek city-states including Athens and Sparta, long-time military rivals. Beginning of democracy, written history, formal education, oratory, stage drama and more. Notable people of Athens: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, Sophocles and many others. Pericles and Sophocles were writers and orators. Socrates was the first known Western philosopher. He taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great (Alexander III of Macedon) succeeded his successful father, Philip of Macedon, to the Macedonian throne. After Philip conquered unified the city-states of Greece, Alexander moved into Persia as far as the edges of India. Alexander was undefeated in battle. He campaigned non-stop for his entire rule, using ingenious, daring, creative military strategies. From this time on, Hellenic (Greek/European) culture spread widely. After Alexander’s death, his empire splintered, eventually consolidating into three different parts.
Much of Greek learning was assimilated by the nascent Roman state as it expanded outward from Italy, taking advantage of its enemies’ inability to unite: the only challenge to Roman ascent came from the Phoenician colony of Carthage, and its defeats in the three Punic Wars marked the start of Roman hegemony. First governed by kings, then as a senatorial republic (the Roman Republic), Rome finally became an empire at the end of the 1st century BC, under Augustus and his authoritarian successors.
Julius Caesar became dictator of Rome, shifting it from a Senate-controlled Republic to the emperor-controlled Roman Empire.
Julius Caesar was killed by senators hoping to return to the Republic. Octavian, another would-be dictator, took his place. Though he claimed loyalty to the idea of the Republic, he completed the transition to Empire.
The Roman Empire had its centre in the Mediterranean, controlling all the countries on its shores; the northern border was marked by the Rhine and Danube rivers. Under emperor Trajan (2nd century AD) the empire reached its maximum expansion, controlling approximately 5,900,000 km2 (2,300,000 sq mi) of land surface, including Italia, Gallia, Dalmatia, Aquitania, Britannia, Baetica, Hispania, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Moesia, Dacia, Pannonia, Egypt, Asia Minor, Cappadocia, Armenia, Caucasus, North Africa, Levant and parts of Mesopotamia. Pax Romana, a period of peace, civilisation and an efficient centralised government in the subject territories ended in the 3rd century, when a series of civil wars undermined Rome’s economic and social strength.
In the 4th century, the emperors Diocletian and Constantine were able to slow down the process of decline by splitting the empire into a Western part with a capital in Rome and an Eastern part with the capital in Byzantium, or Constantinople (now Istanbul). Whereas Diocletian severely persecuted Christianity, Constantine declared an official end to state-sponsored persecution of Christians in 313 with the Edict of Milan, thus setting the stage for the Church to become the state church of the Roman Empire in about 380.
Decline of the Roman Empire
Main articles: Decline of the Roman Empire and Crisis of the Third Century
Map of the partition of the Roman Empire in 395, at the death of Theodosius I: the Western Roman Empire is shown in red and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) is shown in purple
The Roman Empire had been repeatedly attacked by invading armies from Northern Europe and in 476, Rome finally fell. Romulus Augustus, the last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire, surrendered to the Germanic King Odoacer. The British historian Edward Gibbon argued in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) that the Romans had become decadent and had lost civic virtue.
Gibbon said that the adoption of Christianity meant belief in a better life after death, and therefore made people lazy and indifferent to the present. “From the eighteenth century onward”, Glen W. Bowersock has remarked, “we have been obsessed with the fall: it has been valued as an archetype for every perceived decline, and, hence, as a symbol for our own fears.” It remains one of the greatest historical questions, and has a tradition rich in scholarly interest.
Some other notable dates are the Battle of Adrianople in 378, the death of Theodosius I in 395 (the last time the Roman Empire was politically unified), the crossing of the Rhine in 406 by Germanic tribes after the withdrawal of the legions to defend Italy against Alaric I, the death of Stilicho in 408, followed by the disintegration of the western legions, the death of Justinian I, the last Roman Emperor who tried to reconquer the west, in 565, and the coming of Islam after 632. Many scholars maintain that rather than a “fall”, the changes can more accurately be described as a complex transformation. Over time many theories have been proposed on why the Empire fell, or whether indeed it fell at all.
Late Antiquity and Migration Period
Main articles: Late Antiquity and Migration Period
A simplified map of migrations from the 2nd to the 5th century. See also the map of the world in 820 AD.
When Emperor Constantine had reconquered Rome under the banner of the cross in 312, he soon afterwards issued the Edict of Milan in 313 (preceded by the Edict of Serdica in 311), declaring the legality of Christianity in the Roman Empire. In addition, Constantine officially shifted the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to the Greek town of Byzantium, which he renamed Nova Roma – it was later named Constantinople (“City of Constantine”).
In 395 Theodosius I, who had made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, would be the last emperor to preside over a united Roman Empire. The empire was split into two halves: the Western Roman Empire centred in Ravenna, and the Eastern Roman Empire (later to be referred to as the Byzantine Empire) centred in Constantinople. The Roman Empire was repeatedly attacked by Hunnic, Germanic, Slavic and other “barbarian” tribes (see: Migration Period), and in 476 finally the Western part fell to the Heruli chieftain Odoacer.
Map showing Europe in 526 AD with the three dominating powers of the west
Roman authority in the Western part of the empire had collapsed, and a power vacuum left in the wake of this collapse; the central organization, institutions, laws and power of Rome had broken down, resulting in many areas being open to invasion by migrating tribes. Over time, feudalism and manorialism arose, two interlocking institutions that provided for division of land and labor, as well as a broad if uneven hierarchy of law and protection. These localised hierarchies were based on the bond of common people to the land on which they worked, and to a lord, who would provide and administer both local law to settle disputes among the peasants, as well as protection from outside invaders. Unlike under Roman rule, with its standard laws and military across the empire and its great bureaucracy to administer them and collect taxes, each lord (although having obligations to a higher lord) was largely sovereign in his domain. A peasant’s lot could vary greatly depending on the leadership skills and attitudes to justice of the lord toward his people. Tithes or rents were paid to the lord, who in turn owed resources, and armed men in times of war, to his lord, perhaps a regional prince. However, the levels of hierarchy were varied over time and place.
The western provinces soon were to be dominated by three great powers: first, the Franks (Merovingian dynasty) in Francia 481–843 AD, which covered much of present France and Germany; second, the Visigothic kingdom 418–711 AD in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain); and third, the Ostrogothic kingdom 493–553 AD in Italy and parts of the western Balkans The Ostrogoths were later replaced by the Kingdom of the Lombards 568–774 AD. These new powers of the west built upon the Roman traditions until they evolved into a synthesis of Roman and Germanic cultures. Although these powers covered large territories, they did not have the great resources and bureaucracy of the Roman empire to control regions and localities. The ongoing invasions and boundary disputes usually meant a more risky and varying life than that under the empire. This meant that in general more power and responsibilities were left to local lords. On the other hand, it also meant more freedom, particularly in more remote areas.
In Italy, Theodoric the Great began the cultural romanization of the new world he had constructed. He made Ravenna a center of Romano-Greek culture of art and his court fostered a flowering of literature and philosophy in Latin. In Iberia, King Chindasuinth created the Visigothic Code. 
In the Eastern part the dominant state was the remaining Eastern Roman Empire.
In the feudal system, new princes and kings arose, the most powerful of which was arguably the Frankish ruler Charlemagne. In 800, Charlemagne, reinforced by his massive territorial conquests, was crowned Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) by Pope Leo III, effectively solidifying his power in western Europe. Charlemagne’s reign marked the beginning of a new Germanic Roman Empire in the west, the Holy Roman Empire. Outside his borders, new forces were gathering. The Kievan Rus’ were marking out their territory, a Great Moravia was growing, while the Angles and the Saxons were securing their borders.
For the duration of the 6th century, the Eastern Roman Empire was embroiled in a series of deadly conflicts, first with the Persian Sassanid Empire (see Roman–Persian Wars), followed by the onslaught of the arising Islamic Caliphate (Rashidun and Umayyad). By 650, the provinces of Egypt, Palestine and Syria were lost to the Muslim forces, followed by Hispania and southern Italy in the 7th and 8th centuries (see Muslim conquests). The Arab invasion from the east was stopped after the intervention of the Bulgarian Empire (see Han Tervel).
Main articles: Middle Ages and Medieval demography
The Middle Ages are commonly dated from the fall of the Western Roman Empire (or by some scholars, before that) in the 5th century to the beginning of the early modern period in the 16th century, marked by the rise of nation states, the division of Western Christianity in the Reformation, the rise of humanism in the Italian Renaissance, and the beginnings of European overseas expansion which allowed for the Columbian Exchange.
Main article: Byzantine Empire
Constantine I and Justinian I offering their fealty to the Virgin Mary inside the Hagia Sophia
Many consider Emperor Constantine I (reigned 306–337) to be the first “Byzantine Emperor”. It was he who moved the imperial capital in 324 from Nicomedia to Byzantium, which re-founded as Constantinople, or Nova Roma (“New Rome”). The city of Rome itself had not served as the capital since the reign of Diocletian. Some date the beginnings of the Empire to the reign of Theodosius I (379–395) and Christianity’s official supplanting of the pagan Roman religion, or following his death in 395, when the empire was split into two parts, with capitals in Rome and Constantinople. Others place it yet later in 476, when Romulus Augustulus, traditionally considered the last western Emperor, was deposed, thus leaving sole imperial authority with the emperor in the Greek East. Others point to the reorganisation of the empire in the time of Heraclius (c. 620) when Latin titles and usages were officially replaced with Greek versions. In any case, the changeover was gradual and by 330, when Constantine inaugurated his new capital, the process of hellenization and increasing Christianisation was already under way. The Empire is generally considered to have ended after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Plague of Justinian was a pandemic that afflicted the Byzantine Empire, including its capital Constantinople, in the years 541–542. It is estimated that the Plague of Justinian killed as many as 100 million people across the world. It caused Europe’s population to drop by around 50% between 541 and 700. It also may have contributed to the success of the Muslim conquests.
Early Middle Ages
Main articles: Early Middle Ages and Muslim Conquest
The Early Middle Ages span roughly five centuries from 500 to 1000.
Europe in the Early Middle Ages
In the Eastern part of Europe new dominant states formed: the Avar Khaganate (567–after 822), Old Great Bulgaria (632–668), the Khazar Khaganate (c. 650–969) and Danube Bulgaria (founded by Asparuh in 680) were constantly rivaling the hegemony of the Byzantine Empire.
From the 7th century Byzantine history was greatly affected by the rise of Islam and the Caliphates. Muslim Arabs first invaded historically Roman territory under Abū Bakr, first Caliph of the Rashidun Caliphate, who entered Roman Syria and Roman Mesopotamia. As the Byzantines and neighboring Sasanids were severely weakened by the time, amongst the most important reason(s) being the protracted, centuries-lasting and frequent Byzantine–Sasanian wars, which included the climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, under Umar, the second Caliph, the Muslims entirely toppled the Sasanid Persian Empire, and decisively conquered Syria and Mesopotamia, as well as Roman Palestine, Roman Egypt, and parts of Asia Minor and Roman North Africa. In the mid 7th century AD, following the Muslim conquest of Persia, Islam penetrated into the Caucasus region, of which parts would later permanently become part of Russia. This trend, which included the conquests by the invading Muslim forces and by that the spread of Islam as well continued under Umar’s successors and under the Umayyad Caliphate, which conquered the rest of Mediterranean North Africa and most of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the next centuries Muslim forces were able to take further European territory, including Cyprus, Malta, Crete, and Sicily and parts of southern Italy.
The Muslim conquest of Hispania began when the Moors (Berbers and Arabs) invaded the Christian Visigothic kingdom of Hispania in the year 711, under the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad. They landed at Gibraltar on 30 April and worked their way northward. Tariq’s forces were joined the next year by those of his Arab superior, Musa ibn Nusair. During the eight-year campaign most of the Iberian Peninsula was brought under Muslim rule – save for small areas in the northwest (Asturias) and largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees. In 711, Visigothic Hispania was very weakened because it was immersed in a serious internal crisis caused by a war of succession to the throne involving two Visigoth suitors. The Muslims took advantage of the crisis within the Hispano-Visigothic society to carry out their conquests. This territory, under the Arab name Al-Andalus, became part of the expanding Umayyad empire.
The second siege of Constantinople (717) ended unsuccessfully after the intervention of Tervel of Bulgaria and weakened the Umayyad dynasty and reduced their prestige. In 722 Don Pelayo, a nobleman of Visigothic origin, formed an army of 300 Astur soldiers, to confront Munuza’s Muslim troops. In the battle of Covadonga, the Astures defeated the Arab-Moors, who decided to retire. The Christian victory marked the beginning of the Reconquista and the establishment of the Kingdom of Asturias, whose first sovereign was Don Pelayo. The conquerors intended to continue their expansion in Europe and move northeast across the Pyrenees, but were defeated by the Frankish leader Charles Martel at the Battle of Poitiers in 732. The Umayyads were overthrown in 750 by the ‘Abbāsids, and, in 756, the Umayyads established an independent emirate in the Iberian Peninsula.
Main articles: Holy Roman Empire, Charlemagne, Christendom, Caliphate of Córdoba, Bulgarian Empire, Medieval England, Medieval Hungary, Medieval Poland, and Kievan Rus’
Europe in 1000, with most European states already formed
Europe in 1204.
The Holy Roman Empire emerged around 800, as Charlemagne, King of the Franks and part of the Carolingian dynasty, was crowned by the pope as emperor. His empire based in modern France, the Low Countries and Germany expanded into modern Hungary, Italy, Bohemia, Lower Saxony and Spain. He and his father received substantial help from an alliance with the Pope, who wanted help against the Lombards. His death marked the beginning of the end of the dynasty, which collapsed entirely by 888. The fragmentation of power led to semiautonomy in the region, and has been defined as a critical starting point for the formation of states in Europe.
To the east, Bulgaria was established in 681 and became the first Slavic country. The powerful Bulgarian Empire was the main rival of Byzantium for control of the Balkans for centuries and from the 9th century became the cultural centre of Slavic Europe. The Empire created the Cyrillic script during the 9th century AD, at the Preslav Literary School, and experienced the Golden Age of Bulgarian cultural prosperity during the reign of emperor Simeon I the Great (893–927). Two states, Great Moravia and Kievan Rus’, emerged among the Slavic peoples respectively in the 9th century. In the late 9th and 10th centuries, northern and western Europe felt the burgeoning power and influence of the Vikings who raided, traded, conquered and settled swiftly and efficiently with their advanced seagoing vessels such as the longships. The Hungarians pillaged mainland Europe, the Pechenegs raided Bulgaria, Rus States and the Arab states. In the 10th century independent kingdoms were established in Central Europe including Poland and the newly settled Kingdom of Hungary. The kingdom of Croatia also appeared in the Balkans. The subsequent period, ending around 1000, saw the further growth of feudalism, which weakened the Holy Roman Empire.
In eastern Europe, Volga Bulgaria became an Islamic state in 921, after Almış I converted to Islam under the missionary efforts of Ahmad ibn Fadlan.
Slavery in the early medieval period had mostly died out in western Europe by about the year 1000 AD, replaced by serfdom. It lingered longer in England and in peripheral areas linked to the Muslim world, where slavery continued to flourish. Church rules suppressed slavery of Christians. Most historians argue the transition was quite abrupt around 1000, but some see a gradual transition from about 300 to 1000.
High Middle Ages
Main article: High Middle Ages
Europe in 1097, as the First Crusade to the Holy Land commences
The slumber of the Dark Ages was shaken by a renewed crisis in the Church. In 1054, the East–West Schism, an insoluble split, occurred between the two remaining Christian seats in Rome and Constantinople (modern Istanbul).
The High Middle Ages of the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries show a rapidly increasing population of Europe, which caused great social and political change from the preceding era. By 1250, the robust population increase greatly benefited the economy, reaching levels it would not see again in some areas until the 19th century.
From about the year 1000 onwards, Western Europe saw the last of the barbarian invasions and became more politically organized. The Vikings had settled in Britain, Ireland, France and elsewhere, whilst Norse Christian kingdoms were developing in their Scandinavian homelands. The Magyars had ceased their expansion in the 10th century, and by the year 1000, the Roman Catholic Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary was recognised in central Europe. With the brief exception of the Mongol invasions, major barbarian incursions ceased.
Bulgarian sovereignty was reestablished with the anti-Byzantine uprising of the Bulgarians and Vlachs in 1185. The crusaders invaded the Byzantine empire, captured Constantinople in 1204 and established their Latin Empire. Kaloyan of Bulgaria defeated Baldwin I, Latin emperor of Constantinople, in the Battle of Adrianople on 14 April 1205. The reign of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria led to maximum territorial expansion and that of Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria to a Second Golden Age of Bulgarian culture. The Byzantine Empire was fully reestablished in 1261.
In the 11th century, populations north of the Alps began to settle new lands, some of which had reverted to wilderness after the end of the Roman Empire. In what is known as the “great clearances”, vast forests and marshes of Europe were cleared and cultivated. At the same time settlements moved beyond the traditional boundaries of the Frankish Empire to new frontiers in Europe, beyond the Elbe river, tripling the size of Germany in the process. Crusaders founded European colonies in the Levant, the majority of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered from the Muslims, and the Normans colonised southern Italy, all part of the major population increase and resettlement pattern.
The High Middle Ages produced many different forms of intellectual, spiritual and artistic works. The most famous are the great cathedrals as expressions of Gothic architecture, which evolved from Romanesque architecture. This age saw the rise of modern nation-states in Western Europe and the ascent of the famous Italian city-states, such as Florence and Venice. The influential popes of the Catholic Church called volunteer armies from across Europe to a series of Crusades against the Seljuq Turks, who occupied the Holy Land. The rediscovery of the works of Aristotle led Thomas Aquinas and other thinkers to develop the philosophy of Scholasticism.
A divided church
Main article: East–West Schism
The Great Schism between the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) Christian Churches was sparked in 1054 by Pope Leo IX asserting authority over three of the seats in the Pentarchy, in Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Since the mid-8th century, the Byzantine Empire’s borders had been shrinking in the face of Islamic expansion. Antioch had been wrested back into Byzantine control by 1045, but the resurgent power of the Roman successors in the West claimed a right and a duty for the lost seats in Asia and Africa. Pope Leo sparked a further dispute by defending the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed which the West had adopted customarily. The Orthodox today state that the XXVIIIth Canon of the Council of Chalcedon explicitly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople. The Orthodox also state that the Bishop of Rome has authority only over his own diocese and does not have any authority outside his diocese. There were other less significant catalysts for the Schism however, including variance over liturgy. The Schism of Roman Catholic and Orthodox followed centuries of estrangement between the Latin and Greek worlds.
Main articles: Crusades and Reconquista
The Siege of Antioch, from a medieval miniature painting, during the First Crusade
After the East–West Schism, Western Christianity was adopted by the newly created kingdoms of Central Europe: Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. The Roman Catholic Church developed as a major power, leading to conflicts between the Pope and Emperor. The geographic reach of the Roman Catholic Church expanded enormously due to the conversions of pagan kings (Scandinavia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary), the Christian Reconquista of Al-Andalus, and the crusades. Most of Europe was Roman Catholic in the 15th century.
Early signs of the rebirth of civilization in western Europe began to appear in the 11th century as trade started again in Italy, leading to the economic and cultural growth of independent city-states such as Venice and Florence; at the same time, nation-states began to take form in places such as France, England, Spain, and Portugal, although the process of their formation (usually marked by rivalry between the monarchy, the aristocratic feudal lords and the church) actually took several centuries. These new nation-states began writing in their own cultural vernaculars, instead of the traditional Latin. Notable figures of this movement would include Dante Alighieri and Christine de Pizan (born Christina da Pizzano), the former writing in Italian, and the latter, although an Italian (Venice), relocated to France, writing in French. (See Reconquista for the latter two countries.) Elsewhere, the Holy Roman Empire, essentially based in Germany and Italy, further fragmented into a myriad of feudal principalities or small city states, whose subjection to the emperor was only formal.
The 14th century, when the Mongol Empire came to power, is often called the Age of the Mongols. Mongol armies expanded westward under the command of Batu Khan. Their western conquests included almost all of Russia (save Novgorod, which became a vassal), the Kipchak-Cuman Confederation. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland managed to remain sovereign states. Mongolian records indicate that Batu Khan was planning a complete conquest of the remaining European powers, beginning with a winter attack on Austria, Italy and Germany, when he was recalled to Mongolia upon the death of Great Khan Ögedei. Most historians believe only his death prevented the complete conquest of Europe. The areas of Eastern Europe and most of Central Asia that were under direct Mongol rule became known as the Golden Horde. Under Uzbeg Khan, Islam became the official religion of the region in the early 14th century. The invading Mongols, together with their mostly Turkic subjects, were known as Tatars. In Russia, the Tatars ruled the various states of the Rus’ through vassalage for over 300 years.
“Christianization of Lithuania in 1387”, oil on canvas by Jan Matejko, 1889, Royal Castle in Warsaw
In the Northern Europe, Konrad of Masovia gave Chelmno to the Teutonic Knights in 1226 as a base for a Crusade against the Old Prussians and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword were defeated by the Lithuanians, so in 1237 Gregory IX merged the remainder of the order into the Teutonic Order as the Livonian Order. By the middle of the century, the Teutonic Knights completed their conquest of the Prussians before conquering and converting the Lithuanians in the subsequent decades. The order also came into conflict with the Eastern Orthodox Church of the Pskov and Novgorod Republics. In 1240 the Orthodox Novgorod army defeated the Catholic Swedes in the Battle of the Neva, and, two years later, they defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle on the Ice. The Union of Krewo in 1386, bringing two major changes in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: conversion to Catholicism and establishment of a dynastic union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland marked both the greatest territorial expansion of the Grand Duchy and the defeat of the Teutonic Knights in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410.
Late Middle Ages
Main articles: Late Middle Ages, Lex mercatoria, Hundred Years’ War, and Fall of Constantinople
The spread of the “Black Death” from 1347 to 1351 through Europe
The Late Middle Ages spanned the 14th and early 15th centuries. Around 1300, centuries of European prosperity and growth came to a halt. A series of famines and plagues, such as the Great Famine of 1315–1317 and the Black Death, killed people in a matter of days, reducing the population of some areas by half as many survivors fled. Kishlansky reports:
The Black Death touched every aspect of life, hastening a process of social, economic, and cultural transformation already underway.... Fields were abandoned, workplaces stood idle, international trade was suspended. Traditional bonds of kinship, village, and even religion were broken amid the horrors of death, flight, and failed expectations. "People cared no more for dead men than we care for dead goats," wrote one survivor.
Depopulation caused labor to become scarcer; the survivors were better paid and peasants could drop some of the burdens of feudalism. There was also social unrest; France and England experienced serious peasant risings including the Jacquerie and the Peasants’ Revolt. At the same time, the unity of the Catholic Church was shattered by the Great Schism. Collectively these events have been called the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.
Beginning in the 14th century, the Baltic Sea became one of the most important trade routes. The Hanseatic League, an alliance of trading cities, facilitated the absorption of vast areas of Poland, Lithuania, and Livonia into trade with other European countries. This fed the growth of powerful states in this part of Europe including Poland-Lithuania, Hungary, Bohemia, and Muscovy later on. The conventional end of the Middle Ages is usually associated with the fall of the city of Constantinople and of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Turks made the city the capital of their Ottoman Empire, which lasted until 1922 and included Egypt, Syria, and most of the Balkans. The Ottoman wars in Europe, also sometimes referred to as the Turkish wars, marked an essential part of the history of the continent as a whole.
Homicide rates plunge over 800 years
At the local level, levels of violence were extremely high by modern standards in medieval and early modern Europe. Typically, small groups would battle their neighbors, using the farm tools at hand such as knives, sickles, hammers and axes. Mayhem and death were deliberate. The vast majority of people lived in rural areas. Cities were few, and small in size, but their concentration of population was conducive to violence. Long-term studies of places such as Amsterdam, Stockholm, Venice and Zurich show the same trends as rural areas. Across Europe, homicide trends (not including military actions) show a steady long-term decline. Regional differences were small, except that Italy’s decline was later and slower. From approximately 1200 AD through 1800 AD, homicide rates from violent local episodes declined by a factor of ten, from approximately 32 deaths per 1000 people to 3.2 per 1000. In the 20th century the homicide rate fell to 1.4 per 1000. Police forces seldom existed outside the cities; prisons only became common after 1800. Before then harsh penalties were imposed for homicide (severe whipping or execution) but they proved ineffective at controlling or reducing the insults to honor that precipitated most of the violence. The decline does not correlate with economics. Most historians attribute the trend in homicides to a steady increase in self-control of the sort promoted by Protestantism, and necessitated by schools and factories.
Historian Manuel Eisner has summarized the patterns from over 300 historical studies.
in Europe Deaths per year
per 1000 population
13–14th centuries 32
15th century 41
16th century 19
17th century 11
18th century 3.2
19th century 2.6
20th century 1.4
Early Modern Europe
Main articles: Early modern Europe; Scientific revolution; and International relations, 1648–1814
Genoese (red) and Venetian (green) maritime trade routes in the Mediterranean and Black Sea
The Early Modern period spans the centuries between the Middle Ages and the Industrial Revolution, roughly from 1500 to 1800, or from the discovery of the New World in 1492 to the French Revolution in 1789. The period is characterised by the rise to importance of science and increasingly rapid technological progress, secularised civic politics and the nation state. Capitalist economies began their rise. The early modern period also saw the rise and dominance of the economic theory of mercantilism. As such, the early modern period represents the decline and eventual disappearance, in much of the European sphere, of feudalism, serfdom and the power of the Catholic Church. The period includes the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the disastrous Thirty Years’ War, the European colonisation of the Americas and the European witch-hunts.
Main article: Renaissance
Portrait of Luca Pacioli, the founder of accounting, by Jacopo de’ Barbari (Museo di Capodimonte).
Despite these crises, the 14th century was also a time of great progress within the arts and sciences. A renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman led to the Italian Renaissance.
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, and spreading to the north, west and middle Europe during a cultural lag of some two and a half centuries, its influence affected literature, philosophy, art, politics, science, history, religion, and other aspects of intellectual inquiry.
The Italian Petrarch (Francesco di Petracco), deemed the first full-blooded Humanist, wrote in the 1330s: “I am alive now, yet I would rather have been born in another time.” He was enthusiastic about Greek and Roman antiquity. In the 15th and 16th centuries the continuing enthusiasm for the ancients was reinforced by the feeling that the inherited culture was dissolving and here was a storehouse of ideas and attitudes with which to rebuild. Matteo Palmieri wrote in the 1430s: “Now indeed may every thoughtful spirit thank god that it has been permitted to him to be born in a new age.” The renaissance was born: a new age where learning was very important.
The Renaissance was inspired by the growth in the study of Latin and Greek texts and the admiration of the Greco-Roman era as a golden age. This prompted many artists and writers to begin drawing from Roman and Greek examples for their works, but there was also much innovation in this period, especially by multi-faceted artists such as Leonardo da Vinci. The Humanists saw their repossession of a great past as a Renaissance – a rebirth of civilization itself.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Italian polymath famed for the diversity of his talents.
Important political precedents were also set in this period. Niccolò Machiavelli’s political writing in The Prince influenced later absolutism and realpolitik. Also important were the many patrons who ruled states and used the artistry of the Renaissance as a sign of their power.
In all, the Renaissance could be viewed as an attempt by intellectuals to study and improve the secular and worldly, both through the revival of ideas from antiquity and through novel approaches to thought – the immediate past being too “Gothic” in language, thought and sensibility.
Exploration and trade
Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route from Europe to India around Africa.
Main article: Age of Discovery
Cantino planisphere, 1502, earliest chart showing explorations by Vasco da Gama, Columbus and Cabral
Toward the end of the period, an era of discovery began. The growth of the Ottoman Empire, culminating in the fall of Constantinople in 1453, cut off trading possibilities with the east. Western Europe was forced to discover new trading routes, as happened with Columbus’ travel to the Americas in 1492, and Vasco da Gama’s circumnavigation of India and Africa in 1498.
The numerous wars did not prevent European states from exploring and conquering wide portions of the world, from Africa to Asia and the newly discovered Americas. In the 15th century, Portugal led the way in geographical exploration along the coast of Africa in search of a maritime route to India, followed by Spain near the close of the 15th century, dividing their exploration of the world according to the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. They were the first states to set up colonies in America and European trading posts (factories) along the shores of Africa and Asia, establishing the first direct European diplomatic contacts with Southeast Asian states in 1511, China in 1513 and Japan in 1542. In 1552, Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered two major Tatar khanates, the Khanate of Kazan and the Astrakhan Khanate. The Yermak’s voyage of 1580 led to the annexation of the Tatar Siberian Khanate into Russia, and the Russians would soon after conquer the rest of Siberia, steadily expanding to the east and south over the next centuries. Oceanic explorations soon followed by France, England and the Netherlands, who explored the Portuguese and Spanish trade routes into the Pacific Ocean, reaching Australia in 1606 and New Zealand in 1642.
Main article: Protestant Reformation
The Ninety-Five Theses of German monk Martin Luther, which criticized the Catholic Church
Map of Europe in 1648
With the development of the printing press, new ideas spread throughout Europe and challenged traditional doctrines in science and theology. Simultaneously, the Protestant Reformation under German Martin Luther questioned Papal authority. The most common dating of the Reformation begins in 1517, when Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses, and concludes in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia that ended years of European religious wars.
During this period corruption in the Catholic Church led to a sharp backlash in the Protestant Reformation. It gained many followers especially among princes and kings seeking a stronger state by ending the influence of the Catholic Church. Figures other than Martin Luther began to emerge as well like John Calvin whose Calvinism had influence in many countries and King Henry VIII of England who broke away from the Catholic Church in England and set up the Anglican Church; his daughter Queen Elizabeth finished the organization of the church. These religious divisions brought on a wave of wars inspired and driven by religion but also by the ambitious monarchs in Western Europe who were becoming more centralized and powerful.
The Protestant Reformation also led to a strong reform movement in the Catholic Church called the Counter-Reformation, which aimed to reduce corruption as well as to improve and strengthen Catholic dogma. Two important groups in the Catholic Church who emerged from this movement were the Jesuits, who helped keep Spain, Portugal, Poland, and other European countries within the Catholic fold, and the Oratorians of Saint Philip Neri, who ministered to the faithful in Rome, restoring their confidence in the Church of Jesus Christ that subsisted substantially in the Church of Rome. Still, the Catholic Church was somewhat weakened by the Reformation, portions of Europe were no longer under its sway and kings in the remaining Catholic countries began to take control of the church institutions within their kingdoms.
Unlike many European countries, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Hungary were more tolerant. While still enforcing the predominance of Catholicism, they continued to allow the large religious minorities to maintain their faiths, traditions and customs. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth became divided among Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews and a small Muslim population.
Another important development in this period was the growth of pan-European sentiments. Eméric Crucé (1623) came up with the idea of the European Council, intended to end wars in Europe; attempts to create lasting peace were no success, although all European countries (except the Russian and Ottoman Empires, regarded as foreign) agreed to make peace in 1518 at the Treaty of London. Many wars broke out again in a few years. The Reformation also made European peace impossible for many centuries.
Europa regina, 1570 print by Sebastian Münster of Basel
Another development was the idea of ‘European superiority’. The ideal of civilization was taken over from the ancient Greeks and Romans: Discipline, education and living in the city were required to make people civilized; Europeans and non-Europeans were judged for their civility, and Europe regarded itself as superior to other continents. There was a movement by some such as Montaigne that regarded the non-Europeans as a better, more natural and primitive people. Post services were founded all over Europe, which allowed a humanistic interconnected network of intellectuals across Europe, despite religious divisions. However, the Roman Catholic Church banned many leading scientific works; this led to an intellectual advantage for Protestant countries, where the banning of books was regionally organised. Francis Bacon and other advocates of science tried to create unity in Europe by focusing on the unity in nature.1 In the 15th century, at the end of the Middle Ages, powerful sovereign states were appearing, built by the New Monarchs who were centralising power in France, England, and Spain. On the other hand, the Parliament in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth grew in power, taking legislative rights from the Polish king. The new state power was contested by parliaments in other countries especially England. New kinds of states emerged which were co-operation agreements among territorial rulers, cities, farmer republics and knights.
Alberico Gentili, the Father of international law.
Mercantilism and colonial expansion
Main article: Mercantilism
Animated map showing the evolution of Colonial empires from 1492 to the present
The Iberian states (Spain and Portugal) were able to dominate colonial activity in the 16th century. The Portuguese forged the first global empire in the 15th and 16th century, whilst during the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, the Spanish under the crown of Castile became the most powerful global empire in the world. This dominance was increasingly challenged by British, French, and the short-lived Dutch and Swedish colonial efforts of the 17th and 18th centuries. New forms of trade and expanding horizons made new forms of government, law and economics necessary.
Colonial expansion continued in the following centuries (with some setbacks, such as successful wars of independence in the British American colonies and then later Haiti, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and others amid European turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars; Haiti unique in abolishing slavery). Spain had control of a large part of North America, all of Central America and a great part of South America, the Caribbean and the Philippines; Britain took the whole of Australia and New Zealand, most of India, and large parts of Africa and North America; France held parts of Canada and India (nearly all of which was lost to Britain in 1763), Indochina, large parts of Africa and the Caribbean islands; the Netherlands gained the East Indies (now Indonesia) and islands in the Caribbean; Portugal obtained Brazil and several territories in Africa and Asia; and later, powers such as Germany, Belgium, Italy and Russia acquired further colonies.
This expansion helped the economy of the countries owning them. Trade flourished, because of the minor stability of the empires. By the late 16th century, American silver accounted for one-fifth of Spain’s total budget. The European countries fought wars that were largely paid for by the money coming in from the colonies. Nevertheless, the profits of the slave trade and of plantations of the West Indies, then the most profitable of all the British colonies, amounted to less than 5% of the British Empire’s economy (but was generally more profitable) at the time of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century.
Crisis of the 17th century
Contemporary woodcut depicting the Second Defenestration of Prague (1618), which marked the beginning of the Bohemian Revolt, which began the first part of the Thirty Years’ War.
Further information: The General Crisis
The 17th century was an era of crisis. Many historians have rejected the idea, while others promote it as an invaluable insight into the warfare, politics, economics, and even art. The Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) focused attention on the massive horrors that wars could bring to entire populations. The 1640s in particular saw more state breakdowns around the world than any previous or subsequent period. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the largest state in Europe, temporarily disappeared. In addition, there were secessions and upheavals in several parts of the Spanish empire, the world’s first global empire. In Britain the entire Stuart monarchy (England, Scotland, Ireland, and its North American colonies) rebelled. Political insurgency and a spate of popular revolts seldom equalled shook the foundations of most states in Europe and Asia. More wars took place around the world in the mid-17th century than in almost any other period of recorded history. The crises spread far beyond Europe – for example Ming China, the most populous state in the world, collapsed. Across the Northern Hemisphere, the mid-17th century experienced almost unprecedented death rates. Geoffrey Parker, a British historian, suggests that environmental factors may have been in part to blame, especially global cooling.
Age of Absolutism
Further information: Political absolutism and International relations, 1648–1814
Maria Theresa being crowned Queen of Hungary in the St. Martin’s Cathedral, Pressburg (Bratislava)
The “absolute” rule of powerful monarchs such as Louis XIV (ruled France 1643–1715), Peter the Great (ruled Russia 1682–1725), Maria Theresa (ruled Habsburg lands 1740–1780) and Frederick the Great (ruled Prussia 1740–86), produced powerful centralized states, with strong armies and powerful bureaucracies, all under the control of the king.
Throughout the early part of this period, capitalism (through mercantilism) was replacing feudalism as the principal form of economic organisation, at least in the western half of Europe. The expanding colonial frontiers resulted in a Commercial Revolution. The period is noted for the rise of modern science and the application of its findings to technological improvements, which animated the Industrial Revolution after 1750.
The Reformation had profound effects on the unity of Europe. Not only were nations divided one from another by their religious orientation, but some states were torn apart internally by religious strife, avidly fostered by their external enemies. France suffered this fate in the 16th century in the series of conflicts known as the French Wars of Religion, which ended in the triumph of the Bourbon Dynasty. England avoided this fate for a while and settled down under Elizabeth I to a moderate Anglicanism. Much of modern-day Germany was made up of numerous small sovereign states under the theoretical framework of the Holy Roman Empire, which was further divided along internally drawn sectarian lines. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth is notable in this time for its religious indifference and a general immunity to the horrors of European religious strife.
Thirty Years’ War 1618–1648
The Thirty Years’ War was fought between 1618 and 1648, across Germany and neighbouring areas, and involved most of the major European powers except England and Russia. Beginning as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Bohemia, it quickly developed into a general war involving Catholics versus Protestants for the most part. The major impact of the war, in which mercenary armies were extensively used, was the devastation of entire regions scavenged bare by the foraging armies. Episodes of widespread famine and disease, and the breakup of family life, devastated the population of the German states and, to a lesser extent, the Low Countries, the Crown of Bohemia and northern parts of Italy, while bankrupting many of the regional powers involved. Between one-fourth and one-third of the German population perished from direct military causes or from disease and starvation, as well as postponed births.
After the Peace of Westphalia, Europe’s borders were still stable in 1708
After the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the war in favour of nations deciding their own religious allegiance, absolutism became the norm of the continent, while parts of Europe experimented with constitutions foreshadowed by the English Civil War and particularly the Glorious Revolution. European military conflict did not cease, but had less disruptive effects on the lives of Europeans. In the advanced northwest, the Enlightenment gave a philosophical underpinning to the new outlook, and the continued spread of literacy, made possible by the printing press, created new secular forces in thought.
Map of Europe in 1794 Samuel Dunn Map of the World
From the Union of Krewo (see above) central and eastern Europe was dominated by Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 16th and 17th centuries Central and Eastern Europe was an arena of conflict for domination of the continent between Sweden, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (involved in series of wars, like Khmelnytsky Uprising, Russo-Polish War, the Deluge, etc.) and the Ottoman Empire. This period saw a gradual decline of these three powers which were eventually replaced by new enlightened absolutist monarchies: Russia, Prussia and Austria (the Habsburg Monarchy). By the turn of the 19th century they had become new powers, having divided Poland between themselves, with Sweden and Turkey having experienced substantial territorial losses to Russia and Austria respectively as well as pauperisation.
War of the Spanish Succession
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1715) was a major war with France opposed by a coalition of England, the Netherlands, the Habsburg Monarchy, and Prussia. Duke of Marlborough commanded the English and Dutch victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. The main issue was whether France under King Louis XIV would take control of Spain’s very extensive possessions and thereby become by far the dominant power, or be forced to share power with other major nations. After initial allied successes, the long war produced a military stalemate and ended with the Treaty of Utrecht, which was based on a balance of power in Europe. Historian Russell Weigley argues that the many wars almost never accomplished more than they cost. British historian G. M. Trevelyan argues:
That Treaty [of Utrecht], which ushered in the stable and characteristic period of Eighteenth-Century civilization, marked the end of danger to Europe from the old French monarchy, and it marked a change of no less significance to the world at large – the maritime, commercial and financial supremacy of Great Britain.
Frederick the Great, king of Prussia 1740–86, modernized the Prussian army, introduced new tactical and strategic concepts, fought mostly successful wars (Silesian Wars, Seven Years’ War) and doubled the size of Prussia. Frederick had a rationale based on Enlightenment thought: he fought total wars for limited objectives. The goal was to convince rival kings that it was better to negotiate and make peace than to fight him.
Russia with its numerous wars and rapid expansion (mainly toward east – i.e. Siberia, Far East – and south, to the “warm seas”) was in a continuous state of financial crisis, which it covered by borrowing from Amsterdam and issuing paper money that caused inflation. Russia boasted a large and powerful army, a very large and complex internal bureaucracy, and a splendid court that rivaled Paris and London. However the government was living far beyond its means and seized Church lands, leaving organized religion in a weak condition. Throughout the 18th century Russia remained “a poor, backward, overwhelmingly agricultural, and illiterate country.”
Main article: Age of Enlightenment
“Why do the Christian nations, which were so weak in the past compared with Muslim nations begin to dominate so many lands in modern times and even defeat the once victorious Ottoman armies?”…”Because they have laws and rules invented by reason.”
Ibrahim Muteferrika, Rational basis for the Politics of Nations (1731)
The Enlightenment was a powerful, widespread cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in late 17th-century Europe emphasizing the power of reason rather than tradition; it was especially favourable to science (especially Isaac Newton’s physics) and hostile to religious orthodoxy (especially of the Catholic Church). It sought to analyze and reform society using reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and to advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange. The Enlightenment was a revolution in human thought. This new way of thinking was that rational thought begins with clearly stated principles, uses correct logic to arrive at conclusions, tests the conclusions against evidence, and then revises the principles in light of the evidence.
Isaac Newton and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Enlightenment thinkers opposed superstition. Some Enlightenment thinkers collaborated with Enlightened despots, absolutist rulers who attempted to forcibly impose some of the new ideas about government into practice. The ideas of the Enlightenment exerted significant influence on the culture, politics, and governments of Europe.
Originating in the 17th century, it was sparked by philosophers Francis Bacon (1562–1626), Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire (1694–1778), Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746), David Hume (1711–1776) and physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727). Ruling princes often endorsed and fostered these figures and even attempted to apply their ideas of government in what was known as enlightened absolutism. The Scientific Revolution is closely tied to the Enlightenment, as its discoveries overturned many traditional concepts and introduced new perspectives on nature and man’s place within it. The Enlightenment flourished until about 1790–1800, at which point the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason, gave way to Romanticism, which placed a new emphasis on emotion; a Counter-Enlightenment began to increase in prominence. The Romantics argued that the Enlightenment was reductionistic insofar as it had largely ignored the forces of imagination, mystery, and sentiment.
In France, Enlightenment was based in the salons and culminated in the great Encyclopédie (1751–72) edited by Denis Diderot (1713–1784) and (until 1759) Jean le Rond d’Alembert (1717–1783) with contributions by hundreds of leading intellectuals who were called philosophes, notably Voltaire (1694–1778), Rousseau (1712–1778) and Montesquieu (1689–1755). Some 25,000 copies of the 35 volume encyclopedia were sold, half of them outside France. These new intellectual strains would spread to urban centres across Europe, notably England, Scotland, the German states, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Spain, as well as Britain’s American colonies.
The political ideals of the Enlightenment influenced the American Declaration of Independence, the United States Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and the Polish–Lithuanian Constitution of 3 May 1791.
Taking a long-term historical perspective, Norman Davies has argued that Freemasonry was a powerful force on behalf of Liberalism and Enlightenment ideas in Europe, from about 1700 to the 20th century. It expanded rapidly during the Age of Enlightenment, reaching practically every country in Europe. Prominent members included Montesquieu, Voltaire, Sir Robert Walpole, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. Steven C. Bullock notes that in the late 18th century, English lodges were headed by the Prince of Wales, Prussian lodges by king Frederick the Great, and French lodges by royal princes. Emperor Napoleon selected as Grand Master of France his own brother.
The great enemy of Freemasonry was the Roman Catholic Church, so that in countries with a large Catholic element, such as France, Italy, Austria, Spain and Mexico, much of the ferocity of the political battles involve the confrontation between supporters of the Church versus active Masons. 20th-century totalitarian and revolutionary movements, especially the Fascists and Communists, crushed the Freemasons.
From revolution to imperialism (1789–1914)
See also: 19th century and International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919)
The boundaries set by the Congress of Vienna, 1815.
The “long 19th century”, from 1789 to 1914 saw the drastic social, political and economic changes initiated by the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Following the reorganisation of the political map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Europe experienced the rise of Nationalism, the rise of the Russian Empire and the peak of the British Empire, as well as the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Finally, the rise of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire initiated the course of events that culminated in the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Main article: Industrial Revolution
London’s chimney sky in 1870, by Gustave Doré
Paris Commune, 1871.
The Industrial Revolution was a period in the late 18th century and early 19th century when major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, and transport affected socioeconomic and cultural conditions in Britain and subsequently spread throughout Europe and North America and eventually the world, a process that continues as industrialisation. Technological advancements, most notably the invention of the steam engine by Scottish engineer James Watt, were major catalysts in the industrialisation of Britain and, later, the wider world. It started in England and Scotland in the mid-18th century with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads and railways. The introduction of steam power (fuelled primarily by coal) and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting most of the world. The impact of this change on society was enormous.
Era of the French Revolution
Main articles: American Revolution, French Revolution, and Napoleonic Wars
Historians R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton argue:
In 1789 France fell into revolution, and the world has never since been the same. The French Revolution was by far the most momentous upheaval of the whole revolutionary age. It replaced the "old regime" with "modern society," and at its extreme phase became very radical, so much so that all later revolutionary movements have looked back to it as a predecessor to themselves.... From the 1760s to 1848, the role of France was decisive.
The era of the French Revolution and the subsequent Napoleonic wars was a difficult time for monarchs. Tsar Paul I of Russia was assassinated; King Louis XVI of France was executed, as was his queen Marie Antoinette. Furthermore, kings Charles IV of Spain, Ferdinand VII of Spain and Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden were deposed as were ultimately the Emperor Napoleon and all of the relatives he had installed on various European thrones. King Frederick William III of Prussia and Emperor Francis II of Austria barely clung to their thrones. King George III of England lost the better part of the First British Empire.
The American Revolution (1775–1783) was the first successful revolt of a colony against a European power. It proclaimed, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, that “all men are created equal,” a position based on the principles of the Enlightenment. It rejected aristocracy and established a republican form of government under George Washington that attracted worldwide attention.
The French Revolution (1789–1804) was a product of the same democratic forces in the Atlantic World and had an even greater impact. French historian François Aulard says:
From the social point of view, the Revolution consisted in the suppression of what was called the feudal system, in the emancipation of the individual, in greater division of landed property, the abolition of the privileges of noble birth, the establishment of equality, the simplification of life.... The French Revolution differed from other revolutions in being not merely national, for it aimed at benefiting all humanity."
The storming of the Bastille in the French Revolution of 1789
French intervention in the American Revolutionary War had nearly bankrupted the state. After repeated failed attempts at financial reform, King Louis XVI had to convene the Estates-General, a representative body of the country made up of three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The third estate, joined by members of the other two, declared itself to be a National Assembly and swore an oath not to dissolve until France had a constitution and created, in July, the National Constituent Assembly. At the same time the people of Paris revolted, famously storming the Bastille prison on 14 July 1789.
At the time the assembly wanted to create a constitutional monarchy, and over the following two years passed various laws including the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, the abolition of feudalism, and a fundamental change in the relationship between France and Rome. At first the king agreed with these changes and enjoyed reasonable popularity with the people. As anti-royalism increased along with threat of foreign invasion, the king tried to flee and join France’s enemies. He was captured and on 21 January 1793, having been convicted of treason, he was guillotined.
On 20 September 1792 the National Convention abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic. Due to the emergency of war, the National Convention created the Committee of Public Safety, controlled by Maximilien de Robespierre of the Jacobin Club, to act as the country’s executive. Under Robespierre, the committee initiated the Reign of Terror, during which up to 40,000 people were executed in Paris, mainly nobles and those convicted by the Revolutionary Tribunal, often on the flimsiest of evidence. Internal tensions at Paris drove the Committee towards increasing assertions of radicalism and increasing suspicions, fueling new terror: A few months into this phase, more and more prominent revolutionaries were being sent to the guillotine by Robespierre and his faction, for example Madame Roland and Georges Danton. Elsewhere in the country, counter-revolutionary insurrections were brutally suppressed. The regime was overthrown in the coup of 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794) and Robespierre was executed. The regime which followed ended the Terror and relaxed Robespierre’s more extreme policies.
The Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated by the Seventh Coalition in 1815
Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the world’s most famous soldiers and statesmen, leading France to great victories over numerous European enemies. Despite modest origins he became Emperor and restructured much of European diplomacy, politics and law, until he was forced to abdicate in 1814. His 100-day comeback in 1815 failed at the Battle of Waterloo, and he died in exile on a remote island, remembered as a great hero by many Frenchmen and as a great villain by British and other enemies.
Napoleon, despite his youth, was France’s most successful general in the Revolutionary wars, having conquered large parts of Italy and forced the Austrians to sue for peace. In 1799 on 18 Brumaire (9 November) he overthrew the feeble government, replacing it with the Consulate, which he dominated. He gained popularity in France by restoring the Church, keeping taxes low, centralizing power in Paris, and winning glory on the battlefield. In 1804 he crowned himself Emperor. In 1805, Napoleon planned to invade Britain, but a renewed British alliance with Russia and Austria (Third Coalition), forced him to turn his attention towards the continent, while at the same time the French fleet was demolished by the British at the Battle of Trafalgar, ending any plan to invade Britain. On 2 December 1805, Napoleon defeated a numerically superior Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz, forcing Austria’s withdrawal from the coalition (see Treaty of Pressburg) and dissolving the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, a Fourth Coalition was set up. On 14 October Napoleon defeated the Prussians at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, marched through Germany and defeated the Russians on 14 June 1807 at Friedland. The Treaties of Tilsit divided Europe between France and Russia and created the Duchy of Warsaw.
Napoleon’s army at the retreat from Russia at the Berezina river
On 12 June 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia with a Grande Armée of nearly 700,000 troops. After the measured victories at Smolensk and Borodino Napoleon occupied Moscow, only to find it burned by the retreating Russian army. He was forced to withdraw. On the march back his army was harassed by Cossacks, and suffered disease and starvation. Only 20,000 of his men survived the campaign. By 1813 the tide had begun to turn from Napoleon. Having been defeated by a seven nation army at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, he was forced to abdicate after the Six Days’ Campaign and the occupation of Paris. Under the Treaty of Fontainebleau he was exiled to the island of Elba. He returned to France on 1 March 1815 (see Hundred Days), raised an army, but was finally defeated by a British and Prussian force at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and exiled to a small British island in the South Atlantic.
Impact of the French Revolution
Main article: Influence of the French Revolution
Roberts finds that the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, from 1793 to 1815, caused 4 million deaths (of whom 1 million were civilians); 1.4 million were French deaths.
Outside France the Revolution had a major impact. Its ideas became widespread. Roberts argues that Napoleon was responsible for key ideas of the modern world, so that, “meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on-were protected, consolidated, codified, and geographically extended by Napoleon during his 16 years of power.”
Furthermore, the French armies in the 1790s and 1800s directly overthrew feudal remains in much of western Europe. They liberalised property laws, ended seigneurial dues, abolished the guild of merchants and craftsmen to facilitate entrepreneurship, legalised divorce, closed the Jewish ghettos and made Jews equal to everyone else. The Inquisition ended as did the Holy Roman Empire. The power of church courts and religious authority was sharply reduced and equality under the law was proclaimed for all men.
In foreign affairs, the French Army down to 1812 was quite successful. Roberts says that Napoleon fought 60 battles, losing only seven. France conquered Belgium and turned it into another province of France. It conquered the Netherlands, and made it a puppet state. It took control of the German areas on the left bank of the Rhine River and set up a puppet regime. It conquered Switzerland and most of Italy, setting up a series of puppet states. The result was glory for France, and an infusion of much needed money from the conquered lands, which also provided direct support to the French Army. However the enemies of France, led by Britain and funded by the inexhaustible British Treasury, formed a Second Coalition in 1799 (with Britain joined by Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Austria). It scored a series of victories that rolled back French successes, and trapped the French Army in Egypt. Napoleon himself slipped through the British blockade in October 1799, returning to Paris, where he overthrew the government and made himself the ruler.
Napoleon conquered most of Italy in the name of the French Revolution in 1797–99. He consolidated old units and split up Austria’s holdings. He set up a series of new republics, complete with new codes of law and abolition of old feudal privileges. Napoleon’s Cisalpine Republic was centered on Milan; Genoa became a republic; the Roman Republic was formed as well as the small Ligurian Republic around Genoa. The Neapolitan Republic was formed around Naples, but it lasted only five months. He later formed the Kingdom of Italy, with his brother as King. In addition, France turned the Netherlands into the Batavian Republic, and Switzerland into the Helvetic Republic. All these new countries were satellites of France, and had to pay large subsidies to Paris, as well as provide military support for Napoleon’s wars. Their political and administrative systems were modernized, the metric system introduced, and trade barriers reduced. Jewish ghettos were abolished. Belgium and Piedmont became integral parts of France.
Most of the new nations were abolished and returned to prewar owners in 1814. However, Artz emphasizes the benefits the Italians gained from the French Revolution:
For nearly two decades the Italians had excellent codes of law, a fair system of taxation, a better economic situation, and more religious and intellectual toleration than they had known for centuries.... Everywhere old physical, economic, and intellectual barriers had been thrown down and the Italians had begun to be aware of a common nationality.
Likewise in Switzerland the long-term impact of the French Revolution has been assessed by Martin:
It proclaimed the equality of citizens before the law, equality of languages, freedom of thought and faith; it created a Swiss citizenship, basis of our modern nationality, and the separation of powers, of which the old regime had no conception; it suppressed internal tariffs and other economic restraints; it unified weights and measures, reformed civil and penal law, authorized mixed marriages (between Catholics and Protestants), suppressed torture and improved justice; it developed education and public works.
The greatest impact came of course in France itself. In addition to effects similar to those in Italy and Switzerland, France saw the introduction of the principle of legal equality, and the downgrading of the once powerful and rich Catholic Church to just a bureau controlled by the government. Power became centralized in Paris, with its strong bureaucracy and an army supplied by conscripting all young men. French politics were permanently polarized – new names were given, “left” and “right” for the supporters and opponents of the principles of the Revolution.
British historian Max Hastings says there is no question that as a military genius Napoleon ranks with Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar in greatness. However, in the political realm, historians debate whether Napoleon was “an enlightened despot who laid the foundations of modern Europe or, instead, a megalomaniac who wrought greater misery than any man before the coming of Hitler”.
Main article: Christianity in the 19th century
By the 19th century, governments increasingly took over traditional religious roles, paying much more attention to efficiency and uniformity than to religiosity. Secular bodies took control of education away from the churches, abolished taxes and tithes for the support of established religions, and excluded bishops from the upper houses. Secular laws increasingly regulated marriage and divorce, and maintaining birth and death registers became the duty of local officials. Although the numerous religious denominations in the United States founded many colleges and universities, that was almost exclusively a state function across Europe. Imperial powers protected Christian missionaries in African and Asian colonies. In France and other largely Catholic nations, anti-clerical political movements tried to reduce the role of the Catholic Church. Likewise briefly in Germany in the 1870s there was a fierce Kulturkampf (culture war) against Catholics, but the Catholics successfully fought back. The Catholic Church concentrated more power in the papacy and fought against secularism and socialism. It sponsored devotional reforms that gained wide support among the churchgoers.
Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette argues that the outlook for Protestantism at the start of the 19th century was discouraging. It was a regional religion based in northwestern Europe, with an outpost in the sparsely settled United States. It was closely allied with government, as in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Prussia, and especially Great Britain. The alliance came at the expense of independence, as the government made the basic policy decisions, down to such details as the salaries of ministers and location of new churches. The dominant intellectual currents of the Enlightenment promoted rationalism, and most Protestant leaders preached a sort of deism. Intellectually, the new methods of historical and anthropological study undermine automatic acceptance of biblical stories, as did the sciences of geology and biology. Industrialization was a strongly negative factor, as workers who moved to the city seldom joined churches. The gap between the church and the unchurched grew rapidly, and secular forces, based both in socialism and liberalism undermine the prestige of religion. Despite the negative forces, Protestantism demonstrated a striking vitality by 1900. Shrugging off Enlightenment rationalism, Protestants embraced romanticism, with the stress on the personal and the invisible. Entirely fresh ideas as expressed by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Soren Kierkegaard, Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf von Harnack restored the intellectual power of theology. There was more attention to historic creeds such as the Augsburg, the Heidelberg, and the Westminster confessions. In England, Anglicans emphasize the historically Catholic components of their heritage, as the High Church element reintroduced vestments and incense into their rituals. The stirrings of pietism on the Continent, and evangelicalism in Britain expanded enormously, leading the devout away from an emphasis on formality and ritual and toward an inner sensibility toward personal relationship to Christ. Social activities, in education and in opposition to social vices such as slavery, alcoholism and poverty provided new opportunities for social service. Above all, worldwide missionary activity became a highly prized goal, proving quite successful in close cooperation with the imperialism of the British, German, and Dutch empires.
Main articles: International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919), Serbian Revolution, Italian unification, Revolutions of 1848, and Greek War of Independence
Cheering the Revolutions of 1848 in Berlin
Further information: Nationalism
The political development of nationalism and the push for popular sovereignty culminated with the ethnic/national revolutions of Europe. During the 19th century nationalism became one of the most significant political and social forces in history; it is typically listed among the top causes of World War I.
Napoleon’s conquests of the German and Italian states around 1800–1806 played a major role in stimulating nationalism and the demands for national unity.
In the German states east of Prussia Napoleon abolished many of the old or medieval relics, such as dissolving the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. He imposed rational legal systems and demonstrated how dramatic changes were possible. For example, his organization of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806 promoted a feeling of nationalism. Nationalists sought to encompass masculinity in their quest for strength and unity. In the 1860s it was Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck who achieved German unification in 1870 after the many smaller states followed Prussia’s leadership in wars against Denmark, Austria and France.
Italian nationalism emerged in the 19th century and was the driving force for Italian unification or the “Risorgimento” (meaning the Resurgence or revival). It was the political and intellectual movement that consolidated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. The memory of the Risorgimento is central to both Italian nationalism and Italian historiography.
Beginning in 1821, the Greek War of Independence began as a rebellion by Greek revolutionaries against the ruling Ottoman Empire.
Main article: History of Serbia
Breakup of Yugoslavia
For centuries the Orthodox Christian Serbs were ruled by the Muslim-controlled Ottoman Empire. The success of the Serbian revolution (1804-1817) against Ottoman rule in 1817 marked the foundation of modern Principality of Serbia. It achieved de facto independence in 1867 and finally gained recognition by the Great Powers in the Berlin Congress of 1878. The Serbs developed a larger vision for nationalism in Pan-Slavism and with Russian support sought to pull the other Slavs out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria, with German backing, tried to crush Serbia in 1914 but Russia intervened, thus igniting the First World War in which Austria dissolved into nation states.
In 1918, the region of Vojvodina proclaimed its secession from Austria-Hungary to unite with the pan-Slavic State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs; the Kingdom of Serbia joined the union on 1 December 1918, and the country was named Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It was renamed Yugoslavia, which was never able to tame the multiple nationalities and religions and it flew apart in civil war in the 1990s.
Main article: Greek War of Independence
The Greek drive for independence from the Ottoman Empire inspired supporters across Christian Europe, especially in Britain. France, Russia and Britain intervened to make this nationalist dream become reality with the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829/1830).
Main articles: Bulgarian National Revival and National awakening of Bulgaria
Bulgarian nationalism emerged under Ottoman rule in the late 18th and early 19th century, under the influence of western ideas such as liberalism and nationalism, which trickled into the country after the French revolution, mostly via Greece, although there were stirrings in the 18th century. Russia, as a World Great Power of fellow Orthodox Slavs, could appeal to the Bulgarians in a way that Austria could not. An autonomous Bulgarian Exarchate was established for the dioceses of Bulgaria as well as those, wherein at least two thirds of Orthodox Christians were willing to join it. The April Uprising in 1876 indirectly resulted in the re-establishment of Bulgaria in 1878.
Main article: History of Poland
The cause of Polish nationalism was repeatedly frustrated before 1918. In the 1790s, Germany, Russia and Austria partitioned Poland. Napoleon set up the Duchy of Warsaw, a new Polish state that ignited a spirit of nationalism. Russia took it over in 1815 as Congress Poland with the tsar as King of Poland. Large-scale nationalist revolts erupted in 1830 and 1863–64 but were harshly crushed by Russia, which tried to Russify the Polish language, culture and religion. The collapse of the Russian Empire in the First World War enabled the major powers to reestablish an independent Poland, which survived until 1939. Meanwhile, Poles in areas controlled by Germany moved into heavy industry but their religion came under attack by Bismarck in the Kulturkampf of the 1870s. The Poles joined German Catholics in a well-organized new Centre Party, and defeated Bismarck politically. He responded by stopping the harassment and cooperating with the Centre Party.
An important component of nationalism was the study of the nation’s heritage, emphasizing the national language and literary culture. This stimulated, and was in turn strongly supported by, the emergence of national educational systems reaching the general population. Latin gave way to the national language, and compulsory education, with strong support from modernizers and the media, became standard throughout Western countries. Voting reforms extended the franchise to the previously uneducated elements. A strong sentiment among the elites was the necessity for compulsory public education, so that the new electorate could understand and handle its duties. Every country developed a sense of national origins – the historical accuracy was less important than the motivation toward patriotism. Universal compulsory education was extended as well to girls, at least at the elementary level. By the 1890s, strong movements emerged in some countries, including France, Germany and the United States, to extend compulsory education to the secondary level.
Mikhail Bakunin speaking to members of the International Workingmen’s Association at the Basel Congress in 1869
After the defeat of revolutionary France, the other great powers tried to restore the situation which existed before 1789. In 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, the major powers of Europe managed to produce a peaceful balance of power among the various European empires. This was known as the Metternich system. The powerbase of their support was the aristocracy, with its great landed wealth and control of the government, the church, and the military in most countries. However, their efforts were unable to stop the spread of revolutionary movements: the middle classes had been deeply influenced by the ideals of the French revolution, and the Industrial Revolution brought important economical and social changes.
Radical intellectuals looked to the working classes for a base for socialist, communist and anarchistic ideas. Widely influential was the 1848 pamphlet by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto.
The middle classes and businessmen promoted liberalism, free trade and capitalism. Aristocratic elements concentrated in government service, the military and the established churches. Nationalist movements (in Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere) called upon the “racial” unity (which usually meant a common language and an imagined common ethnicity) to seek national unification and/or liberation from foreign rule. As a result, the period between 1815 and 1871 saw a large number of revolutionary attempts and independence wars. Greece successfully revolted against Ottoman rule in the 1820s. European diplomats and intellectuals saw the Greek struggle for independence, with its accounts of Turkish atrocities, in a romantic light.
France under Napoleon III
Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, parlayed his famous name and to widespread popularity across France . He returned from exile in 1848, promising to stabilize the chaotic political situation.  He was elected president and maneuvered successfully to name himself Emperor, a move approved later by a large majority of the French electorate. The first part of his Imperial term brought many important reforms, facilitated by Napoleon’s control of the lawmaking body, the government, and the Army. Hundreds of old Republican leaders were arrested and deported. Napoleon controlled the media and censored the news. In compensation for the loss of freedom, Napoleon gave the people new hospitals and asylums, beautified and modernized Paris, and built a modern railroad and transportation system that dramatically improved commerce, and helped the many small farmers as well. The economy grew, but industrialization was not as rapid as Britain, and France depended largely on small family-oriented firms as opposed to the large companies that were emerging in the United States and Germany. France was on the winning side in the Crimean war (1854-56), but after 1858 Napoleon’s foreign-policy was less and less successful. He antagonized Great Britain and failed to appreciate the danger of war with Prussia. Foreign-policy blunders finally destroyed his reign in 1870-71. He gained worldwide attention for his aggressive foreign policy in Europe, Mexico, and worldwide. He helped in the unification of Italy by fighting the Austrian Empire and joined the Crimean War on the side of Great Britain to defend the Ottoman Empire against Russia. His empire collapsed after being defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. 
France became a republic, but until the 1880s there was a strong popular demand for return to monarchy. That never happened because of the blunders made by the available monarchs. Hostility to the Catholic Church became a major issue, as France battle between secular and religious forces well into the 20th century, with the secular elements usually more successful. The French Third Republic emerged in 1871, was on the winning side of the first world war, and was finally overthrown when it was defeated in 1940 in World War II.
Giuseppe Garibaldi’s redshirts during the Battle of Calatafimi, part of the Italian Unification.
Country Population in millions (year)
Russia 71.8 (1870)
Germany 42.7 (1875)
Austria-Hungary 37.3 (1876)
France 36.9 (1876)
Great Britain 33.7 (1877)
Italy 26.8 (1876)
Source: Appleton Annual Cyclopedia: 1877 (1878) p. 281
Most European states had become constitutional (rather than absolute) monarchies by 1871, and Germany and Italy merged many small city-states to become united nation-states. Germany in particular increasingly dominated the continent in terms of economics and political power. Meanwhile, on a global scale, Great Britain, with its far-flung British Empire, unmatched Royal Navy, and powerful bankers, became the world’s first global power. The sun never set on its territories, while an informal empire operated through British financiers, entrepreneurs, traders and engineers who established operations in many countries, and largely dominated Latin America. The British were especially famous for financing and constructing railways around the world.
Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany
From his base in Prussia, Otto von Bismarck in the 1860s engineered a series of short, decisive wars, that unified most of the German states (excluding Austria) into a powerful German Empire under Prussian leadership. He humiliated France in the process, but kept on good terms with Austria-Hungary. With that accomplished by 1871 he then skillfully used balance of power diplomacy to preserve Germany’s new role and keep Europe at peace. The new German Empire industrialized rapidly and challenged Britain for economic leadership. Bismarck disliked colonies but public and elite opinion forced him to build an overseas empire. He was removed from office in 1890 by an aggressive young Kaiser Wilhelm II, who pursued a disruptive foreign policy that polarized Europe into rival camps. These rival camps went to war with each other in 1914.  
Austrian and Russian empires
Further information: Austrian Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russian Empire
The power of nationalism to create new states was irresistible in the 19th century, and the process could lead to collapse in the absence of a strong nationalism. Austria-Hungary had the advantage of size, but multiple disadvantages. There were rivals on four sides, its finances were unstable, the population was fragmented into multiple ethnicities and languages that served as the bases for separatist nationalisms. It had a large army with good forts, but its industrial base was thin. Its naval resources were so minimal that it did not attempt to build an overseas empire. It did have the advantage of good diplomats, typified by Metternich (Foreign Minister 1809–1848, Prime Minister, 1821–1848)). They employed a grand strategy for survival that balanced out different forces, set up buffer zones, and kept the Habsburg empire going despite wars with the Ottomans, Frederick the Great, Napoleon and Bismarck, until the final disaster of the First World War. The Empire overnight disintegrated into multiple states based on ethnic nationalism and the principle of self-determination.
The Russian Empire likewise brought together a multitude of languages and cultures, so that its military defeat in the First World War led to multiple splits that created independent Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland, and for a brief spell, independent Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
Main articles: Colonial Empires, History of colonialism, Habsburg Monarchy, Russian Empire, French colonial empire, British Empire, Dutch Empire, Italian colonial empire, and German colonial empire
The Berlin Conference (1884) headed by Otto von Bismarck that regulated European colonization in Africa during the New Imperialism period
Colonial empires were the product of the European Age of Discovery from the 15th century. The initial impulse behind these dispersed maritime empires and those that followed was trade, driven by the new ideas and the capitalism that grew out of the Renaissance. Both the Portuguese Empire and Spanish Empire quickly grew into the first global political and economic systems with territories spread around the world.
Subsequent major European colonial empires included the French, Dutch, and British empires. The latter, consolidated during the period of British maritime hegemony in the 19th century, became the largest empire in history because of the improved ocean transportation technologies of the time as well as electronic communication through the telegraph, cable, and radio. At its height in 1920, the British Empire covered a quarter of the Earth’s land area and comprised a quarter of its population. Other European countries, such as Belgium, Germany, and Italy, pursued colonial empires as well (mostly in Africa), but they were smaller. Ignoring the oceans, Russia built its Russian Empire through conquest by land in Eastern Europe, and Asia.
By the mid-19th century, the Ottoman Empire had declined enough to become a target for other global powers (see History of the Balkans). This instigated the Crimean War in 1854 and began a tenser period of minor clashes among the globe-spanning empires of Europe that eventually set the stage for the First World War. In the second half of the 19th century, the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Kingdom of Prussia carried out a series of wars that resulted in the creation of Italy and Germany as nation-states, significantly changing the balance of power in Europe. From 1870, Otto von Bismarck engineered a German hegemony of Europe that put France in a critical situation. It slowly rebuilt its relationships, seeking alliances with Russia and Britain to control the growing power of Germany. In this way, two opposing sides – the Triple Alliance of 1882 (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy) and the Triple Entente of 1907 (Britain, France and Russia) – formed in Europe, improving their military forces and alliances year-by-year.
The Fourth Estate (painting) by Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo.
1914–1945: Two World wars
Military alliances leading to World War; Triple Entente in green; Central Powers in brown
German-American historian Konrad Jarausch, asked if he agreed that “the European record of the past century [was] just one gigantic catastrophe”, argues:
It is true that the first half of the 20th century was full of internecine warfare, economic depression, ethnic cleansing and racist genocide that killed tens of millions of people, more than any other period in human history. But looking only at the disasters creates an incomplete perception, because the second half of the century witnessed a much more positive development in spite of the Cold War. After the defeat of Fascism in 1945, the peaceful revolution of 1989/90 also liberated the East from Communist control in a quite unexpected fashion. As a result, Europeans generally live more free, prosperous and healthy lives than ever before.
The “short twentieth century”, from 1914 to 1991, included the First World War, the Second World War and the Cold War. The First World War used modern technology to kill millions of soldiers. Victory by Britain, France, the United States and other allies drastically changed the map of Europe, ending four major land empires (the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires) and leading to the creation of nation-states across Central and Eastern Europe. The October Revolution in Russia led to the creation of the Soviet Union (1917–1991) and the rise of the international communist movement. Widespread economic prosperity was typical of the period before 1914, and 1920–1929. After the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, however, democracy collapsed in most of Europe. Fascists took control in Italy, and the even more aggressive Nazi movement led by Adolf Hitler took control of Germany, 1933–45. The Second World War was fought on an even larger scale than the First war, killing many more people, and using even more advanced technology. It ended with the division of Europe between East and West, with the East under the control of the Soviet Union and the West dominated by NATO. The two sides engaged in the Cold War, with actual conflict taking place not in Europe but in Asia in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The Imperial system collapsed. The remaining colonial empires ended through the decolonisation of European rule in Africa and Asia. The fall of Soviet Communism (1989–1991) left the West dominant and enabled the reunification of Germany. It accelerated the process of a European integration to include Eastern Europe. The European Union continues today, but with German economic dominance. Since the worldwide Great Recession of 2008, European growth has been slow, and financial crises have hit Greece and other countries. While Russia is a weak version of the old Soviet Union, it has been confronting Europe in Ukraine and other areas.
World War I
Main articles: World War I, Home front during World War I, Diplomatic history of World War I, and Economic history of World War I
Trenches and sand bags were defences against machine guns and artillery on the Western Front, 1914–1918
After the relative peace of most of the 19th century, the rivalry between European powers, compounded by a rising nationalism among ethnic groups, exploded in August 1914, when the First World War started. Over 65 million European soldiers were mobilised from 1914 to 1918; 20 million soldiers and civilians died, and 21 million were seriously wounded. On one side were Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria (the Central Powers/Triple Alliance), while on the other side stood Serbia and the Triple Entente – the coalition of France, Britain and Russia, which were joined by Italy in 1915, Romania in 1916 and by the United States in 1917. The Western Front involved especially brutal combat without any territorial gains by either side. Single battles like Verdun and the Somme killed hundreds of thousands of men while leaving the stalemate unchanged. Heavy artillery and machine guns caused most of the casualties, supplemented by poison gas. Czarist Russia collapsed in the February Revolution of 1917 and Germany claimed victory on the Eastern Front. After eight months of liberal rule, the October Revolution brought Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks to power, leading to the creation of the Soviet Union in place of the disintegrated Russian Empire. With American entry into the war in 1917 on the Allied side, and the failure of Germany’s spring 1918 offensive, Germany had run out of manpower, while an average of 10,000 American troops were arriving in France every day in the summer of 1918. Germany’s allies, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, surrendered and dissolved, followed by Germany on 11 November 1918. The victors forced Germany to assume responsibility for the conflict and pay war reparations.
One factor in determining the outcome of the war was that the Allies had significantly more economic resources they could spend on the war. One estimate (using 1913 US dollars) is that the Allies spent $58 billion on the war and the Central Powers only $25 billion. Among the Allies, Britain spent $21 billion and the U.S. $17 billion; among the Central Powers Germany spent $20 billion.
Paris Peace Conference
Main article: Paris Peace Conference, 1919
Europe in 1916
Europe in 1919
Detail from William Orpen’s painting The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles, 28 June 1919, showing the signing of the peace treaty by a minor German official opposite to the representatives of the winning powers.
The world war was settled by the victors at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Two dozen nations sent delegations, and there were many nongovernmental groups, but the defeated powers were not invited.
The “Big Four” were President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, Prime Minister David Lloyd George of Great Britain, Georges Clemenceau of France, and, of least importance, Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando. Each has a large staff of experts. They met together informally 145 times and made all the major decisions, which in turn were ratified by the others.
The major decisions were the creation of the League of Nations; the six peace treaties with defeated enemies, most notable the Treaty of Versailles with Germany; the awarding of German and Ottoman overseas possessions as “mandates”, chiefly to Britain and France; and the drawing of new national boundaries (sometimes with plebiscites) to better reflect the forces of nationalism.
The Big Four implemented sweeping changes to the political geography of the world. Most famously, the Treaty of Versailles itself weakened Germany’s military power and placed full blame for the war and costly reparations on its shoulders – the humiliation and resentment in Germany was probably one of the causes of Nazi success and indirectly a cause of World War II.
At the insistence of President Wilson, the Big Four required Poland to sign a treaty on 28 June 1919 that guaranteed minority rights in the new nation. Poland signed under protest, and made little effort to enforce the specified rights for Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, and other minorities. Similar treaties were signed by Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, Greece, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and later by Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Finland and Germany were not asked to sign a minority rights treaty.
See also: Aftermath of World War I, Interwar period, and International relations (1919–1939)
Interwar Europe in 1923
People gathered at sport event in 1938 (Sweden).
Europeans from various countries relaxing in wave pool in Hungary in 1939 just before the Second World War. Visible inscriptions in numerous languages.
In the Treaty of Versailles (1919) the winners recognised the new states (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria, Yugoslavia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) created in central Europe from the defunct German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, based on national (ethnic) self-determination. It was a peaceful era with a few small wars before 1922 such as the Ukrainian–Soviet War (1917–1921) and the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921). Prosperity was widespread, and the major cities sponsored a youth culture called the “Roaring Twenties” or “Jazz Age” that was often featured in the cinema, which attracted very large audiences.
The Allied victory in the First World War seemed to mark the triumph of liberalism, not just in the Allied countries themselves, but also in Germany and in the new states of Eastern Europe, as well as Japan. Authoritarian militarism as typified by Germany had been defeated and discredited. Historian Martin Blinkhorn argues that the liberal themes were ascendant in terms of “cultural pluralism, religious and ethnic toleration, national self-determination, free-market economics, representative and responsible government, free trade, unionism, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes through a new body, the League of Nations.” However, as early as 1917, the emerging liberal order was being challenged by the new communist movement taking inspiration from the Russian Revolution. Communist revolts were beaten back everywhere else, but they did succeed in Russia.
Fascism and authoritarianism
Italy adopted an authoritarian dictatorship known as Fascism in 1922; it became a model for Hitler in Germany and for right wing elements in other countries. Historian Stanley G. Payne says Fascism in Italy was:
A primarily political dictatorship....The Fascist Party itself had become almost completely bureaucratized and subservient to, not dominant over, the state itself. Big business, industry, and finance retained extensive autonomy, particularly in the early years. The armed forces also enjoyed considerable autonomy....The Fascist militia was placed under military control....The judicial system was left largely intact and relatively autonomous as well. The police continued to be directed by state officials and were not taken over by party leaders...nor was a major new police elite created....There was never any question of bringing the Church under overall subservience.... Sizable sectors of Italian cultural life retained extensive autonomy, and no major state propaganda-and-culture ministry existed....The Mussolini regime was neither especially sanguinary nor particularly repressive.
Authoritarian regimes replaced democracy in the 1930s in Nazi Germany, Portugal, Austria, Poland, Greece, the Baltic countries and Francoist Spain. By 1940, there were only four liberal democracies left on the European continent: France, Finland, Switzerland and Sweden.
Great Depression: 1929–1939
Main article: Great Depression
After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, nearly the whole world sank into a Great Depression, as money stopped flowing from New York to Europe, prices fell, profits fell, and unemployment soared. The worst hit sectors included heavy industry, export-oriented agriculture, mining and lumbering, and construction. World trade fell by two thirds.
Liberalism and democracy were discredited. In most of Europe, as well as in Japan and most of Latin America, nation after nation turned to dictators and authoritarian regimes. The most momentous change of government came when Hitler and his Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. The main institution that was meant to bring stability was the League of Nations, created in 1919. However the League failed to resolve any major crises and by 1938 it was no longer a major player. The League was undermined by the bellicosity of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and Mussolini’s Italy, and by the non-participation of the United States. By 1937 it was largely ignored.
A major civil war took place in Spain, with the nationalists winning. The League of Nations was helpless as Italy conquered Ethiopia and Japan seized Manchuria in 1931 and took over most of China starting in 1937.
FAI milicia during Spanish Social Revolution.
The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) was marked by numerous small battles and sieges, and many atrocities, until the rebels (the Nationalists), led by Francisco Franco, won in 1939. There was military intervention as Italy sent land forces, and Germany sent smaller elite air force and armoured units to the Nationalists. The Soviet Union sold armaments to the leftist Republicans on the other side, while the Communist parties in numerous countries sent soldiers to the “International Brigades.” The civil war did not escalate into a larger conflict, but did become a worldwide ideological battleground that pitted the left, the communist movement and many liberals against Catholics, conservatives, and fascists. Britain, France and the US remained neutral and refused to sell military supplies to either side. Worldwide there was a decline in pacifism and a growing sense that another world war was imminent, and that it would be worth fighting for.
World War II
Main articles: Causes of World War II, World War II, Diplomatic history of World War II, and Home front during World War II
In the Munich Agreement of 1938, Britain and France adopted a policy of appeasement as they gave Hitler what he wanted out of Czechoslovakia in the hope that it would bring peace. It did not. In 1939 Germany took over the rest of Czechoslovakia and appeasement policies gave way to hurried rearmament as Hitler next turned his attention to Poland.
Starving Jewish children in Warsaw Ghetto (1940–1943).
The fight against German Nazis during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
American and Soviet troops meet in April 1945, east of the Elbe River.
After allying with Japan in the Anti-Comintern Pact and then also with Benito Mussolini’s Italy in the “Pact of Steel”, and finally signing a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union in August 1939, Hitler launched the Second World War on 1 September 1939 by attacking Poland. To his surprise Britain and France declared war on Germany, but there was little fighting during the “Phoney War” period. War began in earnest in spring 1940 with the successful Blitzkrieg conquests of Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries, and France. Britain remained alone but refused to negotiate, and defeated Germany’s air attacks in the Battle of Britain. Hitler’s goal was to control Eastern Europe but because of his failure to defeat Britain and the Italian failures in North Africa and the Balkans, the great attack on the Soviet Union was delayed until June 1941. Despite initial successes, the German army was stopped close to Moscow in December 1941.
Over the next year the tide was turned and the Germans started to suffer a series of defeats, for example in the siege of Stalingrad and at Kursk. Meanwhile, Japan (allied to Germany and Italy since September 1940) attacked Britain and the United States on 7 December 1941; Germany then completed its over-extension by declaring war on the United States. War raged between the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allied Forces (British Empire, Soviet Union, and the United States). The Allied Forces won in North Africa, invaded Italy in 1943, and recaptured France in 1944. In the spring of 1945 Germany itself was invaded from the east by the Soviet Union and from the west by the other Allies. As the Red Army conquered the Reichstag in Berlin, Hitler committed suicide and Germany surrendered in early May. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, causing between 50 and 80 million deaths, the majority of whom were civilians (approximately 38 to 55 million).
This period was also marked by systematic genocide. In 1942–45, separately from the war-related deaths, the Nazis killed an additional number of over 11 million civilians identified through IBM-enabled censuses, including the majority of the Jews and Gypsies of Europe, millions of Polish and Soviet Slavs, and also homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, misfits, disabled, and political enemies. Meanwhile, in the 1930s the Soviet system of forced labour, expulsions and allegedly engineered famine had a similar death toll. During and after the war millions of civilians were affected by forced population transfers.
Western European colonial empires in Asia and Africa disintegrated after World War II
Cold War Era
Main articles: Cold War, NATO, Marshall Plan, and European Economic Community
East German construction workers building the Berlin Wall, 20 November 1961
Remains of the “Iron curtain” in Devínska Nová Ves, Bratislava (Slovakia).
The world wars ended the pre-eminent position of Britain, France and Germany in Europe and the world. At the Yalta Conference, Europe was divided into spheres of influence between the victors of World War II, and soon became the principal zone of contention in the Cold War between the two power blocs, the Western countries and the Communist bloc. The United States and the majority of European liberal democracies at the time (United Kingdom, France, Italy, Netherlands, West Germany etc.) established the NATO military alliance. Later, the Soviet Union and its satellites (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania) in 1955 established the Warsaw Pact as a counterpoint to NATO. The Warsaw Pact had a much larger ground force, but the American-French-British nuclear umbrellas protected NATO.
Communist states were imposed by the Red Army in the East, while parliamentary democracy became the dominant form of government in the West. Most historians point to its success as the product of exhaustion with war and dictatorship, and the promise of continued economic prosperity. Martin Conway also adds that an important impetus came from the anti-Nazi wartime political coalitions.
Main articles: Marshall Plan and European Economic Community
The United States gave away about $20 billion in Marshall Plan grants and other grants and low-interest long-term loans to Western Europe, 1945 to 1951. Historian Michael J. Hogan argues that American aid was critical in stabilizing the economy and politics of Western Europe. It brought in modern management that dramatically increased productivity, and encouraged cooperation between labor and management, and among the member states. Local Communist parties were opposed, and they lost prestige and influence and a role in government. In strategic terms, says Hogan, the Marshall Plan strengthened the West against The possibility of a Communist invasion or political takeover. However, the Marshall Plan’s role in the rapid recovery has been debated. Most reject the idea that it only miraculously revived Europe, since the evidence shows that a general recovery was already under way thanks to other aid programs from the United States. Economic historians Bradford De Long and Barry Eichengreen conclude it was, ” History’s Most Successful Structural Adjustment Program.” They state:
It was not large enough to have significantly accelerated recovery by financing investment, aiding the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, or easing commodity bottlenecks. We argue, however, that the Marshall Plan did play a major role in setting the stage for post-World War II Western Europe's rapid growth. The conditions attached to Marshall Plan aid pushed European political economy in a direction that left its post World War II "mixed economies" with more "market" and less "controls" in the mix.
The Soviet Union concentrated on its own recovery. It seized and transferred most of Germany’s industrial plants and it exacted war reparations from East Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, using Soviet-dominated joint enterprises. It used trading arrangements deliberately designed to favor the Soviet Union. Moscow controlled the Communist parties that ruled the satellite states, and they followed orders from the Kremlin. Historian Mark Kramer concludes:
The net outflow of resources from eastern Europe to the Soviet Union was approximately $15 billion to $20 billion in the first decade after World War II, an amount roughly equal to the total aid provided by the United States to western Europe under the Marshall Plan.
Western Europe began economic and then political integration, with the aim to unite the region and defend it. This process included organisations such as the European Coal and Steel Community, which grew and evolved into the European Union, and the Council of Europe. The Solidarność movement in the 1980s weakened the Communist government in Poland. At the time the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev initiated perestroika and glasnost, which weakened Soviet influence in Europe, particularly in the USSR. In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and Communist governments outside the Soviet Union were deposed. In 1990 the Federal Republic of Germany absorbed East Germany, after making large cash payments to the USSR. In 1991 the Communist Party in Moscow collapsed, ending the USSR, which split into fifteen independent states. The largest, Russia, took the Soviet Union’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. The most violent dissolution happened in Yugoslavia, in the Balkans. Four (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia) out of six Yugoslav republics declared independence and for most of them a violent war ensued, in some parts lasting until 1995. In 2006 Montenegro seceded and became an independent state. In the post–Cold War era, NATO and the EU have been gradually admitting most of the former members of the Warsaw Pact.
Looking at the half century after the war historian Walter Lacquer concluded:
"The postwar generations of European elites aimed to create more democratic societies. They wanted to reduce the extremes of wealth and poverty and provide essential social services in a way that prewar generations had not. They had had quite enough of unrest and conflict. For decades many Continental societies had more or less achieved these aims and had every reason to be proud of their progress. Europe was quiet and civilized. Europe's success was based on recent painful experience: the horrors of two world wars; the lessons of dictatorship; the experiences of fascism and communism. Above all, it was based on a feeling of European identity and common values – or so it appeared at the time."
The post-war period also witnessed a significant rise in the standard of living of the Western European working class. As noted by one historical text, “within a single generation, the working classes of Western Europe came to enjoy the multiple pleasures of the consumer society.”
Western Europe’s industrial nations in the 1970s were hit by a global economic crisis. They had obsolescent heavy industry, and suddenly had to pay very high energy prices which caused sharp inflation. Some of them also had inefficient nationalized railways and heavy industries. In the important field of computer technology, European nations lagged behind the United States. They also faced high government deficits and growing unrest led by militant labour unions. There was an urgent need for new economic directions. Germany and Sweden sought to create a social consensus behind a gradual restructuring. Germany’s efforts proved highly successful. In Britain under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, the solution was shock therapy, high interest rates, austerity, and selling off inefficient corporations as well as the public housing, which was sold off to the tenants. One result was escalating social tensions in Britain, led by the militant coal miners. Thatcher eventually defeated her opponents and radically changed the British economy, but the controversy never went away as shown by the hostile demonstrations at the time of her death in 2013.
Further information: Cold War (1979–1985) and History of the European Union
Germans standing on top of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate, November 1989; it would begin to be torn apart in the following days.
Changes in national boundaries after the end of the Cold War
The end of the Cold War came in a series of events from 1979 to 1991, mainly in Eastern Europe. In the end, these brought the fall of the Iron Curtain, the German reunification and the end of Soviet control over their Eastern European satellites and their worldwide network of communist parties in a friendly chain reaction from the Pan-European Picnic in 1989. The finals brought the division of the Soviet Union into 15 non-communist states in 1991. Italian historian Federico Romero reports that observers at the time emphasized that,:
The systemic and ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism had faded away. The geopolitical partition of Europe was no more. Nuclear deterrence was morphing into a less armed, almost hypothetical version of its previous self. Superpower rivalry was rapidly wound up with cascading effects in various areas of the world.
Following the end of the Cold War, the European Economic Community pushed for closer integration, co-operation in foreign and home affairs, and started to increase its membership into the neutral and former communist countries. In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty established the European Union, succeeding the EEC and furthering political co-operation. The neutral countries of Austria, Finland and Sweden acceded to the EU, and those that didn’t join were tied into the EU’s economic market via the European Economic Area. These countries also entered the Schengen Agreement which lifted border controls between member states.
The Maastricht Treaty created a single currency for most EU members. The euro was created in 1999 and replaced all previous currencies in participating states in 2002. The most notable exception to the currency union, or eurozone, was the United Kingdom, which also did not sign the Schengen Agreement.
EU did not participate in the Yugoslav Wars, and was divided on supporting the United States in the 2003–2011 Iraq War. NATO has been part of the war in Afghanistan, but at a much lower level of involvement than the United States.
In 2004, the EU gained 10 new members. (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which had been part of the Soviet Union; Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, five former-communist countries; Malta, and the divided island of Cyprus.) These were followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Russia’s regime had interpreted these expansions as violations against NATO’s promise to not expand “one inch to the east” in 1990. Russia engaged in a number of bilateral disputes about gas supplies with Belarus and Ukraine which endangered gas supplies to Europe. Russia also engaged in a minor war with Georgia in 2008.
Supported by the United States and some European countries, Kosovo’s government unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008.
Public opinion in the EU turned against enlargement, partially due to what was seen as over-eager expansion including Turkey gaining candidate status. The European Constitution was rejected in France and the Netherlands, and then (as the Treaty of Lisbon) in Ireland, although a second vote passed in Ireland in 2009.
The financial crisis of 2007–08 effected Europe, and government responded with austerity measures. Limited ability of the smaller EU nations (most notably Greece) to handle their debts led to social unrest, government liquidation, and financial insolvency. In May 2010, the German parliament agreed to loan 22.4 billion euros to Greece over three years, with the stipulation that Greece follow strict austerity measures. See European sovereign-debt crisis.
Beginning in 2014, Ukraine has been in a state of revolution and unrest with two breakaway regions (Donetsk and Lugansk) attempting to join Russia as full federal subjects. (See War in Donbass.) On 16 March, a referendum was held in Crimea leading to the de facto secession of Crimea and its largely internationally unrecognized annexation to the Russian Federation as the Republic of Crimea.
In June 2016, in a referendum in the United Kingdom on the country’s membership in the European Union, 52% of voters voted to leave the EU, leading to the complex Brexit separation process and negotiations, which led to political and economic changes for both the UK and the remaining European Union countries. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020.
700 BC: Homer composes The Iliad, an epic poem that represents the first extended work of European literature. 440 BC: Herodotus defends Athenian political freedom in the Histories. 323 BC: Alexander the Great dies and his Macedonian Empire (reaching far into Asia) fragments. 44 BC: Julius Caesar is murdered. The Roman Republic enters its terminal crisis. 27 BC: Establishment of the Roman Empire under Octavian.
45–55 (ca): First Christian congregations in mainland Greece and in Rome. 293: Diocletian reorganizes the Empire by creating the Tetrarchy. 330: Constantine makes Constantinople into his capital, a new Rome. 395: Following the death of Theodosius I, the Empire is permanently split into the Eastern Roman Empire (later Byzantium) and the Western Roman Empire. 476: Odoacer captures Ravenna and deposes the last Roman emperor in the west: traditionally seen as the end date of the Western Roman Empire. 527: Justinian I is crowned emperor of Byzantium. Orders the editing of Corpus Juris Civilis, Digest (Roman law). 597: Beginning of Roman Catholic Christianization of Anglo-Saxon England (missions and churches had been in existence well before this date, but their contacts with Rome had been loose or nonexistent) 600: Saint Columbanus uses the term "Europe" in a letter. 655: Jus patronatus. 681: Khan Asparukh leads the Bulgars and in a union with the numerous local Slavs invades the Byzantine empire in the Battle of Ongal, creating Bulgaria. 718: Tervel of Bulgaria helps the Byzantine Empire stop the Arabic invasion of Europe, and breaks the siege of Constantinople. 722: Battle of Covadonga in the Iberian Peninsula. Pelayo, a noble Visigoth, defeats a Muslim army that tried to conquer the Cantabrian coast. This helps establish the Christian Kingdom of Asturias, and marks the beginning of the Reconquista. 732: At the Battle of Tours, the Franks stop the advance of the Arabs into Europe. 800: Coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor. 813: Third Council of Tours: Priests are ordered to preach in the native language of the population. 843: Treaty of Verdun. 863: Saints Cyril and Methodius arrive in Great Moravia, initiating Christian mission among the Slav peoples. 864: Boris I of Bulgaria baptises the whole nation, converting the population from tengri, to Eastern Orthodox Christianity 872: Unification of Norway. 886: Bulgarian students of Cyril and Methodius – Sava, Kliment, Naum, Gorazd, Angelariy – arrive back to Bulgaria, creating the Preslav and Ohrid Literary Schools. 893: The Cyrillic alphabet, developed during the 9th century AD at the Preslav Literary School in the First Bulgarian Empire, becomes the official Bulgarian alphabet. 895: Hungarian people led by Árpád start to settle in the Carpathian Basin. 917: In the Battle of Achelous (917) Bulgaria defeats the Byzantine empire, and Simeon I of Bulgaria is proclaimed as emperor, thus Bulgaria becomes an empire. 962: Otto I of East Francia is crowned as "Emperor" by the Pope, beginning the Holy Roman Empire. 988 Kievan Rus adopts Christianity, often seen as the origin of the Russian Orthodox Church. 1054: Start of the East–West Schism, which divides the Christian church for centuries. 1066: Successful Norman Invasion of England by William the Conqueror. 1095: Pope Urban II calls for the First Crusade. 12th century: The 12th century in literature saw an increase in the number of texts. The Renaissance of the 12th century occurs. 1128: Battle of São Mamede, formation of Portuguese sovereignty. 1185: Bulgarian sovereignty was reestablished with the anti-Byzantine uprising of the Bulgarians and Vlachs 1250: Death of emperor Frederick II; end of effective ability of German emperors to exercise control in Italy. 1303: The period of the Crusades is over. 1309–1378: The Avignon Papacy 1315–1317: The Great Famine of 1315–1317 in Northern Europe 1341: Petrarch, the "Father of Humanism", becomes the first poet laureate since antiquity. 1337–1453: The Hundred Years' War between England and France. 1348–1351: Black Death kills about one-third of Europe's population. 1439: Johannes Gutenberg invents first movable type and the first printing press for books, starting the Printing Revolution. 1453: Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. 1492: The Reconquista ends in the Iberian Peninsula. A Spanish expeditionary group, commanded by Christopher Columbus, lands in the New World. 1497: Vasco da Gama departs to India starting direct trade with Asia. 1498: Leonardo da Vinci paints The Last Supper in Milan as the Renaissance flourishes. 1508: Maximilian I the last ruling "King of the Romans" and the first "elected Emperor of the Romans". 1517: Martin Luther nails his 95 theses on indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg, triggering discussions which would soon lead to the Reformation 1519: Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano begin first global circumnavigation. Their expedition returns in 1522. 1519: Hernán Cortés begins conquest of Mexico for Spain. 1532: Francisco Pizarro begins the conquest of Peru (the Inca Empire) for Spain. 1543: Nicolaus Copernicus publishes De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres). 1547: The Grand Duchy of Moscow becomes the Tsardom of Russia. 1582: The introduction of the Gregorian calendar; Russia refuses to adopt it until 1918. 1610: Galileo Galilei uses his telescope to discover the moons of Jupiter. 1618: The Thirty Years' War brings massive devastation to central Europe. 1648: The Peace of Westphalia ends the Thirty Years' War, and introduces the principle of the integrity of the nation state. 1687: Isaac Newton publishes Principia Mathematica, having a profound impact on The Enlightenment. 1699: Treaty of Karlowitz concludes the Austro-Ottoman War. This marks the end of Ottoman control of Central Europe and the beginning of Ottoman stagnation, establishing the Habsburg Monarchy as the dominant power in Central and Southeastern Europe. 1700: Outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession and the Great Northern War. The first would check the aspirations of Louis XIV, king of France to dominate European affairs; the second would lead to Russia's emergence as a great power and a recognizably European state. 18th century: Age of Enlightenment spurs an intellectual renaissance across Europe. 1707: The Kingdom of Great Britain is formed by the union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. 1712: Thomas Newcomen invents first practical steam engine which begins Industrial Revolution in Britain. 1721: Foundation of the Russian Empire. 1775: James Watt invents a new efficient steam engine accelerating the Industrial Revolution in Britain. 1784: Immanuel Kant publishes Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment?. 1789: Beginning of the French Revolution and end of the absolute monarchy in France. 1792–1802: French Revolutionary Wars. 1799: Napoleon comes to power as dictator of France. 1803–1815: Napoleonic Wars end in defeat of Napoleon. 1806: Napoleon abolishes the Holy Roman Empire. 1814–1815: Congress of Vienna; Treaty of Vienna; France is reduced to 1789 boundaries; Reactionary forces dominate across Europe. 1825: George Stephenson opens the Stockton and Darlington Railway the first steam train railway for passenger traffic in the world. 1836: Louis Daguerre invents first practical photographic method, in effect the first camera. 1838: SS Great Western, the first steamship built for regularly scheduled transatlantic crossings enters service. 1848: Revolutions of 1848 and publication of The Communist Manifesto. 1852: Start of the Crimean War, which ends in 1855 in a defeat for Russia. 1859: Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species. 1861: Unification of Italy after victories by Giuseppe Garibaldi. 1866: First commercially successful transatlantic telegraph cable is completed. 1860s: Russia emancipates its serfs and Karl Marx completes the first volume of Das Kapital. 1870: Franco-Prussian War and the fall of the Second French Empire. 1871: Unification of Germany under the direction of Otto von Bismarck. 1873: Panic of 1873 occurs. The Long Depression begins. 1878: Re-establishment of Bulgaria, independence of Serbia, Montenegro, Romania 1885: Karl Benz invents Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the world's first automobile. 1885: First permanent citywide electrical tram system in Europe (in Sarajevo). 1895: Auguste and Louis Lumière begin exhibitions of projected films before the paying public with their cinematograph, a portable camera, printer, and projector. 1902: Guglielmo Marconi sends first transatlantic radio transmission. 1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated; World War I begins. 1917: Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks seize power in the Russian Revolution. The ensuing Russian Civil War lasts until 1922. 1918: World War I ends with the defeat of Germany and the Central Powers. Ten million soldiers killed; collapse of Russian, German, Austrian, and Ottoman empires. 1918: Collapse of the German Empire and monarchic system; founding of Weimar Republic. 1918: Worldwide Spanish flu epidemic kills millions in Europe. 1918: Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolves. 1919: Versailles Treaty strips Germany of its colonies, several provinces and its navy and air force; limits army; Allies occupy western areas; reparations ordered. 1920: League of Nations begins operations; largely ineffective; defunct by 1939. 1921–22: Ireland divided; Irish Free State becomes independent and civil war erupts. 1922: Benito Mussolini and the Fascists take power in Italy. 1929: Worldwide Great Depression begins with stock market crash in New York City. 1933: Adolf Hitler and the Nazis take power in Germany. 1935: Italy conquers Ethiopia; League sanctions are ineffective. 1936: Start of the Spanish Civil War; ends in 1939 with victory of Nationalists who are aided by Germany and Italy. 1938: Germany escalates the persecution of Jews with Kristallnacht. 1938: Appeasement of Germany by Britain and France; Munich agreement splits Czechoslovakia; Germany seized the remainder in 1939. 1939: Britain and France hurriedly rearm; failed to arrange treaty with USSR. 1939: Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin agree partition of Eastern Europe in Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. 1939: Germany invades Poland, starting the Second World War. 1940: Great Britain under Winston Churchill becomes the last nation to hold out against the Nazis after winning the Battle of Britain. 1941: U.S. begins large-scale lend-lease aid to Britain, Free France, the USSR and other Allies; Canada also provides financial aid. 1941: Germany invades the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa; fails to capture Moscow or Leningrad. 1942: Nazi Germany commences the Holocaust – a Final Solution, with the murder of 6 million Jews. 1943: After Stalingrad and Kursk, Soviet forces begin recapturing Nazi-occupied territory in the East. 1944: U.S., British and Canadian armed forces invade Nazi-occupied France at Normandy. 1945: Hitler commits suicide, Mussolini is murdered. World War II ends with Europe in ruins and Germany defeated. 1945: United Nations formed. 1947: The British Empire begins a process of voluntarily dismantling with the granting of independence to India and Pakistan. 1947: Cold War begins as Europe is polarized East versus West. 1948–1951: U.S. provides large sums to rebuild Western Europe through the Marshall Plan; stimulates large-scale modernization of European industries and reduction of trade restrictions. 1949: The NATO alliance is established. 1955: USSR creates a rival military coalition, the Warsaw Pact. 1950: The Schuman Declaration begins the process of European integration. 1954: The French Empire begins to be dismantled; Withdraws from Vietnam. 1956: Suez Crisis signals the end of the effective power of the British Empire. 1956: Hungarian Uprising defeated by Soviet military forces. 1957: Treaties of Rome establish the European Economic Community from 1958. 1968: The May 1968 events in France lead France to the brink of revolution. 1968: The Prague Spring is defeated by Warsaw Pact military forces. The Club of Rome is founded. 1980: The Solidarność movement under Lech Wałęsa begins open, overground opposition to the Communist rule in Poland. 1985: Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of the Soviet Union and begins reforms which inadvertently leads to the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union. 1986: Chernobyl disaster occurs, the worst nuclear disaster in history. 1989: Communism overthrown in all the Warsaw Pact countries except the Soviet Union. Fall of the Berlin Wall (opening of unrestrained border crossings between east and west, which effectively deprived the wall of any relevance). 1990: Reunification of Germany. 1991: Breakup of Yugoslavia and the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars. 1991: Dissolution of the Soviet Union and the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. 1993: Maastricht Treaty establishes the European Union. 1997–99: End of European colonial empires in Asia with the handover of Hong Kong and Macau to China. 2004: Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta join the European Union. 2007: Romania and Bulgaria join the European Union. 2008: The Great Recession begins. Unemployment rises in some parts of Europe. 2013: Croatia joins the European Union. 2014: Revolution in Ukraine and serious tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union. 2015: European migrant crisis starts. 2020: The United Kingdom leaves the European Union. 2020: COVID-19 pandemic, hardest hit are Italy, Spain and the UK.
Prehistory ( – to 3500 BCE)
Important prehistorical events in North and Central America:
How people first came to North and Central America: People came to North America overland from Asia during the Ice Age when the sea level was lower using a land bridge that connected Asia and modern-day Alaska. By 7000 B.C., natives had reached Mesoamerica (Mexico). Here, they grew corn, beans and pumpkins. It is in this region that civilization first came to North America.
The Last Glacial Period (sometimes called the Ice Age): The time in Earth’s history when the sea level was much lower.
Ancient Times (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
Important events in North and Central America during ancient times:
The Hopewell culture:
By 1500 BCE, the Olmecs of Mesoamerica had built the first North American cities, which included earth and stone pyramids for religious worship and sculptures (including some of enormous heads). Around 800 BCE, their neighbors, the Zapotecs, became the first Americans to develop writing, and in 600 BCE the Mayan civilization, with their noteworthy temples and pyramids, began to flourish. By 300 BCE, they had built the great city of Teotihuacan, and by 300 CE, they were at their peak, encompassing most of Mexico and beyond. By 500, this city featured a planned grid system, temple complexes, crafts and markets, and was the largest trading city in the Americas. The Mayans were an unusually unwarlike, peaceful people.
Meanwhile, smaller tribes in the modern-day United States were creating their own unique cultures. Some were hunter-gatherer tribes while others had small permanent villages.In 300 CE, the Hopewell culture was at its peak in modern-day Ohio and the Mogollon, Anasazi and Hohokam cultures were growing in the southwest, which later were eclipsed by the Hopi in this area.
The Middle Ages (500 to 1500 CE)
Important events in North and Central America during the Middle Ages:
The Temple Mound cultures:
The Cree, Chippewa and Algonquin tribes:
The Sioux tribe:
The Iroquois tribe:
The Mohawk tribe:
y 700, the Hopi culture in the southwest featured irrigaton systems, corn, beans, squash, cotton, unique architecture and art, rain dances, other complex ceremonies, and the beautiful Cliff Palace. Around the same time, the Temple Mound cultures, named for their central plazas surrounded by rectangular mounds with temples for the dead on top, began building the first towns north of Mexico (along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers). Their people lived in longhouses with adobe walls and thatched roofs and traded along the rivers. Their crops included corn, sunflowers, beans and pumpkins. By 1450 CE, they had declined significantly.
Meanwhile, in Mesoamerica, the Mayans were in decline; however, their influence was a lasting one. Around 800 CE, the Toltecs migrated into the area. They established a militaristic city-state featuring temples guarded by stone warriors. Their warrior chiefs took power from the Mayan priests, and the quality of pottery, art and literature declined. Around 1200 CE, the Aztecs rose to power in the area, overcoming the Toltecs. This warlike people is well-known for their pyramids, their unique calendar, their advanced governmental and eonomic structure and their tiered social structure.
Other cultures thriving during the Middle Ages were the Inuit in the far north, who traded with Vikings; the Anasazi in Colorado who lived in pueblos; the Cree, Chippewa/Ojibwe and Algonquin in Canada; the Sioux in the Midwest; the Iroquois in New York; the Mohawk in New England; and more.
Important events in North and Central America in the 1500s: By 1500 CE, Europeans had arrived on the East Coast of the modern-day United States and in Mesoamerica, changing the Americas forever.
By the 1500s there were about six million native Americans grouped into hundreds of unique tribes with different food, art, governmental styles and ways of life (for example, totems, tepees, tribal councils, wigwams, masks, etc.). Some of these tribes formed confederations. Some fought wars.
Ponce de Leon:
The activities of the Spanish in New Mexico:
The activities of the French in
In 1492 CE, Christopher Colombus (an Italian-born Spaniard whose voyage was sponsored by England) landed on the Carribean Islands. Believing it to be India (which had been his destination) he named the islands the West Indies. Colombus may never have known he had founded the Americas, even after several successive visits.
In 1497, John Cabot, an Italian sponsored by England, discovered Newfoundland and set up a colony at Quebec. In 1513, Ponce de Leon explored Florida and claimed it for Spain. In 1534, Jacques Cartier claimed part of Canada for France (including modern-day Montreal). In 1584, Roanoke, an English colony on the East Coast of the modern-day U.S., was established. All attempts to colonize the Americas during the 1500s, however, failed. As a result, for the span of this century, most Europeans considered the Americas unimportant.
In 1607, John Smith led the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, which became the first successful English colony in the Americas. Without the help of the natives in the area, survival was unlikely. Less than a decade later, they began flourishing by growing tobacco on lands taken from the natives and selling it to Europe. Fur trading became popular as well.
Around the same time, the Spanish were settling New Mexico, setting up mines, trading posts and a capital (Santa Fe), and the French were settling the Great Lakes area, the Mississippi river area and the St. Lawrence river area in Canada.
At first, the Native Americans in these areas were friendly to the Europeans. Then they began to suffer from smallpox, measles and other European diseases; to be killed; and to be driven off their lands. Until Europeans introduced them to horses, wheeled transportation and guns, they fought only with wood and stone tools, bows, slingshots and spears.
Eventually, Jamestown [and other American colonies?] failed, but Plymouth (which later became part of Massachusets), founded in 1620 by a group of over 100 Puritans (some religious separatists and some mercenaries) succeeded, becoming the first permanent North American settlement. The first winter, Plymouth Plantation saw the death of over half its settlers. In 1621, however, they shared the first Thanksgiving meal with Squanto and other Native Americans.
Over the next 20 years, about 20,000 new settlers arrived, most settling in Plymouth and various colonies nearby, including the Massachussets Bay colony. Later, the Dutch established New Amsterdam (later taken over by the English and renamed New York) and the English king gave Pennsylvania to a group of Quakers led by William Penn. The Carolinas grew as well.
From 1619 onward, owners of tobacco, cotton, rice and indigo plantations began importing slaves. Soon after, the majority of the people living in some areas were slaves.
The late 1600s saw many violent wars with the native peoples.
By 1700 CE, England owned twelve flourishing colonies along the Atlantic coast and in all, there were approximately 400,000 Europeans in North America. Boston was the largest of these. The French colonies in Canada grew more slowly, and though the Spanish still held Florida, after losing control of the seas they missed their chance to move further into North America and outpace England.
In 1692, Puritan fears led to the death of fourteen women and six men in the Salem witch trials.
In addition, during the 1600s and 1700s, French and British colonies fought several wars for land with natives assisting both sides. These included the Seven Years War of the late 1700s (which in turn included the French and Indian War, which gave English control of the Ohio Valley land).
Also in the late 1700s, Britain won some Canadian colonies from France and traded other lands to the Spanish, gaining Florida.
In the early 1770s, the thirteen American colonies started the American Revolution in response to unfair laws by the English king (including exhorbitantly high taxes like the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act) by boycotting British imports. In the Boston Tea Party led by Sam Adams, colonists snuck into the harbor at night and threw the tea imports overboard. The colonists had asked to be represented in the English government but were denied this request; thus, their mantra became “No taxation without representation.”
In 1776, the colonies created the Declaration of Independence, a claimed right to self-rule, officially beginning the war on Britain. The Declaration was mostly written by Thomas Jefferson. George Washington led the colonists to victory, the British finally surrendering at Yorktown in 1781. Two years later, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war.
In 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Pennsylvania, the founding fathers created the United States Constitution. (Prior to this time, America was held together by the Articles of Confederation, which gave almost all power to the states.)
In 1789, George Washington was elected the first president of the new United States and in 1791, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution.
Also in 1791, Britain split Quebec into English-speaking Upper Canada (Ontario) and French-speaking Lower Canada (Quebec) to reduce tensions between these areas, who both wanted control.
In 1831, a slave revolt in Virginia that killed sixty white people and was led by Nat Turner led to harsher penalties for slaves.
In 1835, Texas declared its independence from Mexico, which at the time extended far into the modern-day U.S. The turning point of Texan independence came in 1836 when they won the town of San Antonio back after a battle at the Alamo, a mission in the center of town. (The most well-known defender of the Alamo was Davy Crockett.) Texas renamed itself the Lone Star Republic. Then, in 1845, it joined the U.S. In 1847, the U.S. captured Mexico City (temporarily). In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the U.S. California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.
By 1850, the northern states had already banned slavery. Their economy was based on manufacturing, with a newly built railroad as its backbone. In the South, however, tobacco and cotton plantations dominated. Though each state was allowed to choose whether or not to legalize slavery, southerners complained that the northerners protected runaway slaves, impinging on their policies. This, and differences in ideas concerning the strength of the federal government versus states’ rights, led to the American Civil War.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Because he opposed slavery and was in favor of a stronger national government, the south seceded and created the Confederate States of America, officially beginning the war. The northern military commander was Ulysses S. Grant. The southern commander was Robert E. Lee. Fighting began in 1861 at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, with the northern victory becoming likely after they won at Gettysburg in 1863. That same year, Abraham Lincoln declared an end to slavery the U.S., and in 1865 the thirteenth amendment outlawed it after General Lee surrendered to General Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox, Virginia. Five days after this surrender, Lincoln was assassinated.
Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who made trips through southern territory, helping others escape.
Following this, reconstruction began in the south, which southerners resisted. Many plantations still held slaves or used indentured servants.
1800s: Canadian rebels resisted British control, but failed.
1840: Britain reunited Upper and Lower Cananda. Now called the Province of Canada.
1867: Canada became self-governing and folded in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario. French and English were both official languages.
1870: NW Territories joined Canada. Owned by Hudson Bay Company.
1898: Yukon Territory joined Canada. Owned by Hudson Bay company also. Site of 1800s gold rush.
1885: Canadian Pacific Railway complete uniting the country, St. Lawrence River to Pacific Ocean.
The Modern Era (1900 CE to the present)
1914: WWI began. U.S. kept out of European affairs till this tiime. Had become an industrial power, modernized. Invented cars, movies and more.
1917: Ships attacked by German U-boats. U.S. entered WWI.
1918: War ended. U.S. didn’t join Wilson’s League of Nations. Wanted to stay out of world affairs.
U.S. returned to isolationism after WWI. 1920s: Booming economy. 1929: Stock market crash. Great Depression worldwide as industry struggled to adjust to peacetime levels of trade. Stock market speculators had overvalued many companies. Unemloyment rampant. Then there was a drought in the Great Plains (the Dust Bowl), leading to massive crop failuress.
1932-3: New Deal introduced by Roosevelt: Subsidized farm prices, huge contruction program. Then start of WWWII increased heavy industry and U.S. recovered fully.
1929: Wall Street crash, great depression. Rescued by Roosevelt’s New Deal. Included farm subsidies, minimum wage, construction programs. Then WWII helped a lot more.
1920s: Prohibition (18th Amendment). Gangsters including Al Capone set up bootlegging operations and crime increased. Majro growth of cities. Jazz Age: radio, mvies, cars, skyscraper, elevators invented.
1933: 21st Amendment ended Prohibition.
1941: Japanese attacked U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. Next day entered war (declared war on Japan, then Axis declared war on us). 2400 soldiers killed in the attack. Happened because we were pressuring Japan to stop attacking China.
1930s: Drought in Great Plains “Dust Bowl.” Topsoil gone, towns closed, economy even worse.
1944: Kamikaze (suicide bomber planes) attacks on Allied ships trying to take Okinawa.
1945: U.S. took Okinawa, then dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to avoid an estimated million deaths in a further attack on the mainland. This ended the war, but only somewhat earlier than it would have anyway. Truman made the decision. First bomb killed 130,000 people, Nagasaki killed 750,000 and more later. 100 cities in Japan destroyed at war’s end. (Enola Gay dropped Little BOy and Fat Man was dropped by Bockstar plane.)
1945: United Nations was founded.
1945: UN formed to guarantee civil liberties and work for peace and stability (to prevent war). UN Security Council’s job is to keep peace.
1950s: U.S. led nuclear arms race and prospered.
1960s: Cuban Missile Crisis, cold war. Man on moon in 1969, one year ahead of schedule (Apollo II mission). American culture spread widely.
45-89: The Cold War: Due to stockpling off nuclear weapons–no actual fighting – despite fact that we were allies in WWII – USSR isolated itself. NATO formed–an alliance of western nations fighting against communist powers. USSR backed by Eastern European states. After WWII USSR controlled East Germany and U.S. …France and Britain had west. Even Berlin divided. Berlin Wall built to keep refugees from moving from east to west.
Cuban Missile Crisis: 1962: U.S. Air Force got picutres of a missile launch site in Cuba, where nuclear missiles could easily reach thhe U.S. Plans to invade Cuba but sSoviets agreed to destry the launch sites.
1987: Cold War ended.
1989: Gorbachev allowed the communist countries of Eastern Europe to elect democratic government
The Korean War began when communist North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950. The UN sent aid to SK. u.s. sent troops. Still, most of SK was captured. So UN fought them back at Seoul. Reached border of China, then China entered, taking NK’s side. Cease fire n 1953. Country divided down the middle.
Vietnam war: Vietman declared independence from France in 1954–Country divided between north and south, with two different governments.
1965: U.S. sent troops to aid the south, who had started moin towards civil war between the Viet Cong in the south and the communists in the north.
1969: half a million U.S. troops in Vietnam. Then withdrawal began.
1969: First man on the moon.
1973: Cease-fire declared. 57,000 U.S. soldiers killed.
1970s: War in Vietnam.
1980s: Computer technology brought economic boom. U.S. now the global policeman.
1981: First space shuttle launched.
1990: Hubble Space Telescope took first pictures of deep space
ADD: Maya: Peak 300 B.C> to AD 800. From peoples that were in same area from 2000 B.C. Southern Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Built many cities that included temple pyramids, fortified palaces, marketplaces, workshops, living quarters. Class system: nobles, priests, rules, officials, servants (in cities) and ordinary people (in countryside, and went to cities for needs.) Had about 800 hieroglyphs, advanced math, science,; claendar; astronomy, intricate roads, crafts. Also, blood sacrifice. All were independent city-states as in Greece. They fought each other. Declined when lost many farmers due to war (farmers taken hostage and many killed as blood sacrifices.)
ADD: Aztecs in Mexico
125: Moved near Lake Texcoco (now Mexico City). Created garden islands for growing food. Built Tenochititlan on an island in the lake. Easily defended due to location. One of the world’s best-planned cities. Traded throughout Mexico.
1500: Grew empire till stretched coast to coast. Pyramids, shrines. Had an emperor.
1519: Spanish arrived in Mexico. Cities conquered by Aztecs hated them due to all the human sacrifice, though they paid tribute. But allied with Spanish when they came and Aztecs were conquered within a year. (Conquistadores led by Cortez pretended C. was a god that Montezuma had been waiting for and tricked him into welcoming him.) A few setbacks, then destruction of Aztec empire. Helped due to bringing of European diseases.
Later in 1500s: Spanish expanded colonies, took parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico. Settled these areas. Made laws to prevent mistreatment of natives, but laws didn’t work. North Americans worked as slaves and in mines and died of European diseases. Spanish missionaries destroyed temples and idols.
ADD: Westward Migration
1803: Louisiana purchase from France doubled U.S. size.
1805: Lewis and Clark reach Pacific with help of Sacajawea
1812: War of 1812 against Britain due to their European trade blockade. Failed to take Canada from British.
1820: Mississippi River settled.
1838-9: Cherokee ‘Trail of Tears’ to Oklahoma after series of wars between Americans and whites. Jackson passed Indian Removal Act and made them settle on Indian Territory. Thousands died on the trail.
1845: U.S. annexes Texas.
1861: Explosive U.S. growth. People attracted to freedom. 31 million by 1861 and much land and resources.
Western settlers protected by army and laws to all new land claims. New states added to union when population reached 60,000.
Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, fly first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air plane at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Henry Ford organizes Ford Motor Company.
Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity and other key theories in physics.
North Pole reportedly reached by American explorers Robert E. Peary and Matthew Henson. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded in New York by prominent black and white intellectuals and led by W.E.B. Du Bois.
U.S. Dept. of Justice “red hunt” nets thousands of radicals; aliens deported. Women’s suffrage (19th) amendment ratified.
Widespread Ku Klux Klan violence in U.S.
John T. Scopes convicted and fined for teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee “Monkey Trial”; sentence set aside.
In U.S., stock market prices collapse, with U.S. securities losing $26 billion—first phase of Depression and world economic crisis.
1932: In U.S., Congress sets up Reconstruction Finance Corporation to stimulate economy. Veterans march on Washington—most leave after Senate rejects payment of cash bonuses; others removed by troops under Douglas MacArthur. U.S. protests Japanese aggression in Manchuria. Amelia Earhart is first woman to fly Atlantic solo.
1933: Roosevelt inaugurated (“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”); launches New Deal. Prohibition repealed.
In U.S., Roosevelt submits $1,319-million defense budget, proclaims U.S. neutrality, and declares limited emergency. Einstein writes FDR about feasibility of atomic bomb. New York World’s Fair opens.
1940: The first official network television broadcast is put out by NBC.
Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Philippines, Guam force U.S. into war; U.S. Pacific fleet crippled (Dec. 7). U.S. and Britain declare war on Japan. Germany and Italy declare war on U.S.; Congress declares war on those countries (Dec. 11). Manhattan Project (atomic bomb research) begins. Roosevelt enunciates “four freedoms,” signs Lend-Lease Act, declares national emergency, promises aid to USSR. Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane.
1942: Roosevelt orders Japanese and Japanese Americans in western U.S. to be exiled to “relocation centers,” many for the remainder of the war (Feb. 19). U.S. forces on Bataan peninsula in Philippines surrender (April 9). U.S. and Filipino troops on Corregidor island in Manila Bay surrender to Japanese (May 6).
Casablanca Conference—Churchill and FDR agree on unconditional surrender goal (Jan. 14–24). Cairo Conference: FDR, Churchill, Chiang Kai-shek pledge defeat of Japan, free Korea (Nov. 22–26). Tehran Conference: FDR, Churchill, Stalin agree on invasion plans (Nov. 28–Dec. 1).
U.S. and British troops land at Anzio on west Italian coast and hold beachhead (Jan. 22). U.S. and British troops enter Rome (June 4). D-Day—Allies launch Normandy invasion (June 6). Later, americans invade phillippines
Yalta Agreement signed by FDR, Churchill, Stalin—establishes basis for occupation of Germany, returns to Soviet Union lands taken by Germany and Japan; Allies declare V-E Day (May 8). A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima by U.S. (Aug. 6). USSR declares war on Japan (Aug. 8). Nagasaki hit by A-bomb (Aug. 9). Japan agrees to surrender (Aug. 14). V-J Day—Japanese sign surrender terms aboard battleship Missouri (Sept. 2).
Truman orders development of hydrogen bomb (Jan. 31). McCarthyism begins.
1954: U.S. Supreme Court (in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka) unanimously bans racial segregation in public schools (May 17). Eisenhower launches world atomic pool without Soviet Union (Sept. 6).
Eisenhower Doctrine calls for aid to Mideast countries which resist armed aggression from Communist-controlled nations (Jan. 5). The “Little Rock Nine” integrate Arkansas high school. Eisenhower sends troops to quell mob and protect school integration (Sept. 24).
Alaska and Hawaii become states. Leakeys discover hominid fossils.
Cuban President Batista resigns and flees—Castro takes over (Jan. 1).
U.S. breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba (Jan. 3). Cuba invaded at Bay of Pigs by an estimated 1,200 anti-Castro exiles aided by U.S.; invasion crushed (April 17).
Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr., is first American to orbit Earth—three times in 4 hr 55 min (Feb. 20).
Cuban missile crisis > USSR to build missile bases in Cuba; Kennedy orders Cuban blockade, lifts blockade after Russians back down (Aug.–Nov.). James H. Meredith, escorted by federal marshals, registers at University of Mississippi (Oct. 1).
Civil rights rally held by 200,000 blacks and whites in Washington, D.C.; Martin Luther King delivers “I have a dream” speech (Aug. 28). Washington-to-Moscow “hot line” communications link opens, designed to reduce risk of accidental war (Aug. 30). President Kennedy shot and killed by sniper in Dallas, Tex. Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president same day (Nov. 22). Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President Kennedy, is shot and killed by Jack Ruby, Dallas nightclub owner (Nov. 24). Kenya achieves independence. Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique. There are 15,000 U.S. military advisers in South Vietnam.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and more than 2,600 other blacks arrested in Selma, Ala., during three-day demonstrations against voter-registration rules (Feb. 1). Malcolm X, black-nationalist leader, shot to death at Harlem rally in New York City (Feb. 21). Medicare, senior citizens’ government medical assistance program, begins (July 1). Blacks riot for six days in Watts section of Los Angeles: 34 dead, over 1,000 injured, nearly 4,000 arrested, fire damage put at $175 million (Aug. 11–16).
Black teenagers riot in Watts, Los Angeles; two men killed and at least 25 injured (March 15). Supreme Court decides Miranda v. Arizona.
Racial violence in Detroit; 7,000 National Guardsmen aid police after night of rioting. Similar outbreaks occur in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, Rochester, N.Y., Birmingham, Ala., and New Britain, Conn. (July 23). Thurgood Marshall sworn in as first black U.S. Supreme Court justice (Oct. 2). Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard and team of South African surgeons perform world’s first successful human heart transplant (Dec. 3)—patient dies 18 days later.
Rapid growth of
economies in industrialized nations. Rebuilding after war. Standard
of living rose. In early 1970s, the price of oil started to increase,
though, due to OPEC–a consortium of Mid East and other oil-rich
countries. they quadrupled the price. led to a worldwide energy
crisis. Caused inflation and poverty.
-Increase in common
markets like NAFTA and APEC> Members buy and sell at agreed-upon
rates and protect each other from competition.
-Civil rights: 1950s
and 60s in U.S. LK ‘i hve a dream’ speech in 1963. Killed in 1968.
Wanted an end to segregation and inequality in laws, services.
American History- from USA.gov
The history of the United States is vast and complex, but can be broken down into moments and time periods that divided, unified, and changed the United States into the country it is today:
The American Revolution (sometimes referred to as the American War of Independence or the Revolutionary War) was a conflict that lasted from 1775-1783 and allowed the original 13 colonies to remain independent from Great Britain.
American politician and soldier George Washington became the first president of the United States in 1789, serving two terms.
Beginning in Great Britain in the late 1790s, the Industrial Revolution eventually made its way to the United States and changed the focus of the U.S. economy and the way it manufactured products.
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson agreed to the Louisiana Purchase, successfully adding 530 million acres of land to the United States. The area was purchased from France for $15 million. The following year, President Jefferson assigned Meriwether Lewis (who asked for help from William Clark) to head west and explore the newly purchased land. It took about a year and a half for the duo to reach the west coast.
The War of 1812 resolved outstanding tensions between the United States and Great Britain. The two year war ended British military posts on U.S. soil and British interference with American trade.
The American Civil War divided the United States in two—the Northern States versus the Southern States. The outcome of the four year battle (1861-1865) kept the United States together as one whole nation and ended slavery.
On December 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright became the first people to maintain a controlled flight in a powered, heavier-than-air machine. The Wright Flyer only flew for 12 seconds for a distance of 120 feet, but the technology would change the modern world forever.
On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany.
After nearly 100 years of protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins, women of the United States were officially granted the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 26, 1920.
The worst economic crisis to happen in the United States occurred when the stock market crashed in October 1929, resulting in the Great Depression.
World War II officially begins in September 1939 after Germany invades Poland. The United States didn’t enter the war until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
On August 6 and August 9, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II.
After World War II, an agreement was reached to divide Korea into two parts: a northern half to be controlled by the Soviet Union and a southern half to be controlled by the United States. The division was originally meant as a temporary solution, but the Soviet Union managed to block elections that were held to elect someone to unify to the country. Instead, the Soviet Union sent North Korean troops across the 38th parallel leading to the three-year-long (1950-1953) Korean War.
From 1954-1968, the African American Civil Rights movement took place, especially in the Southern states. Fighting to put an end to racial segregation and discrimination, the movement resulted in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
The Vietnam War was a nearly 20-year battle (November 1, 1955–April 30, 1975) between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam won the war and Vietnam became a unified country.
The Apollo 11 mission (July 16-24, 1969) allowed United States astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to become the first humans to walk on the moon’s surface.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, changed the United States forever. Less than a month later (October 7, 2001) the United States began the War in Afghanistan, which is still happening today.
On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq. The war lasted for more than eight years before it was officially declared over on December 18, 2011.
In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected president of the United States.
Prehistory (to 3500 BCE)
South America was likely first settled by humans during the Last Glacial Period (sometimes called the Ice Age), when the sea levels were much lower. They might have crossed into North America on a land bridge connecting Asia and modern-day Alaska, then slowly made their way south. They lived in hunter-gatherer tribes.
Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
Around 2600 BCE, the Chavin people built the first South American cities. These were located in modern-day Peru and included religious ceremonial sites, pottery, weaving looms, elaborate carvings and a three-story high building with mazes of rooms and corridors.
200 B.C.: Moche culture, coast Ecuador (central america). Peak AD 300, ended 700. Pottery, textiles, metalwork.
500 B.C.: in the Andes near Lake Titicaca (bolivia) city of Tiahuanaco had enormous stone temples and palaces. Began 300, abandoned due to drought or destroyed 1000). Pop reached 100,000. Distinctive jewelry, pottery, temple stones. Long string of towns reaching into Brazilian rain forests.
The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)
In 800 CE, the Huari civilization made up half of modern-day Peru. This militaristic empire contrasted with the peaceful Tiahuanaco culture. It lasted over 200 years. Around 1200, the Incas came into prominence in the same area, building into the Andes mountain range where Teotihuacan had been. They built the important towns of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu, both of which remain today. Made using precise stone fitting with no mortar, Machu Picchu was a spiritual center with an astronomical observatory and temples.
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900 CE)
In 1499, two years after Christopher Colombus landed on the Carribean islands believing these to be part of India, Amerigo Vespucci (an Italian explorer sailing for Spain) reached South America. He landed in modern-day Guyana on the norrthern mainland and traveled south into the Amazon rain forest, then to the island of Trinidad. He was the first person to theorize that he had discovered an enirely new continent.
In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan (a Portugese explorer sailing for Spain) rounded South America, named the Pacific Ocean, then died in the Phillippines. His crew finished the first world circumnavigation, though, when they landed at the Cape of Good Hope on the tip of Africa. First would circumnavigation.
During this time period, Incas had just reached their height. Previously isolationist, they had begun expanding far north and south. Their culture featured relay runners who carried messages along the two main roads that spanned the length of the empire; terraced farms built onto the sides of the mountains; wooden spears and slingshots; and quipus (knotted ropes that helped them count). They did not write.
In the mid-1500s, the Spanish landed in Incan areas. In less than a year, the Incas had been destroyed. Machu Picchu served as their last stronghold against the Spanish invaders (called conquistadors). The Spanish mistreated the natives and forced them into slavery. They smashed Incan temples and idols and introduced deadly diseases.
In the late 1500s and throughout the 1600s, Spanish conquistadors relentlessly raided South America for gold, which allowed Spain to dominate Europe during this time. However, grave mismanagement of these funds and Napolean’s bid for Portugal and Spain in the early 1800s weakened Spain. During this century, South Americans began rebelling and fightng for independence. Eventually, all were successful. In the early 1800s, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, Peru, Braziland Venezuela gained independence. They were led by Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin. Because wealthy plantation owners still held most of the power, living conditions didn’t improve after independence.
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
Prehistory (to 3500 BCE)
13,000 B.C.: Mesopotamians (people living in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, called the Fertile Crescent) started raising animals.
10,000 B.C.: Mesopotamians humans began growing grain, particularly wheat and barley, and settling into small towns. They created religious sites. They began growing grain, particularly barley and wheat, and smelting copper. They invented the wheeled cart.
5,000 B.C.: The Sumerians built a collection of individual city-states in Mesopotamia (the Fertile Crescent), creating the world’s first civilization. It was located on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They had irrigation, ziggurats (centers of worship with a shrine, step-pyramid like), scribes, and accountants.
Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
3000 B.C.: The Bronze Age began in the Middle East when copper was smelted by Egyptians and Sumerians.
3000 B.C.: Writing was developed in Sumer (cuneiform) and Egypt (hieroglyphs), triggering the beginning of recorded history.
2360 B.C.: Sargon of Akkad (one of the Sumerian cities) united Mesopotamia into the world’s first empire. (Note that ‘Sumer’ refers to the collection of cities and Akkad refers to the Sumerian city that became dominant during Sargon’s time.)
2100 B.C: Ur, then Assyria and Babylon took over location of prominence in Mesopotamia.
1200-1150 B.C.:Bronze Age collapse
1100 B.C.: Use of Iron spreads.
1180 B.C.: Disintegration of Hittite Empire
In Mesopotamia, assyrian empire, persians… Nebuchadnezzar rules as king of Babylon …Cyrus the Great rules over Medes and Persians
3000 B.C.: Wheels first used on chariots in Mesopotamia. Before that, carts/ wheelbarrows.
2500 B.C.: Bricks first used for buildings (Indus Valley).
1900-700 B.C.: Babylon. Under Hammurabi the Great Babylonians began to take over southern Mesopotamia. Then controlled whole of Mesopotamia. Famous for code of law. Stable, efficient rule. Well-disciplined armies. Hittites sacked Babylon, the main city, in 1595 B.C. Continued on but soon overshadowed by Assyria. From Babylongians we get the system of counting based on the number 60 that divides hours and the degrees of a circle. Built on Sumerian math and science. Code of Hammurabi especially known for fairness and “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” as quoted in the Bible.
1900-612 B.C.: Assyrians: While Babylon ruled in southern mesopotamia, Assyrians dominated the north. Valley of Upper Tigris River. Last great ruler was Ashurbanipal, who built the great library at Ninevah and vast gardens with plants from all over the world–a major palace. Ordered many historic records and math, chemistry, astronomy texts to be written down. Had some setbacks due to dictatorial leadership style and rebellions, but eventually conquered Babylon. At its greatest in mid-700s. Included Babylon, Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, northern Arabia, Egypt. Siege warfare experts. Women and children sometimes sold into slavery.
1800-587 B.C.: The Hebrews: First settled Palestine (Canaan) about 1800 B.C. Came from Ur. “Hebrews” means “people from the other side” of the Euphrates River. OT says leader was Abraham, a shepherd from Ur. Grandson Jacob had twelve sons, twelve tribes of Israel. When famine struch Canaan they all went to Egypt but became enslaved there until Moses brought them back to Canaan, around 1200 B.C. Fought the Philistines (Palestinians) for land, established Israel. Conquered city of Jericho as part of this effort. Wise king Solomon was one of their leaders. Fair, and very rich, too. After his death Israel split into two different states, Israel and Judah, which weakened them and led to their downfall.
1600-1200 B.C.: The Hittites. First to use iron. Warlike people. Chariots. 1,000 gods (chief is a strom god). Boulder sculptures. Peak 1300. Developed writing. Introduced the horse to the Middle East. Raided by the Sea Peoples and weakened, then fell. (Made up of several city-states united by warfare around 1650.) Partly concurrent with the Assyrians and Babylonians.
1500 B.C.: Iron smelted by Hittites in Middle East. Stone age – bronze age – iron age sometimes describe historical periods but dates of these ages are different for different areas, depending on when these technologies developed there.
1500-500 B.C.: The Phoenicians. Greatest seafarers of ancient times. East end of Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Lebanon. String of independent city-states. Trade with India, China and crafts, not much large-scale farming or land conquering.. Prosperous, powerful. Saw rise and fall of Minoans and Myceneans and actively helped the rise of Greece and Rome. Invented glass blowing. Purple dye. Supplied materials and craftworkers to Solomon to build temple of Jerusalem. Had many colonies around the Med, inc Carthage.
1037 B.C.: Alongside the Abassids, the Sejuk Turks from central Asia arrived in modern-day Afghanistan and conquered it. Then they conquered Baghdad and defeated the Byzantines
1020 B.C.: Philistines threatened them again. Hebrews changed to a king system (instead of judges between tribes). Saul, then David, who united all the tribes and made Jerusalem the capital and enlargened territory. Built great temple of Jerusalem. Peace-loving, wise king. Temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, the greatest tresure of the Israelites, which housed Moses’ Ten Commandments. (here insert solomon stuff) (cut child in two to discover mom story)
721 B.C.: Assyrians invaded Israel, dispersing many Jews.
683 B.C.: Took Judah, too. Scattered Jews widely. Some became Assyrian slaves.
656-661 B.C.: Muslims divided between Sunis and Shiites due to dispute over who should lead. Sunis more successful. During this time, Muslims seen as liberators and tolerant since they didn’t force conversiona. Arabic became a universal language except in Persia which was mainly Shiite.
636-642 B.C.: Muslims took Palestine, Syria, Persia, Egypt (jihad)
630 B.C.: Muhammad captured Mecca and became its ruler.
626-539 B.C.: Babylon Revived: Babylon declared independence from Assyria, then took over the Assyrians. Nebuchadnezzar drove the Egyptians back into Egypt and took Syria. Also captured Jerusalem and forced Jews to live in Babylon as prisoners because they’d tried to revolt. Babylon now master of all lands in Fertile Crescent. Neb made Babylon a beautiful world capital. Made the Hanging Gardens–stepped gardens overlooking the city, a large bridge, the tower of Babel, a fine palace and more. In later years, became mad. Trade and seafaring flourished. Huge metropolis and world market.
612 B.C.: Assyria fell to the Babylonians, never to be (regained)
610 B.C.: Muhammed experienced his first vision, which led to his founding of Islam. At this time, Arabs worshipped many gods. Started preaching but Mecca felt threatened and he and his followers fled to Medina. There, religion grew. Based on prayer, one God, purification, assistance to poor.
587/97 B.C.: Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and deported most of the Jews to Babylon. Beginning of the “diaspora.” (?: who controlled israel now? assyria or babylong? compare all this with story of the world timelines)
570 B.C.: Muhammed born in Mecca.
559-331 B.C.: Persian Empire. Modern-day Iran. Medes and Persians who made up the Persian Empire came from central Asia around 800 B.C. Their ruler, Cyrus the Great, rebelled against the Medes and gained control, then expanded Persia with capital on the Silk Road. Persia reached from Mediterranean to Afghanistan. Ruled fairly to gain support of subjects. One Persian king, Darius, especially great general. Followed religious teachings of a Persian prophet named Zarathustra. (teachings brought from Asia.) (Zoroastrianism.) This religion influenced Christianity later.
Extended into India and Greece for a time. Satraps (governors) paid taxes and ruled peacefully. Darius built roads connecting all parts of the empire, introduced standard coinage and controlled the Western end of the Silk Road. Conquered by the Greeks.
238 B.C. to AD 63: First the Parthians, then the Sassanids rose to power in Persia. Not much is known about them, but they did halt Rome’s eastern expansion and were excellent warriors. They practiced Zoroastianism. They fell to Muslim Arabs in 63 and became Muslim, too.
early 500s: Haggia Sophia built in Constantinople.
200-100 B.C.: Rome destroyed Carthage and this started downfall of Phoenicians (fact check this).
69 B.C.: Cleopatra born
The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)
539 B.C.: Babylon conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia, who freed the Jews. Ruled till Alex the Great took it over in 331.
700: Major advances in chemistry in Baghdad
810: Algebra invented in Persia
900: Arabic advances in astronomy
750-1258: The Abbasid Dynasty. Abassids defeated previous Sunni leaders, the Umayyads. During this time the Islamic Empire was unified, culture flourished and Baghdad, the captial, became great. Court in Baghdad was the setting for much of ‘the Thousand and One Nights.
…taking Constantinople for Islam, and ruled over the Abassid Empire, too. The Byzantine Empire soon became the Ottoman Empire under the Ottoman Turks and built the Ottoman Empire. Byzantine Empire retook Constantinople in 1261, but Ottomans exanded all over Greece nd Central Europe, then in 1453 finally defeated Constantinople! Ottomans keen on good ties and trade with West. Occupied the Balkans, Blak Sea, Anatolia, Syria, more. Constantinople became Istanbul. Europe did feel threatened by closer presence of Muslims. Ottomans dominated Middle East, especially under Suleymon the Magnificent.
1258: The Monguls overra and destroyed the Abbasid dynasty and the Turks, who had been divided not 150 years before. Turks moved closer to Constantinople.
1095-1291: The Crusades
Palestine was the Muslim and Christian holy land, with Jerusalem as the holiest city. The Turks didn’t allow Crhristians to pilgrimage to there, which sparked the Pope to call on Christians to “fre” it from Muslims. At first, loners went. In 1099, well-disciplined army went and succceeeded in caturing Jerusalem. Massacred inhabitants.
1187: Recaptured by Muslims. Later, after attempts to get it back, a peace treaty signed sharing Jerusalem. Christians allowed to visit again. A fourth through eigth crusade unsuccessful. In 1291, Palestine conquered by the sultan of Egypt and crusades ended.
1347-1351: The Black Death. One of worst disasters in history. Wiped out 1/3 of population of Middle East and Europe.
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900)
Early 1500s: Persians gained independence under the Safavid dynasty. Shiite Islam became sate religion. Many religious wars with Sunni Ottomans but held strong against being taken over by Ottomans.
1600s: Slow decline of the Ottomans began. Prosperity reduced gradually by military defeat[?}, plagues, new sea routes let to reductiion of traffic through trade routes. Lost more and more of the empire–chipped away. Russia took the Crimea and most of Ukraine. Whole middle east greatly weakened. Persia, though, remained stable. Did avoid colonization, though. (!)
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
1948: State of Israel formed. Many Jews returned to Palestine. Conflict between Israel and the Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan and Syriaincreased. Arabs aided by other Arab countries, too.
The U.S. sided wih th Mid-Eastern allies who sold U.S. oil, especially Kuwait. Shiite fundamentalists came to power in Iran in 1979. Israel often aggressive, proactive.
1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait to improve its sea access and U.S. and other countries united against Iraq and liberated Kuwait.
Prehistory (to 3500 BCE)
Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900)
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
In China, Huang Di unites the north and south. T’ang … Shang Dynasty…475 BC: Warring States period begins in China as the Zhou king became a mere figurehead; China is annexed by regional warlords…Shi Huangdi (Qin Zheng) begins uniting Warring States of China
In India, the Harappan civilization … Exodus of Indus Valley … aryan people enter india…The Mauryan Empire of India
In China, the Great Wall of China was built…. Qin Zheng orders book burning …China in this period officially becomes a Confucian state and opens trading connections with the West, i.e. the Silk Road – buddha, confucius … 221 B.C.: First united Chinese empire, under Shi Huangdi…
200 B.C.: Paper is invented in China
3000 B.C.: Farming, crafts. First small farming villages.
2700 B.C.: Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor–first emperor of China. Brought medicine, writing, civilization. Wife Xiling J. said to have discovered silk.
2200 B.C.: Xia Dynasty is first dynasty (founder Yu). Yu made irrigation, dams.
1766: Emperor Tang started the Shang Dynasty. Bronze, jade, horses/chariots, domestic animals, wheat millet, rice, silk, calligraphy, ancestor worship.
1122 B.C.: Zhou Dynasty replaced Shang.
1122-221 B.C.: The Zhou Dynasty. A golden age in China. Growth of towns, trade and imperialism. (Ousted the Shangs.) Not a single kingdom but a collection of large estates whose rulers were loyal to the king. Ironworking began in China at this time. This period followed by the “Period of the Warring States”–warlord infighting. This was the time of Confucius and Lao-Tzu. Idea of a centralized Chinese imperial state became popularized.
Inventions: China: ivention of gunpowder, paper, magnetic compasses, acupuncture, abacuses-early calculator useful for computing large sums. modern computers became faster only in the early 1980s. plus seismograph.
868: Earliest known printed book in china
900: Chinese develop porcelain
350s B.C.: Warlike Qin state grow to dominate area (of western China)
221-206 B.C.: King Qin Zheng. (Qin is pronounced “Chin” and “China” comes from it.) United most of China in just ten years, ending period o warring states. Changed name to Shi Huangdi (“first emperor”). Reorganized the government. Standardized weights and measures, Chinese writing, width of wagon wheels, laws, single currency. Had administrators take over in place of feudal system aristocrats. Roads and canals, irrigation, drainage, started Great Wall (214). Destroyed classic literary works, including some by Confucius, in name of modernization. Sages under attack. Invented the wheelbarrow. Shi Huangdi’s tomb housed 7,000 larger than life terracotta soldiers
202 B.C. to AD 220: Han Dynasty founded after Zheng’s death. Long-lasting dynasty. Very stable. More lenient than the Qins. Fair Confucian principles of law and administration. First emperor is Liu Bang. Popular, relaxed harsh laws. For a time, captial Chang’an was world’s largest city. At end of the Silk Road on which China traded with Persia and Rome. China as large as the Roman Empire. Mandarins are the educated officials. They had to take an exam on Confucianism. They managed to beat back the Huns of Mongolia. Got Buddhism from India. Writings destroyed by the Qin were replaced. Invented paper. But empire fell apart due to border tension with barbarians and internal rebellions by the poor.
Sui and Tang Dynasties: 589-907. After the fall of the Han, China divided. Constant warfare and nomad invasions. Population fell. People fled more into the soth. Buddhism grew.
589: Yang Jian united China again, founded Sui dynasty. Cut taxes and abolished compulsory military service. Irrigation, palaces, parks. Tang dynasty took over, organized empire beyond anywhere else in world. Stable for 300 years. Expanded to west to keep control of Silk Road. Empire extended from Korea to Afghanistan and Thailand.
700s and 800s: Tibetans defeated China in central Asia. Other rebellions, too. 907 to 960, period of civil war.
960: Song dynasty. Third united Chinese empire. Initiated long period of cultural eminence. Painting. Made peace with the now-unified states on their borders (Tibetan, Liao, Thai and Vietnamese states.) Agriculture expanded, population grew. 100 million people. Invented porcelain, far ahead of Europe. Also invented gunpowder rockets, clocks, movable type printing, paddle-wheel boats, magnetic compass. Had poetry, theater, banking, trade expansion. Government reform.
1127: Jin invaded north, took the capital.
1234: Kublai Khan’s Mongols took over.
1279: Mongols took areas further south, too.
1206-1405: Mongol Empire. Largest empire in history. Started and led by Genghis Khan, then grandson Kublai Khan, who completed conquest of China. G. K. was 13 when he took leadership of his small warlike tribe. GK means “emperor of all men.” Took Turkestand, northern China, Korea (failed to get Japan), then Afghanistan, Persia and parts of Russia. Fast horses, far-firing bows, disciplined army. Pacific Ocean to Black Sea by 1200s.
1271: K.Khan started the Yuan dynasty with himself as Chinese emperor. Traditionally lived in Yurts, large round tents made of hides or cloth. Khan encouraged trade, opened Silk Road to the west.
1275: Venetian merchant Marco Polo spent 17 years at court of KK. Wrote all about the luxury there.
1294: Kublai Kahn died. Empire began to break up. His descendants overthrown in a thirteen-year campaign led by Zhu Yuan Zhang, who became emperor in 1368. Called his dynasty “ming” for “bright”. Mongols lost power in all states by 1405. China, Russia left poor and Muslims in turmoil.
Ming dynasty: 1368-1644. Zhang moved the campital south to Nanjing. Restored order. Uncle, Emperor Yonle, took over and China became great again. Built the Forbidden City (where?) for only emperors to use. Roads, canals, palaces, temples, leraning, arts, trade, exports. Ornamental gardens.
1517: Portugese and other Europeans arrived on coast. Traded in Guangzhou.
1592: Japan invaded Korea, threatening China. Japanese pirates near coast! Civil unrest due to famine, rising taxes, government corruption, which was due to fights and Mongols and Japan.
1517-1644: Borders weakened in several places. Mings fell. Manchus of north, called into Beijing to put down rebels. Did so, then established the Qing Dynasty.
1644-1911: Qing Dynasty. Size and population grew. Monguls finally defeated. Manchus, from Manchuria, lived separately from Chinese in closed-off areas. Chinese men had to wear long hair in pigtails to show inferiority to Manchus. But both Manchus and Chinese were civil servants (mandarins). Eventually Manchus assimilated and were accepted. Brought efficiency without disturbing customs too much. Therefore stayed in power a long time. Trade increaseed – tea, porcelain, cotton, silk. Started treating foreigners poorly to show their superiority. Took vassal states (Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, Mongolia, Turkestan)–Chinese emire now largest in world. 300 million people by 1800. (Tibet was ruled by a Buddhist leader called the Dalai Lama.)
1700: Chinese emperors only took silver for their highly-prized goods; not allowed to buy foreign stuff. Believed China was the “Middle Kingdom,” surrounded by barbarians. Diplomats tried and failed to sway the Qing emperors so illegal trade began. Opium trade. Traders began importing opium from places like Burma in huge quantities.
1830: Opium addiction widespread. Also, food shortages due to population growth. Taxes high. Some rebellions, too.
1830-1860: Opium wars. (?) Chinese officials burned stores of British opium in Guangzhous and Britain sent warships. Britain trade then banned. Fired on the ships. Britain won, took Hong Kong. China forced to open to trade. Trade agreements made with many countries.
1842: Hong Kong Island became a British colony and grew into a center of trade.
1898: Granted a 99-year lease on it. And the Kowloon Peninsula, too.
1911: Manchus (Qing Dynasty) overthrown in a cibil war.
1912: Republic of China founded. Had a president. No more imperial government; military leaders instead. One center led by rebel warlords in Beijing and nationalist government used Canton (Nanjing/Nanking) as their capital. Long civil war.
1921: Communitst Party founded.
1926: Communists joined with the nationalists in Canton and Chiang Kai-Shek took leadership and together they defeated the rebels in the North.
1927: The communists and nationalists began fighting each other. No longer allied. This fighting became known as the Chinese Civil War, though war had been going on since 1911. Kai-Shek’s capital in Nanjing. Drove communists out of Shanghai, but country still not stabilized.
1931: Japanese occupied Manchuria and threatened China. Meanshile communists set up a rival government (the JianXi Soviets) in Southern China. Mao Zedong took leadership, withstood nationalist attempts to oust them. Finally, after a huge attack, the long march.
1934: The Long March. 100,000 communists marched 6300 miles. 1/5th reached destination north in Shaanxi Province.
1936: to fight Japan, nationalists and commies allied for a while.
1945: War with Japan, which had gone on this whole time, finally ended. Communist and nationalist alliance ended and civil war resumed. (The U.S. and Britain supported the nationalists against Japan.) Communists had large army and support of the people.
1949: Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. Pushed the nationalists to Taiwan.
1958: Great Leap Forward: redistributed land to giant peasant communes. Failed, starvation, food shortages still.
1966: Started Cultural Revolution. Produced more iron and steel. Brought doctors to countryside, taught kids to read and write. Required everyone to read “The Thoughts of Chairman Mao,” also known as the Little Red Book. When people started criticising communism, he killed scholars, political opponents, more. Put others in concentration camps.
1976: China became more open. Traded more. More industry. Foreign investments welcomed.
1989: Tiananmen Square student demonstrations and massacre. 3,000 killed, 10,000 injured. Maybe many more.
1997: Hong Kong was returned to China.
Prehistory (to 3500 BCE)
Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900)
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
30,000 B.C.: People living in Japan. One of oldest nations in world. First settlers ethnically unrelated to other tribes. Others came from Korea and Manchuria.
300 B.C. to AD 800: Classical Japan. Yayoi tribe introduced bronze and iron, rice and barley from Korea and China. Shaped Japanese culture and Shinto religion–nature spirits and tribal ancestors worshiped. Still, Japan not unified.
167: Priestess Hiiko (of Yamato tribe) used religious influence to unite about 30 Japanese tribes. Sent ambassadors to China to learn about it and copied China in many ways. Most of Japan is one state. Invaded Korea.
500s: Established Buddhism. Shinto threatened. Temples and towns built.
700s: Golden age. Shinto and Buddhism both accepted, co-existed peacefully.
710: Nara became the capital. Emperor gradually became a ceremonial figure and government controlled by officials and monks. Increased political tension.
794: Capital moved to Kyoto, where it still is today. Japan is now a powerful state. Fujiwara family held power till about 1150.
800-1200: Fujiwara Japan. Art, literature flourished. Fujiwara became regents to the emperor and eventually became more powerful than the emperor. Rich people isolated from poor. Eventually jostling for power led to civil war.
1192: Nobleman Yoritomo took power. Set up the shogunate, a rigid feudal system. Ruthless leader. Till 1868, shoguns (rather than emperors) ruled Japan as military dictators. Emperor still there but a ceremonial figure. Regents to the emperor and daimyos jostled for power, so the samurai class developed. They fought for the daimyos. Samurai trained in religion, arts, more. Code of honor. Many rituals. Became Zen Buddhists. Had to commit hara-kiri , suicide, if defeated by enemy. Eventually infighting led to civil war and breakup of empire into smaller city-states before 1500.
1542: In midst of civil war, Portugese sailors arrived in Japan. Introduced guns. (Seen as weapons of cowards but adopted by necessity.) Introduced Christianity and converted tens of thousands.
1568: Nobunaga used guns to take Kyoto. Followed by Hideyoshi, who became the chief imperial minister. Planned a great Japanese empire that would include China. Invaded Korea but failed to capture it. Strong central control. Banned foreigners, Christianity and overseas travel.
1603-1716: Isolated. Tokugawa shoguns in control. Increased stability. Moved capital to Edo (Tokyo). Built world’s largest castle. Kept daimyos busy organizing and paying for the great palace (Nijo castle, world’s largest castle)–no time or money for soldiers and war. Killed many Christians in Nagasaki after a revolt there. Peope not allowed to go abroad. Churches torn down. Japan became prosperous. Emperor encouraged merchants and farmers to expand business while daimyos and Samurai became poor. From feudalism to a trading economy!! Population expansion. More education for all. A few trading posts set up on islands, not main island, for Dutch and China. Population gre from 20 to 30 million during the Tokugawas. Many people were educated. Advanced ideas about hygeine. Public baths popular.
1716: Opened to west more due to pressure from U.S. and others. Limited trade to other islands, not mainland.
1853: President Fillmore sent four warships–steamnships–to Japan. Commanded by Matthew Perry. Intimidated them into opening trade. Other treaties with foreigners followed. Japan began a big modernization effort and greatly improved education till became among best educated in world. Imported machines and started manufacturing cotton. Adopted European fashions.
1894-1905: War with China and Russia after trying to take over Korea. Won both wars.
1910: Annexed Korea and became most powerful nation in Asia. First industrialized nation there.
1931: Japan occupied Manchuria, a resource-rich region they needed for their increased industrialization. (Especially hard-pressed due to the depression.)
1935-6: Invaded China.
1937: “The Rape of Nanking.” 100,000 Chinese massacred. By 1938, Japan controlled most of Eastern China. Puppet governments in Beijing and Nanjing. Superior due to recent industrialization, technology. Chinese-Japanese war lasted til 1945 when Japan lost the war. Emperor Hirohito was the leader from 1901-1989. Held an aggressive policy toward other countries during his whole reign.
1940: Japan allied itself with Germany and Italy but hadn’t fought yet. Then attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, unprovoked, and went to war with the U.S>
1944: Kamikaze attacks on u.S. ships, especially as they tried to take Okinawa.
1941: Japan overtook Hong Kong, Burma, Indonesia, more. U.S. fought Japan at sea. Much of fighting from aircraft carriers. Battle of Midway: decisive victory for U.S., turning point for war. Happened because U.S. cracked Japanese radio codes. Tide turned and U.S. advanced within bombing distance of Japan.
1945: Okinawa and Iwo Jima taken; atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered in Augus. 130,,000 dead in H, 750,000 in Nagasaki and thougsands more later. War casualties totaled 2 million Japanese. 100 cities destroyed, too. Took Japan 10 years to regain prewar industrial production levels.
Add to japan: After WWII, U.S. helped Japan rebuild. Planned a complete ind. overhaul, rapid apitalist growth. Improved education, ahd free elections, (women voted and were elected too). Rapidy growing econom. South Korea also grew rapidly during this time, as sdid Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore.
802-1440: Khmer Empire: Now Cambodia. Built the city of Angkor Thom, with Angkor Wat, a huge temple complex.
1100s: Khmer conquered much of mainland Southeast Asia and held it for a time. Used war elephants. An advanced culture.
1400s: Taken over by Thailand/Siam.
1600s: Southeast Asia: No ban on traders. Dutch dominated island trade.
1700s: Britain started to gain more trade links. British established Singapore as a free port (1819). Became main trading center/stopping point.
1800s: European nations got involved in local Southeast Asian wars to advance trade interests. Didn’t colonize Southeast Asia but some countries economically dependent on them. French had Indochina, cambodia, laos, vietnam. Dutch in indonesia. british in burma. Treated locasl poorly. Cash crops grown. Rubber exported to colonies and grwon there. Factories, roads, bridges, RRs government buildings built. Industrialization began. Some mining.
1898: U.S. took Phillipines from the Spanish
1948 – Burma (Jan. 4) and Ceylon (Feb. 4) granted independence by Britain. Independent Republic of Korea is proclaimed, following election supervised by UN (Aug. 15). Verdict in Japanese war trial: 18 imprisoned (Nov. 12); Tojo and six others hanged (Dec. 23). United States of Indonesia established as Dutch and Indonesians settle conflict (Dec. 27).
1973: U.S. bombing of Cambodia ends, marking official halt to 12 years of combat activity in Southeast Asia
1975: Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge take over Cambodia (April). American merchant ship Mayaguez, seized by Cambodian forces, is rescued in operation by U.S. Navy and Marines, 38 of whom are killed (May 15).
1979 -Vietnam and Vietnam-backed Cambodian insurgents announce fall of Phnom Penh, Cambodian capital, and collapse of Pol Pot regime (Jan. 7).
Wars in Asia, including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Phillipines over independence from colonial rulers.
The Korean War began when communist North Korea attacked South Korea in 1950. The UN sent aid to SK. u.s. sent troops. Still, most of SK was captured. So UN fought them back at Seoul. Reached border of China, then China entered, taking NK’s side. Cease fire n 1953. Country divided down the middle.
Vietnam war: Vietman declared independence from France in 1954–Country divided between north and south, with two different governments.
1965: U.S. sent troops to aid the south, who had started moin towards civil war between the Viet Cong in the south and the communists in the north.
1969: half a million U.S. troops in Vietnam. Then withdrawal began.
1973: Cease-fire declared. 57,000 U.S. soldiers killed.
Cambodia: 1945: The Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot took over Cambodia. Regime of terror. Overthrown by Vietnamese troops in 1979.
Prehistory (to 3500 BCE) and Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)
Important events of prehistoric and ancient times in Australia and Oceania: The Polyneisians settled Australia.
The Polynesians: The first people to settle modern-day Australia. [?] They might have first come from Taiwan, then Melanesia, an area in the Pacific Islands (2000 BCE). After that, they settled the Polynesian Triangle around Fiji, then moved to Tahiti and the Marquesas (1300 BCE). From there, they visited America, Easter Island and Hawaii. They carved wood; kept livestock; and grew coconuts, taros, yams and vegetables. They were remarkable sailors, with large oceangoing canoes featuring sails and paddles stabilized with outriggers or doubled up like catamarans. They also had advanced knowledge of stars, currents and winds.
Easter Island statues: They might have created the famous Easter Island statues, or they might have been created by unknown earlier settlers since the Polynesians weren’t known to be stone carvers.
The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)
Important events of the Middle Ages in Australia and Oceania:
The Maori: The Polynesians who settled modern-day New Zealand during the Middle Ages (850 CE and on). They traded with the Aborigines.
The Aborigines: The Polynesians who settled modern-day Australia. [?] The Aborigines were tribal societies ruled by chiefs. They were experts in wood carving, even though they were isolated from Asia and Indonesia.
Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900)
Important events from 1500 to 1900 in Australia and Oceania:
1650–1800: Colonialism came to Australia and the Pacific Islands. First, the Dutch found Australia, renaming it New Holland. Then they found Tasmania, New Zealand and more. After that Captain Cook went to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia and chartered New Zealand and Australia for Britain. (Later, he went to Antarctica, but was driven back by ice, and after that he went to Hawaii.) In the late 1700s, Britain began sending convicts into exile in Australia. These convicts became the first colonists there. Later, free settlers came, too, and soon began settling New Zealand as well. They introduced new diseases to the Aborigines and influenced local culture in many other ways as well.
1800–1900: In New Zealand, the Maori competed with the colonists for land. Eventually, the Maoris gave control of New Zealand to the British monarch in exchange for land ownership rights. Some accounts claim that two versions of the treaty were written, though, one leading the Maori to believe they were giving Britain governorship, not ownership. In the mid-1800s there were violent Maori uprisings. Eventually New Zealand officially became a British colony.
Meanwhile, in Australia, there was a population explosion. The British created the new nation of Australia in which Aborigines and British settlers lived side by side. Land conflict continued, though; many Aborigines were killed and others died from disease.
The Modern Era (1900 to the present)
In the early 1900s, the leaders of various Australian colonies united in a federation called the Commonwealth of Australia. These new colonies set up governments based on free trade and equal rights, and many of them achieved independence, writing their own constitutions based on the American and British constitutions.
In the late 1900s, there was a gold rush.
During World War II, the Australians fought on the side of the Allies.
During the robust postwar economic times, Australia gained wealth and tourism. They imported a great deal of American technology and culture.
Here, an excerpt from the interviews section of the book.
CAL: “Finally, Our House Feels Like a Home”
Cal, age forty-four, has four children with his wife of twenty years.
Mollie: Is there an argument that just keeps coming up between you and your wife?
Cal: Many of the long-running arguments that we have seen to be centered around the lack of defined roles in our relationship. We are both products of the feminist movement—women aren’t going to be forced to be at home taking care of children and cooking dinner! So the systems of our household are perpetually left leaderless as both adults strive for success and validation outside our home.
This lack of definition has plagued us since the days we just started living together and couldn’t agree on who did what chores and who was responsible for what. It’s rather embarrassing to say that we still run across these problems twenty years later. At least a few generations ago they had one person who gathered resources and one person who saw that those resources were well managed in producing a family. Now we are both responsible for everything, and that leads to chaos and frustration for us.
Mollie: Can you give me more specifics? Which chores are still up for grabs? Which chores have you come to an agreement on?
Cal: We have written out three sheets of information for the family. One sheet gives our vision, values, expectations and measures of success. It’s funny that after being married over twenty years we are still working out what our vision for our home is. We’ve had other vision statements in the past, but they seem to have a finite life span. The vision needs to be renewed and revived periodically; for us, it seems like we can agree on one for about two years.
The next sheet shows the systems we are working on to make the household run more smoothly. We started with agreeing on twenty minutes of cleaning and that’s going really well thus far (maybe for the past two months). We’re still working on figuring out the rest.
Finally, we have a chores sheet. This is laminated (yes, we have a laminator and every family needs one!). We assign and check off the chores using a dry erase marker. There are six of us, and six people cleaning a single area isn’t going to work, so we have two or three areas separated out into five days (our goal is to clean five days per week). We schedule the cleaning via group text message at least two hours ahead of time. Then we assemble at the table, pick a day, assign the jobs, start the timer, start some music, and clean for twenty minutes. If someone finishes early, they get re-assigned to another job until we have all worked for twenty minutes. We clean with whoever is home at the time, even if it’s only a couple of us.
This cleaning system has finally gotten our house to feel like a home. We all now have clean, paired socks and vacuumed hallways.
Bedroom cleaning is handled by a different system of weekly room inspections.
Mollie: Any other ongoing arguments?
Cal: Nothing is jumping to mind. My wife and I are pretty low-key people, but we have still managed to have some pretty turbulent times in our marriage. This point isn’t one of them. Our kids are now 18, 16, 14 and 11. They are old enough that they are becoming self-sufficient, but young enough not to realize how clueless they are in the real world. It’s a frustrating time. I think we’ve been handling it well, overall, but have been far from perfect.
Mollie: Finally, how much do you enjoy your marriage? Is it worth the hardship?
Cal: I do enjoy my marriage. The sex is amazing, and that’s a large part of male happiness. Consistent access to a female is success in an evolutionary sense. Beyond just meeting physical needs, my wife is a wonderful friend who I still enjoy having dinner with or accompanying to one of our children’s events. I made a really good decision before we started dating: I had just had a mediocre dating experience with a pretty red-haired girl, who treated me like a distraction. Based on that experience, I decided that the next person I was going to spend my time with would be one who I enjoyed being with. My wife is remarkable in that I was always sorry when the evening came to an end; there never seemed to be enough time.
Twenty-three years later, I still think that was a wise decision. I haven’t had the most exciting life from the outside, but I’ve enjoyed most minutes because I made a really good choice. I married an honest friend who I really enjoyed being around. Fights come and go, but we still like having dinner, watching a movie or doing a project together. Even when we are at our worst, there has always been that underlying layer of friendship and enjoyment that we fell back on. It’s a pretty amazing connection.
Add: How to write letters, reports
In some people, the word writer inspires a feeling of pride or admiration. In others, it inspires dread. If you’re in the latter category, consider making writing improvement your top educational priority. If you aren’t, practice a lot anyway. It’s probably the most useful skill you’ll learn in school.
Basic Writing Skills
How to write a paragraph: Write the main idea. Follow this with several supporting sentences. After mastering this basic formula, experiment with placing the main idea elsewhere in the paragraph. Switch to a new paragraph when the main point you’re making changes.
How to write an essay: The first paragraph is the most important. Begin with either the main idea or a hook—a lead-in that offers relevant information. The hook may be several sentences long, but most of the time, the main idea following it will be one sentence, especially for short essays. The statement of the main idea is called the thesis. Some theses are called “five-prong” or “three-prong” because they follow the main idea with exactly three or five supporting points, each of which correlates with a single body paragraph in the essay. After writing the first paragraph, write the body paragraphs, then a concluding paragraph. For simple essays, body paragraphs each make a single supporting point. For more complex essays, which might be broken out into sections, several paragraphs may be used to make one supporting point.
How to take notes on a text: First, find the main idea of the entire section of writing. Practice this skill alone until you are good at it. (This comes in handy in both personal and philosophical arguments, in which the main point of the speaker often gets lost.) After that, identify the main supporting ideas in the section—the points that give rise to the main idea. Finally, make note of any particularly insightful or important side point. Record your notes in the simplest form possible, without unnecessary blank spaces on the page. Use bullets.
How to write an outline: Place your thesis statement at the beginning. Then list the major points that support your thesis using Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.). Under each of these, list all of the supporting ideas or arguments using capital letters (A, B, C, etc.). If needed, under these, list subordinate ideas using numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.), then small letters (a, b, c, etc.).
How to write a short story: First, create a compelling dilemma involving interesting characters. Think of the story as a movie without a narrator, and write each scene like a movie scene without any background explanation. Start the story at a particularly interesting place in media res (in the middle of action). Make sure that every character undergoes inner change, and the protagonist is quite changed by the end. Make sure that in each and every scene there is an immediate conflict in addition to the story’s larger conflict, and make sure that every scene moves the story forward. Use the standard plot graph, with a slow introduction, then rising action (when lots of complications are thrown in), then a climax (when everything bad happens all at once), then a quick resolution.
How to write a poem: Read several poems of several types, including free verse, odes, haikus, rhyming poems with regular stanza lengths, nonrhyming poems with regular stanza lengths and more. Find a feeling within yourself and choose a subject that in the moment of writing causes that same strong feeling in you. Write a straight description of that subject/metaphor that includes words that convey your reaction to it, without ever describing your thoughts or feelings directly. As you edit it, get rid of any extra words and any words that sound in any way corny (flower, sunshine, beauty, etc.).
Basic Writing Terminology
Synonyms: Words with the same or approximately the same meaning
Antonyms: Words with opposite meanings
Homographs: Words which are spelled alike but have different meanings and/or pronunciations
Homonyms: Words that are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings
Palindrome: A word or phrase that means the same when read in either direction (i.e. “eve”)
Acronym: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word
Exposition: Explanatory writing
Didactic writing: Instructional writing
Freewriting: Writing continuously without much thought in order to discover hidden ideas or feelings
Jargon: Terms only familiar to those in the know
Editorial: A short article expressing an opinion or point of view. Often, but not always, written by a member of the publication staff.
Bibliography: The list of books, magazines, journals, people, websites, or any other resources that you consulted in the process of writing a book, article, or paper.
Boilerplate: A piece of writing that gets reused frequently, sometimes with minor changes
Canon: Works generally considered by scholars to be the most important of a genre
Byline: The author’s name appearing with his/her published work
High concept: A storyline with a clear conflict and that can be described in one sentence
Hook: A starting sentence or idea that grabs the reader’s attention
Pseudonym: A “pen name”
Public domain work: Any written material not under copyright
Query: A short letter pitching an article or a book idea to an editor or agent
Rough draft: The first organized version of a document or other work
Serial: A series of related works or a regularly published work, as a newsletter or magazine
Side bar: Extra information put alongside, but not in, the main article
Slant: The bias or angle a writer used in an article
Solicited/unsolicited manuscript: A manuscript that an agent or editor has or has not asked to see
Synopsis: Brief summary of a story, manuscript, or book
Basic Writing Rules
The goal of writing is to be understood, and preferably, to be understood easily. This happens when language is clear, concise, well-organized and direct. The following rules for good writing can and should be selectively broken in creative writing, but in most nonfiction writing and in most practical writing (letters, emails, instructions, etc.) they stand.
Most, but not all, of the following rules come from The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White.
Be direct. Use the active voice. Use the positive form of the statement, avoiding “do not” or double negatives when possible. Use definite, specific, concrete language.
Be concise. Omit needless words. Do not overwrite. Do not overstate. Don’t use a lot of adjectives and adverbs. Don’t over-explain.
Be clear. Place the words you want to emphasize at the end of the sentence. Avoid awkward phrases. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking. Keep related words together. Pay attention to transitions. Don’t confuse the reader by jumping from one step to the next or one idea to the next without showing (subtly) how they relate.
Be readable. Avoid a succession of loose sentences. Avoid a succession of short sentences. Express coordinate ideas in similar form. For example, when using bullet points, all of the points should be in the same form (sentence or fragment), same tense, and as parallel in structure as possible. Pay attention to rhythm. Intersperse long and short sentences. Read the piece out loud or have someone else read it out loud to you to see if it flows well.
Be organized. Write an outline first, and use it.
Be humble. Don’t refer to yourself. Write in a way that comes naturally. Don’t used forced-sounding figurative or formal language. Do not affect a breezy manner. Use orthodox spelling. Avoid fancy words. Don’t use dialect unless your ear is good. Don’t inject opinion. Avoid foreign language words. Use figures of speech sparingly. Prefer the standard to the offbeat. For dialogue, use either “said” or “asked” or leave the quote bare. Don’t use “stated,” “exclaimed,” etc.
Practice. Revise and rewrite. Wait a year, then revise again. To become a faster, clearer, more organized writer, practice outlining nonfiction texts (summarizing the main idea and supporting points in a few pages). Also, master the art of writing short, true, straightforward stories worthy of a top-notch news reporter.
Essay Writing Shortcuts
Pretend You’re in an Argument. An essay is an argument, after all. Pretend someone is in the room with you right now. They don’t agree with what you’re saying but they’re willing to listen without answering back—yet. How would you answer these questions? (When stuck, imagine someone screaming them at you.)
- Why is what you’re telling me important? Why should anyone care about your opinion on this? Are there relevant statistics, or is there a reason someone might disagree with you? (Introductory sentences or paragraphs, including introductions to new sections.)
- What is your main point, anyway? (Thesis statement.)
- What is your evidence? (Supporting paragraphs.)
Just Spit It Out. Do NOT stare at a blank screen. If you can’t think of a great first sentence, skip it and write the second one. Just write. If the person you’re arguing with were here in front of you, and your grade depended on your convincing them, you wouldn’t not talk. You would just start saying something. You’ll edit later.
Don’t Be Fancy. It’s harder. Use short, simple sentences. Pretend the person you’re arguing with is a high school student. You can always make things sound more professional in the final edit, combining short sentences to make longer ones and switching out a few key words to bring it up a level. (You might notice that you keep more of those unpretentious sentences than you thought you would, though.)
Be Scannable. The goal of writing is to be understood, and preferably, to be understood easily. Don’t make your teachers work too hard to understand what you’re saying. A good reader should be able to fully digest your paragraph in under thirty seconds. If it takes them longer than that, it’s the writer’s fault, not the reader’s.
Don’t Pad. This is a first draft. Don’t add in any sentences that don’t strictly need to be there. In the final edit, if a point needs more explanation (and you need more pages), go ahead. Doing so before getting to the end is a waste of time.
Pretend It’s Just an Outline. Still too intimidated to start writing the real thing? Tell yourself you’re just filling in your outline a bit. Write full, simple sentences (and a few longer, more inspired ones as they come to you) within the outline itself. Then pop in your source quotes or ideas (properly referenced).
Oh, And Do Write that Outline. Organization is everything. Writing is just what happens later.
Don’t Go in Order. First paragraphs are the hardest. Write whatever seems easiest first. Success begets success.
Don’t Stop to Research. Add something like [REFERENCE NEEDED] in the paragraph and move on. Which reminds me:
Bracket Everything That Isn’t Yours. [LIKE THIS]
Take Some Hits. It’s painful, but some sentences don’t sound perfect. If you revise endlessly, you’ll spend twenty percent of your time perfecting one percent of your essay (and improving your grade not at all). Teachers aren’t looking for professional-quality writing. They’re looking for professional-quality thinking.
Use Your Last Perfectly-Formatted Essay as a Template. Erase the text, retitle the document, and you’re off.
Tell Yourself You’ll Bang the Whole Thing Out in an Hour. You won’t, but you’ll get the first draft mostly done, and after that you’ll just tie up few “loose ends.” (This really works.)
Remind Yourself that this Essay Isn’t Your Whole Grade. If your organization and thinking is clear, you’ll likely be just fine, grade-wise.
Remember That There’s Never a Good Day to Write an Essay. They’re almost all equally unfit, and equally fine.
Essay Writing Process
Write an Amazing Thesis Statement. But not a fancy one. Something that clearly presents your argument, saying exactly what it means. Often this sounds something like, “This paper argues/offers/presents/describes ABC. Then it summarizes/explains/presents/provides an example of XYZ.”
Write a Pretty Thorough Outline. Sure, you’ll change some stuff as you go. But get all the essentials in there.
Introductory Paragraph: Tell Me Why I Care. Present a bit of background to each of the elements of the thesis statement. End this first paragraph (or maybe the second or third, in a longer essay) with that perfect thesis statement.
Middle Paragraphs: Argue with Me. Write the main idea. Follow this with several supporting sentences. After mastering this basic formula, experiment with placing the main idea elsewhere in the paragraph. Switch to a new paragraph when the main point you’re making changes.
Concluding Paragraph: Seal the Deal. Add a dash of creativity as you restate your main idea, plus a few of the best pieces of evidence for the thesis that you presented.