Quality History Information Online.
   Photos Around the World                     5 Million BC to 1400 AD | 1300 AD to 1950 AD | Discoveries & Events | Home

‡  =  Video Links

History from 1350 AD

The Renaissance
1350 to 1550
The Merchants and the City/States

A "Rebirth" - Looking back at ancient Greece and Rome


People who lived in Italy between 1350 and 1550 or so believed that they were witnessing a rebirth of classical antiquity - the world of the Greeks and Romans.

To them, this marked a new age, which historians later called the Renaissance (French for "rebirth") and viewed as a distinct period of European history, which began in Italy and then spread to the rest of Europe.

Renaissance Italy was largely an urban society. The city-states became the centers of Italian political, economic, and social life.

Within this new urban society, a secular spirit emerged as increasing wealth created new possibilities for the enjoyment of worldly things.

The Renaissance was also an age of recovery from the disasters of the fourteenth century, including the Black Death, political disorder, and economic recession.

In pursuing that recovery, Italian intellectuals became intensely interested in the glories of their own past, the Greco-Roman culture of antiquity.

Florence (Tuscany), Italy: Birth of the Renaissance

A new view of human beings emerged as people in the Italian Renaissance began to emphasize individual ability.

The fifteenth-century Florentine architect Leon Battista Alberti expressed the new philosophy succinctly: "Men can do all things if they will." This high regard for human worth and for individual potentiality gave rise to a new social ideal of the well-rounded personality or "universal person" who was capable of achievements in many areas of life.

The emergence and growth of individualism and secularism as characteristics of the Italian Renaissance are most noticeable in the intellectual and artistic realm.

The most important literary movement associated with the Renaissance is humanism.

Renaissance humanism was an intellectual movement based on the study of the classics, the literary works of Greece and Rome. Humanists studied the the liberal works - grammar, rhetoric, poetry, moral philosophy or ethics, and history - all based on the writings of ancient Greek and Roman authors. We call these subjects the humanities.

Petrarch (1304 - 1374), who has often been called the father of Italian Renaissance humanism, did more than any other individual in the fourteenth century to foster its development. Petrarch sought to find forgotten Latin manuscripts and set in motion a ransacking of monastic libraries throughout Europe.

He also began the humanist emphasis on the use of pure classical Latin. Humanists used the works of Cicero as a model for prose and those of Virgil for poetry. As Petrarch said, "Christ is my God; Cicero is the prince of the language."

Link:  Renaissance



The European empires of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries rested on a mastery of the oceans.

This mastery was partly the product of long experience in Atlantic waters. For example, the Portuguese caravel - the workhorse ship of the fifteenth-century voyages to Africa - was based on ship and sail designs that had been in use among Portuguese fishermen since the thirteenth century.

Starting in the 1440's, however, Portuguese shipwrights began building larger caravels of about fifty tons displacement, with two masts each carrying a triangular sail. Such ships were capable of sailing against the wind much more effectively than were the older, square-rigged vessels.

They also required much smaller crews than did the multi-oared galleys that were still commonly used in the Mediterranean.

By the end of the fifteenth century, even larger caravels of around two hundred tons were being constructed, with a third mast and a combination of square and lateen rigging.

Columbus's Nina was of this design, having been refitted with two square sails in the Canary Islands to enable it to sail more efficiently before the wind during the Atlantic crossing.

Europeans were also making significant advances in navigation during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Quadrants, which calculated latitude in the Northern hemisphere by the height above the horizon of the North Star, were in widespread use by the 1450s.

As sailors approached the equator, however, the quadrant became less and less useful, and they were forced instead to make use of astrolabes, which reckoned latitude by the height of the sun. It was not until the 1480s that the astrolabe became a really useful instrument for seaborne navigation, with the preparation of standard tables sponsored by the Portuguese crown.

Compasses too were also coming into more widespread use during the fifteenth century. Longitude, however, remained impossible to calculate accurately until the eighteenth century, when the invention of the marine chronometer finally made it possible to keep accurate time at sea.

In the sixteenth century, Europeans sailing east or west across the oceans generally had to rely on their skill at dead reckoning to determine where they were on the globe.

European sailors also benefited from a new interest in maps and navigational charts. Especially important to Atlantic sailors were books known as rutters or routiers.

These contained detailed sailing instructions and descriptions of the coastal landmarks a pilot could expect to encounter on route to a variety of destinations.

Mediterranean sailors had had similar books, known as portolani, since at least the fourteenth century. In the fifteenth century, however, this tradition was extended to the Atlantic Ocean; by the end of the sixteenth century, rutters spanned the globe.


The Renaissance witnessed the development of printing, which made an immediate impact on European intellectual life and thought. Printing from hand-carved wooden blocks had been done in the West since the twelfth century and in China even before that.

What was new in the fifteenth century in Europe was multiple printing with movable metal type.

The development of printing from movable type was a gradual process that culminated some time between 1445 and 1450; Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz played an important role in bringing the process to completion. Gutenberg's Bible, completed in 1455 or 1456, was the first true book produced from movable type.

By 1500, there were more than a thousand printers in Europe, who collectively had published almost forty thousand titles (between eight and ten million copies).

Probably 50 percent of these books were religious - Bibles and biblical commentaries, books of devotion, and sermons.

Next in importance were the Latin and Greek classics, medieval grammars, legal handbooks, and works on philosophy.

Gutenberg Bible

The printing of books encouraged the development of scholarly research and the desire to attain knowledge.

Printing also stimulated the development of an ever-expanding lay reading public, a development that had an enormous impact on European society.

Printing allowed European civilization to compete for the first time with the civilization of China.

Link:  Printing Press

Link:  PsPrint - The Printing Press


The Protestant Reformation is the name given to the religious reform movement that divided the western church into Catholic and Protestant groups.

Although Martin Luther began the Reformation in the early sixteenth century, several earlier developments had set the stage for religious change.

During the second half of the fifteenth century, the new classical learning of the Italian Renaissance spread to the European countries north of the Alps and spawned a movement called Christian humanism or Northern Renaissance humanism, whose major goal was the reform of Christendom.

The Christian humanists believed in the ability of human beings to reason and improve themselves and thought that through education in the sources of classical, and especially Christian, antiquity, they could instill an inner piety or an inward religious feeling that would bring about a reform of the church and society.

To change society, they must first change the human beings who compose it.

While the leaders of the church were failing to meet their responsibilities, ordinary people were clamoring for meaningful religious expression and certainty of salvation.

As a result, for some the process of salvation became almost mechanical. Collections of relics grew as more and more people sought certainty of salvation through veneration of these relics.

Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony and Martin Luther's prince, had amassed over five thousand relics to which were attached indulgences that could reduce one's time in purgatory by 1,443 years. (An indulgence is a remission, after death, of all or part of the punishment due to sin.)

Martin Luther was a monk and a professor at the University of Wittenberg, where he lectured on the Bible. Probably sometime between 1513 and 1516, through his study of the Bible, he arrived at an answer to a problem - the assurance of salvation - that had disturbed him since his entry into the monastery.

Luther did not see himself as a rebel, but he was greatly upset by the widespread selling of indulgences.

Especially offensive in his eyes was the monk Johann Tetzel, who hawked indulgences with the slogan: "As soon as the coin in the coffer (money box) rings, the soul from purgatory springs."

Greatly angered, he issued in 1517 a stunning indictment of the abuses in the sale of indulgences, the Ninety-Five Theses. Thousands of copies were printed and quickly spread to all parts of Germany.


Between 500 and 1500, the level of interdependence among human societies began to intensify as three major trade routes - the Indian Ocean, the Silk Road, and the trans-Saharan caravan route - began to create the framework for a single world trade system. New technology, new crops, and new ideas crossed from one end of the known world to the other.

Contacts occurred in the realm of technology as in that of ideas, including inventions such as paper, the compass, and gunpowder; crops such as sugar, cotton, and spices; and great religious systems such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam.

One interesting aspect of this process was the close relationship between missionary activities and trade. Buddhist merchants first brought the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama to China, and Muslim traders carried the words of the prophet Muhammad to Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

At the same time, Christian missionaries may have brought the first accurate knowledge of silk manufacturing from China to the Mediterranean.

What were the major causes of the rapid expansion of trade during this period?

One key factor was the introduction of new technology in the field of transportation.

The development of the compass, improved techniques in map-making and shipbuilding, and greater knowledge of wind patterns all contributed to the expansion of maritime trade far from familiar shores.

Caravan trade, once carried by wheeled chariots or on the backs of oxen, now used the camel as the preferred beast of burden through the parched deserts of Africa and the Middle East.

But the Middle East was not the only or necessarily even the primary contributor to world trade and civilization during this period.

While the Arab Empire became the linchpin of trade between the Mediterranean and eastern and southern Asia, a new center of primary importance in world trade was emerging in East Asia, focused on China. China had been a major participant in regional trade during the Han dynasty, when its silks were already being transported to Rome via Central Asia, but its role had declined after the fall of the Han.

Now, with the rise of the great Tang and Song dynasties, China reemerged as a major commercial power in East Asia, trading by sea with Southeast Asia and Japan and by land with the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. In general, overland trade was carried on by non-Chinese peoples in Central Asia, but the Chinese themselves became directly involved in the maritime trade with the countries in the South Seas.

By now, China was not only a regional economic power but a global one as well. The Silk Road through Turkestan became one of the most important trade routes of the era, and during the Ming dynasty, Chinese fleets briefly sailed across the Indian Ocean as far as the Red Sea and the eastern coast of Africa.

Like the Middle East, China was also a prime source of new technology. From China came paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder.

The double-hulled Chinese junks that entered the Indian Ocean during the Ming dynasty were slow and cumbersome but extremely seaworthy and capable of carrying substantial quantities of goods over long distances.

Among China's other contributions were porcelain, chess, the mechanical clock, and the iron stirrup. Many such inventions arrived in Europe by way of India or the Middle East, and their Chinese origins were therefore unknown in the West.

Increasing trade on a regional or global basis also led to the exchange of ideas.

Buddhism was brought to China by merchants, and Islam first arrived in sub-Saharan Africa and the Indonesian archipelago in the same manner.

In their new environments, these religions initially had an impact mainly on merchants and other city-dwellers, but in some cases they gradually gained favor in the countryside.


In the early centuries of Chinese civilization, the bulk of the population had been located along the Yellow River.

Smaller settlements were located along the Yangtze and in the mountainous regions of the south, but the administrative and economic center of gravity was clearly in the north.

By the Song period, however, that emphasis had already begun to shift drastically as a result of climatic changes, deforestation, and continuing pressure from nomads in the Gobi Desert.

By the early Qing, the economic breadbasket of China was located along the Yangtze River or in the mountains to the south.

Moreover, the population was beginning to increase rapidly.

For centuries, China's population had remained within a range of 50 to 100 million, rising in times of peace and prosperity and falling in periods of foreign invasion and internal anarchy.

During the Ming and the early Qing, however, the population increased from an estimated 70 to 80 million in 1390 to over 300 million at the end of the eighteenth century. There were probably several reasons for this population increase:

The relatively long period of peace and stability under the early Qing; the introduction of new crops from the Americas, including peanuts, sweet potatoes, and maize; and the planting of a new species of faster-growing rice from Southeast Asia.

Qing Dynasty

This population increase meant much greater pressure on the land, smaller farms, and a razor-thin margin of safety in case of climatic disaster.

The imperial court attempted to deal with the problem through a variety of means, most notably by preventing the concentration of land in the hands of wealthy landowners.

Nevertheless, by the eighteenth century, almost all land that could be irrigated was already under cultivation, and the problems of rural hunger and landlessness became increasingly serious.


As in earlier periods, Chinese society was organized around the family. Before, the ideal family unit in Qing China was the joint family, in which as many as three or even four generations lived under the same roof.

When sons married, they brought their wives to live with them in the family homestead. Prosperous families would add a separate section to the house to accommodate the new family. Unmarried daughters would also remain in the house.

Aging parents and grandparents remained under the same roof until they died and were cared for by younger members of the household.

The family retained its importance in early Qing times for much the same reasons as in earlier times.

As a labor-intensive society based primarily on the cultivation of rice, China needed large families to help with the harvest and to provide security for parents too old to work in the fields.

Sons were particularly prized, not only because they had strong backs but also because they would raise their own families under the parental roof.

With few opportunities for employment outside the family, sons had little choice but to remain with their parents and help on the land.

Within the family, the oldest male was king, and his wishes theoretically had to be obeyed by all family members.

For many Chinese, the effects of these values were most apparent in the choice of a marriage partner.

Marriages were normally arranged for the benefit of the family, often by a go-between, and the groom and bride were usually not consulted.

Frequently, they did not meet until the marriage ceremony.

Under such conditions, love was clearly a secondary consideration. In fact, it was often viewed as detrimental, since it inevitably distracted the attention of the husband and wife from their primary responsibility to the larger family unit.

In traditional China, the role of women had always been inferior to that of men.

A sixteenth-century Spanish visitor to South China observed that Chinese women were "very secluded and virtuous, and it was a very rare thing for us to see a woman in the cities and large towns, unless it was an old crone."

Women were more visible, he said, in rural areas, where they frequently could be seen working in the fields.

The concept of female inferiority had deep roots in Chinese history.

This view was embodied in the belief that only a male would carry on sacred family rituals and that men alone had the talent to govern others.

Only males could aspire to a career in government or scholarship. Within the family system, the wife was clearly subordinated to the husband. Legally, she could not divorce her husband or inherit property.

The husband, however, could divorce his wife if she did not produce male heirs, or he could take a second wife as well as a concubine for his pleasure.

A widow suffered specially, because she had to either raise her children on a single income or fight off her former husband's greedy relatives, who would coerce her to remarry since, according to the law they would then inherit all of her previous property and her original dowry.

Female children were less desirable because of their limited physical strength and because their parents would be required to pay a dowry to the parents of their future husband Female children normally did not receive an education, and in times of scarcity when food was in short supply, daughters might even be put to death.


At the end of the fifteenth century, the traditional Japanese system was at a point of near anarchy. With the decline in the authority of the Ashikaga shogunate at Kyoto, clan rivalries had exploded into an era of warring states similar to the period of the same name in Zhou dynasty China.

Even at the local level, power was frequently diffuse.

The typical daimyo (great lord) domain had often become little more than a coalition of fief-holders held together by a loose allegiance to the manor lord. Prince Shotoku's dream of a united Japan appeared to be only a distant memory.

In actuality, Japan was on the verge of an extended era of national unification and peace under the rule of its greatest shogunate, the Tokugawa.

The unification of Japan took place almost simultaneously with the coming of the Europeans.

Portuguese traders sailing in a Chinese junk that may have been blown off course by a typhoon had landed on the islands in 1543.

Within a few years, Portuguese ships were stopping at Japanese ports on a regular basis to take part in the regional trade between Japan, China, and Southeast Asia.

The first Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier, arrived in 1549.

Tokugawa Graves

The curious Japanese were fascinated by tobacco, clocks, spectacles, and other European goods, and local daimyo were interested in purchasing all types of European weapons and armaments.

Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi found the new firearms helpful in defeating their enemies and unifying the islands.

The effect on Japanese military architecture was particularly striking as local lords began to erect castles on the European model.

Many of these castles, such as Hideyoshi's castle at Osaka, still exist today.

The missionaries also had some success.

They converted a number of local daimyo, some of whom may have been motivated in part by the desire for commercial profits.

By the end of the sixteenth century, thousands of Japanese in the southernmost islands of Kyushu and Sikoku had become Christians.

One converted daimyo ceded the superb natural harbor of the modern city of Nagasaki to the Society of Jesus, which proceeded to use the new settlement for both missionary and trading purposes.

But papal claims to the loyalty of all Japanese Christians and the European habit of intervening in local politics soon began to arouse suspicion in official circles.

Missionaries added to the problem by deliberately destroying local idols and shrines and turning some temples into Christian schools or churches.

Inevitably, the local authorities reacted. IN 1587, Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued an edict prohibiting further Christian activities within his domains. Japan, he declared, was "the land of the Gods," and the destruction of shrines by the foreigners was "something unheard of in previous ages."

To "corrupt and stir up the lower classes" to commit such sacrileges, he declared, was "outrageous." The parties responsible (the Jesuits) were ordered to leave the country within twenty days.

Hideyoshi was careful to distinguish missionary from trading activities, however, and merchants were permitted to continue their operations.


The long period of peace under the Tokugawa shogunate made possible a dramatic rise in commerce and manufacturing, especially in the growing cities.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Edo, with a population of more than one million, was one of the largest cities in the world. The growth of trade and industry was stimulated by a rising standard of living - driven in part by technological advances in agriculture and an expansion of arable land.

The Daimyo's need for income also contributed as many of them began to promote the sale of local goods from their domains, such as textiles, forestry products, sugar, and sake.

Most of this commercial expansion took place in the major cities and the castle towns, where the merchants and artisans lived along with the samurai, who were clustered in neighborhoods surrounding the daimyo's castle.

Banking flourished and paper money became the normal medium of exchange in commercial transaction.

Merchants formed guilds not only to control market conditions but also to facilitate government control and the collection of taxes.

Under the benign if somewhat contemptuous supervision of Japan's noble rulers, a Japanese merchant class gradually began to emerge from the shadows to play a significant role in the life of the Japanese nation.

Some historians view the Tokugawa era as the first stage in the rise of an indigenous form of capitalism, based loosely on the Western model.


In the late thirteenth century, a new group of Turks under the tribal leader Osman (1280-1326) began to consolidate their power in the northwestern corner of the Anatolian peninsula.

That land had been given to them by the Seljuk rulers as a reward for helping drive out the Mongols in the late thirteenth century.

At first, the Osman Turks were relatively peaceful and engaged in pastoral pursuits, but as the Seljuk empire began to disintegrate in the early fourteenth century, they began to expand and founded the Osmanli (later to be known as Ottoman) dynasty.

A Key advantage for the Ottomans was their location in the northwestern corner of the peninsula. From there they were able to expand westward and eventually control the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, between the Mediterranean and the Black Seas.

The Byzantine Empire, of course, had controlled the area for centuries, serving as a buffer between the Muslim Middle East and the Latin West.

The Byzantines, however, had been severely weakened by the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade (in 1204) and the Western occupation of much of the empire for the next half century.

In 1360, Orkhan was succeeded by his son Murad I, who consolidated Ottoman power in the Balkans, set up a capital at Edirne (modern Adrianople), and gradually reduced the Byzantine emperor to a vassal.

Murad did not initially attempt to conquer Constantinople because his forces were composed mostly of the traditional Turkish cavalry and lacked the ability to breach the strong walls of the city.

Instead, he began to build up a strong military administration based on the recruitment of Christians into an elite guard.

Called Janissaries (from the Turkish yeni cheri, "new troops"), they were recruited from the local Christian population in the Balkans and then converted to Islam and trained as foot soldiers or administrators.

One of the major advantages of the Janissaries was that they were directly subordinated to the sultanate and therefore owed their loyalty to the person of the sultan. Other military forces were organized by the beys and were thus loyal to their local tribal leaders.

The Janissary corps also represented a response to changes in warfare. As the knowledge of firearms spread in the late fourteenth century, the Turks began to master the new technology, including siege cannons and muskets.

The traditional nomadic cavalry charge was now outmoded and was superseded by infantry forces armed with muskets. Thus the Janissaries provided a well-armed infantry who served both as an elite guard to protect the palace and as a means of extending Turkish control in the Balkans.

With his new forces, Murad defeated the Serbs at the famous Battle of Kosovo in 1389 and ended Serbian hegemony in the area.


The last Byzantine emperor desperately called for help from the Europeans, but only the Genoese came to his defense.

With eighty thousand troops ranged against only seven thousand defenders, Mehmet laid siege to Constantinople in 1453.

In their attack on the city, the Turks made use of massive cannons with 26-foot barrels that could launch stone balls weighing up to 1,200 pounds each.

The Byzantines stretched heavy chains across the Golden Horn, the inlet that forms the city's harbor, to prevent a naval attack from the north and prepared to make their final stand behind the 13-mile-long wall along the western edge of the city.

But Mehmet's forces seized the tip of the peninsula north of the Golden Horn and then dragged their ships overland across the peninsula from the Bosporus and put them into the water behind the chains.

Finally, the walls were breached; the Byzantine emperor died in the final battle.

Mehmet II, standing before the palace of the emperor, paused to reflect on the passing nature of human glory.

But it was not long before he and the Ottomans were again on the march.

With their new capital at Constantinople, renamed Istanbul, the Ottoman Turks had become a dominant force in the Balkans and the Anatolian peninsula.


After their conquest of Constantinople in 1543, the Ottoman Turks tried to complete their conquest of the Balkans, where they had been established since the fourteenth century.

Although they were successful in taking the Romanian territory of Wallachia in 1476, the resistance of the Hungarians initially kept the Turks from advancing up the Danube valley

. From 1480 to 1520, internal problems and the need to consolidate their eastern frontiers kept the Turks from any further attacks on Europe.

Suleyman I the Magnificent (1520 - 1566), however, brought the Turks back to Europe's attention.

The Turks overran most of Hungary, moved into Austria, and advanced as far as Vienna, where they were finally repulsed in 1529.

At the same time, they extended their power into the western Mediterranean and threatened to turn it into a Turkish lake until a large Turkish fleet was destroyed by the Spanish at Lepanto in 1571.

Although Europeans frequently called for new Christian Crusades against the "infidel" Turks, the Ottoman Empire was, by the beginning of the seventeenth century, being treated like any other European power by European rulers seeking alliances and trade concessions.

During the first half of the seventeenth century, the Ottoman Empire was a "sleeping giant."

Involved in domestic bloodletting and heavily threatened by a challenge from Persia, the Ottomans were content with the status quo in eastern Europe.

But under a new line of grand vezirs in the second half of the seventeenth century, the Ottoman Empire again took the offensive.

By mid-1683, the Ottomans had marched through the Hungarian plain and laid siege to Vienna,.

Repulsed by a mixed army of Austrians, Poles, Bavarians, and Saxons, the Turks retreated and were pushed out of Hungary by a new European coalition.

Although they retained the core of their empire, the Ottoman Turks would never again be a threat to Europe.

The Turkish empire held together for the rest of the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, but it faced new challenges from the ever-growing Austrian Empire in southeastern Europe and the new Russian giant to the north.


In retrospect, the period from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries can be viewed both as a high point of traditional culture in India and as the first stage of perhaps its greatest challenge.

The era began with the creation of one of the subcontinent's greatest empires, that of the Mughals. Mughal rulers, although foreigners and Muslims, like many of their immediate predecessors, nevertheless brought India to a peak of political power and cultural achievement.

For the first time since the Mauryan dynasty, the entire subcontinent was united under a single government, with a common culture that inspired admiration and envy throughout the entire region.

The Mughals were the last of the great traditional Indian dynasties.

Like so many of their predecessors since the fall of the Guptas nearly a thousand years before, the Mughals were Muslims.

But like the Ottoman Turks, the best Mughal rulers did not simply impose Islamic institutions and beliefs on the predominantly Hindu population; they combined Muslim with Hindu and even Persian concepts and cultural values in a unique social and cultural synthesis that still today seems to epitomize the greatness of Indian civilization.

Women had traditionally played an active role in Mongol tribal society - many actually fought on the battlefield alongside the men - and Babur and his successors often relied on the women in their families for political advise.

Women from aristocratic families were often awarded honorific titles, received salaries, and were permitted to own land and engage in business.

Women at court sometimes received an education, and Emperor Akbar reportedly established a girls school at Fatehpur Sikri to provide teachers for his own daughters.

Aristocratic women often expressed their creative talents by writing poetry, painting or playing music.

To a certain degree, these Mughal attitudes toward women may have had an impact on Indian society.

Women were allowed to inherit land, and some even possessed zamindar rights.

Women from mercantile castes sometimes took an active role in business activities.

At the same time, however, as Muslims, the Mughals subjected women to certain restrictions under Islamic law.

On the whole, these Mughal practices coincided with and even accentuated existing tendencies in Indian society.

The Muslim practice of isolating women and preventing them from associating with men outside the home (purdah) was adopted by many upper-class Hindus as a means of enhancing their status or protecting their women from unwelcome advances by Muslims in positions of authority.

In other ways, Hindu practices were unaffected.

The custom of sati continued to be practiced despite efforts by the Mughas to abolish it, and child marriage (most women were betrothed before the age of ten) remained common.

Women were still instructed to obey their husbands without question and to remain chaste.


After the Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the Seven Years' War, the British government faced two imperial problems.

The first was the sheer cost of empire, which the British felt they could no longer carry alone.

The second was that the defeat of the French required the British to organize a vast expanse of new territory: all of North America east of the Mississippi, with its French settlers and, more important, its Indian possessors.

The political ideas of the American colonists had largely arisen from the struggle of seventeenth-century English aristocrats and gentry against the absolutism of the Stuart monarchs.

The American colonists believed that the English Revolution of 1688 had established many of their own fundamental political liberties.

The colonists claimed that, through the measures imposed from 1763 to 1776, George III (r.1760-1820) and the British Parliament were attacking those liberties and dissolving the bonds of moral and political allegiance that had formerly united the two peoples.

Consequently, the colonists employed a theory that had originally been developed to justify an aristocratic rebellion in England to support their own popular revolution.

These Whig political ideas, largely derived from John Locke (1632-1704), were only a part of the English ideological heritage that affected the Americans.

Throughout the eighteenth century they had become familiar with a series of British political writers called the Commonwealthmen.

These writers held republican political ideas that had their intellectual roots in the most radical thought of the Puritan revolution.

They had relentlessly criticized the government patronage and parliamentary management of Robert Walpole (1676-1745) and his successors.

They argued that such government was corrupt and that it undermined liberty.

They regarded much parliamentary taxation as simply a means of financing political corruption.

They also attacked standing armies as instruments of tyranny. In Great Britain this republican political tradition had only a marginal impact.

Most Britons regarded themselves as the freest people in the world. In the colonies, however, these radical books and pamphlets were read widely and were often accepted at face value.

The policy of Great Britain toward America after the Treaty of Paris made many colonists believe that the worst fears of the Commonwealthmen were coming true.


Historians have long held that the modern history of Europe began with two significant transformations - the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Accordingly, the French Revolution has been portrayed as the major turning point in European political and social history when the institutions of the "old regime" were destroyed and a new order was created based on individual rights, representative institutions, and a concept of loyalty to the nation rather than the monarch.

This perspective has certain limitations, however.

France was only one of a number of places in the Western world where the assumptions of the old order were challenged.

Although some historians have used the phrase "democratic revolution" to refer to the upheavals of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is probably more appropriate to speak not of a democratic movement but of a liberal movement to extend political rights and power to the bourgeoisie "possessing capital," people not of the aristocracy who were literate and had become wealthy through capitalist enterprises in trade, industry, and finance.

The years preceding and accompanying the French Revolution included attempts at reform and revolt in the North American colonies, Britain, the Dutch Republic, some Swiss cities, and the Austrian Netherlands.

Not all of the decadent privileges that characterized the old European regime were destroyed in 1789, however.

The revolutionary upheaval of the era, especially in France, did create new liberal and national political ideals, summarized in the French revolutionary slogan, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," that transformed France and were then spread to other European countries through the conquests of Napoleon.


The Scientific Revolution represents a major turning point in modern Western civilization

. In the Scientific Revolution, the Western world overthrew the medieval, Ptolemaic-Aristotelian worldview and arrived at a new conception of the universe: the sun at the center, the planets as material bodies revolving around the sun in elliptical orbits, and an infinite rather than finite world.

With the changes in the conception of heaven came changes in the conception of earth.

The work of Bacon and Descartes left Europeans with the separation of mind and matter and the belief that by using only reason, they could in fact understand and dominate the world of nature.

The development of a scientific method furthered the work of scientists, and the creation of scientific societies and learned journals spread its results.

Although traditional churches stubbornly resisted the new ideas and a few intellectuals pointed to some inherent flaws, nothing was able to halt the replacement of the traditional ways of thinking by new ways that created a more fundamental break with the past than that represented by the breakup of Christian unity in the Reformation.

The Scientific Revolution forced Europeans to change their conception of themselves.

At first, some were appalled and even frightened by its implications.

Formerly, humans on earth had been at the center of the universe.

Now the earth was only a tiny planet revolving around a sun that was itself only a speck in a boundless universe. Most people remained optimistic despite the apparent blow to human dignity.

After all, had Newton not demonstrated that the universe was a great machine governed by natural laws?

Newton had found one - the universal law of gravitation.

Could others not find other laws? Were there not natural laws governing every aspect of human endeavor that could be found by the new scientific method?

Thus the Scientific Revolution leads us logically to the age of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century.


In 1784, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant defined the Enlightenment as "man's leaving his self-caused immaturity."

Whereas earlier periods had been handicapped by the inability to "use one's intelligence without the guidance of another," Kant proclaimed as the motto of the Enlightenment: "Dare to Know! Have the courage to use your own intelligence!"

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment was a movement of intellectuals who dared to know. They were greatly impressed with the accomplishments of the Scientific Revolution, and when they used the word reason - one of their favorite words - they were advocating the application of the scientific method to an understanding of all life.

All institutions and all systems of thought were subject to the rational, scientific way of thinking if people would only free themselves from the shackles of past, worthless traditions, especially religious ones.

If Isaac Newton could discover the natural laws regulating the world of nature, they too by using reason could find the laws that governed human society.

This belief in turn led them to hope that they could make progress toward a better society than the one they had inherited.

Reason, natural law, hope, progress - these were common words in the heady atmosphere of the eighteenth century.


The Industrial Revolution initiated a quantum leap in industrial production.

New sources of energy and power, especially coal and steam, replaced wind and water to create laborsaving machines that dramatically decreased the use of human and animal labor and at the same time increased the level of productivity.

In turn, power machinery called for new ways of organizing human labor to maximize the benefits and profits from the new machines; factories replaced shop and home workrooms.

Many early factories were dreadful places with difficult working conditions.

Reformers, appalled at these conditions, were especially critical of the treatment of married women.

One reported: "We have repeatedly seen married females, in the last stage of pregnancy, slaving from morning to night beside these never-tiring machines, and when ... they were obliged to sit down to take a moment's ease, and being seen by the manager, were fined for the offense."

But there were other examples of well-run factories.

William Cobbett described one in Manchester in 1830: "In this room, which is lighted in the most convenient and beautiful manner, there were five hundred pairs of looms at work, and five hundred persons attending those looms; and, owing to the goodness of the masters, the whole looking healthy and well-dressed."

During the Industrial Revolution, Europe experienced a shift from a traditional, labor-intensive economy based on farming and handicrafts to a more capital-intensive economy based on manufacturing by machines, specialized labor, and industrial factories.

Although the Industrial Revolution took decades to spread, it was truly revolutionary in the way it fundamentally changed Europeans, their society, and their relationship to other peoples.

The development of large factories encouraged mass movements of people from the countryside to urban areas where impersonal coexistence replaced the traditional intimacy of rural life.

Higher levels of productivity led to a search for new sources of raw materials, new consumption patterns, and a revolution in transportation that allowed raw materials and finished products to be moved quickly around the world.

The creation of a wealthy industrial middle class and a huge industrial working class (or proletariat) substantially transformed traditional social relationships.


In the first half of the nineteenth century, liberals had maintained that the organization of European states along national lines would lead to a peaceful Europe based on a sense of international fraternity.

They were very wrong.

The system of nation-states that had emerged in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century led not to cooperation but to competition.

Rivalries over colonial and commercial interests intensified during an era of frenzied imperialist expansion while the division of Europe's great powers into loose alliances (Germany, Austria, and Italy versus France, Great Britain, and Russia) only adds to the tensions.

The series of crises that tested these alliances in the 1900's and early 1910s had left European states with the belief that their allies were important and that their security depended on supporting those allies, even when they took foolish risks.

The growth of nationalism in the nineteenth century had yet another serious consequence.

Not all ethnic groups had achieved the goal of nationhood.

Slavic minorities in the Balkans and the polyglot Habsburg empire, for example, still dreamed of creating their own national states.

So did the Irish in the British Empire and the Poles in the Russian Empire.

National aspirations, however, were not the only source of internal strife at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Socialist labor movements had grown more powerful and were increasingly inclined to use strikes, even violent ones, to achieve their goals.

Some conservative leaders, alarmed at the increase in labor strife and class division, even feared that European nations were on the verge of revolution.

Did these statesmen opt for war in 1914 because they believed that "prosecuting and active foreign policy," as one leader expressed it, would smother "internal troubles"?

Some historians have argued that the desire to suppress internal disorder may have encouraged some leaders to take the plunge into war in 1914.

The growth of large mass armies after 1900 not only heightened the existing tensions in Europe but made it inevitable that if war did come, it would be highly destructive.

Conscription had been established as a regular practice in most Western countries before 1914 (the United States and Britain were major exceptions).

European military machines had doubled in size between 1890 and 1914.

With its 1.3 million men, the Russian army had grown to be the largest, while the French and Germans were not far behind with 900,000 each.

The British, Italian and Austrian armies numbered between 250,000 and 500,000 soldiers each.

Militarism, however, involved more than just large armies. As armies grew, so did the influence of military leaders, who drew up vast and complex plans for quickly mobilizing millions of men and enormous quantities of supplies in the event of war.

Fearful that changes in these plans would cause chaos in the armed forces, military leaders insisted that their plans could not be altered.

In the crises during the summer of 1914, the generals' lack of flexibility forced European political leaders to make decisions for military instead of political reasons.


Before 1914, many political leaders had become convinced that war involved so many political and economic risks that it was not worth fighting.

Others had believed that "rational" diplomats could control any situation and prevent the outbreak of war.

At the beginning of August 1914, both of these prewar illusions were shattered, but the new illusions that replaced them soon proved to be equally foolish.

Europeans went to war in 1914 with remarkable enthusiasm.

Government propaganda had been successful in stirring up national antagonisms before the war.

Now in August 1914, the urgent pleas of governments for defense against aggressors fell on receptive ears in every belligerent nation.

Most people seemed genuinely convinced that their nation's cause was just.

A new set of illusions also fed the enthusiasm for war.

Almost everyone in August 1914 believed that the war would be over in a few weeks.

People were reminded that all European wars since 1815 had in fact ended in a matter of weeks, conveniently ignoring the American Civil War (1861-1865), which was the "real prototype" for World War I.

Both the soldiers who exuberantly boarded the trains for the war front in August 1914 and the jubilant citizens who bombarded them with flowers when they departed believed that the warriors would be home by Christmas.

German hopes for a quick end to the war rested on a military gamble.

The Schlieffen plan had called for the German army to make a vast encircling movement through Belgium into northern France that would sweep around Paris and encircle most of the French army.

But the German advance was halted only 20 miles from Paris at the first Battle of the Marne (September 6-10).

The war quickly turned into a stalemate - neither the Germans nor the French could dislodge each other from the trenches they had begun to dig for shelter.

Two lines of trenches soon extended from the English Channel to the frontiers of Switzerland. The Western Front had become bogged down in trench warfare that kept both sides immobilized in virtually the same positions for four years.

Link:  Informative World War I


On the outbreak of the First World War, Serbia had an army of 360,000 men.

During 1914, the Serbian Army resisted three successive Austro-Hungarian offensives.

However it virtually exhausted the Army's manpower and it was forced to recruit men over sixty.

The army also accepted women, including the British nurse Flora Sandes.





On the outbreak of the First World War, Flora Sandes joined an ambulance unit in Serbia on the Eastern Front.

Although nearly forty years old, in December 1916, was promoted to the rank of sergeant-major.

After the war, Sandes remained in the Serbian Army and had reached the rank of major by the time she retired.


Arms And The Boy

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade

How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood:

Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash:

And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-leads

Which long to nuzzle in the hearts of lads,

Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,

Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

-Wilfred Owen-

Field of French and German Dead

German Cemetery at Bethune

British dead in a captured trench

What were the different types of trenches?

Front line: Took the main force of enemy attacks

Reserve line: If the Front Line looked like being overwhelmed, then the troops in the reserve trenches could be used to support them.

Sap/Fire Trenches: went into no-man's land. All trenches were linked by communication trenches.

Each trench, 10 feet deep, half way up was a ledge called the fire step where people would shoot from. They would look over the top with a periscope normally.

They would sleep in holes into the sides of the trench called dugouts.

The Trench System

Troops usually spend eight days in the front line, followed by four in the reserve.


In World war I, France was using dogs in action on a more sophisticated scale than ever before, training them to search for wounded men.

Other nations followed France's lead. The British used dogs as messengers.

By 1915, the Germans six thousand war dogs had rescued more than four thousand wounded men. From 1914 to 1918 more than seven thousand dogs were killed in action.

Known as "Red Cross Dogs", during World war I, most every country utilized dogs to aid with the battlefield wounded.

These dogs were trained and specialized in seeking out wounded and bypassing dead soldiers.

Strapped to their bodies, the dogs carried water canteens and small amounts of medical supplies. If the wounded man was unconscious or unable to move, the dog would return to his handler, usually taking something belonging to the soldier, and lead a rescue team back.

These dogs, although under heavy fire, were also trained not to bark so as to alert the enemy of their location.

Tending a wounded Red Cross Dog

Bloodhounds used to search for wounded soldiers

Dog wearing a message tube

War Dogs in training

French dogs and handlers

A dog wearing a gas mask

Battle of the Somme; World War I

The Battle of the Somme is a famous conflict of the First World War, in which the British Expeditionary Force and the French army attempted to take the strong defensive position held by the Germans in the Somme valley.

The French commander had persuaded his British counterpart, Douglas Haig to go ahead with the plan, believing that if successful it would relieve pressure on the French army at Verdun.

In addition he believed that they would be able to inflict heavy losses on the German army, weakening them sufficiently to win the war.

Haig knew that the Germans had a very thorough defense, but he believed that it would be possible to weaken it considerably.

So, in the last week of June 1916, the British Expeditionary Force began bombarding the German positions with shells.

To get an idea of how heavy an attack it was, consider that more than one and a half million shells rained down on the Germans in eight days.

This attack was designed to smash the German concrete bunkers, and obliterate the lines of razor wire set up for protection.

On the morning of July 1, the shelling stopped and the British troops confidently set out into no man's land, expecting to meet little resistance from the supposedly battered opponents.

They walked in orderly lines as instructed and made their way to the enemy positions with a confidence instilled by the positive propaganda of their own commanders.

However, Haig's theory was way off mark.

The German bunkers were dug especially deep and were unaffected by the bombardment.

Also, the razor wire that was to be blown to smithereens had merely been thrown in the air, returning to land in an even more tangled, menacing state.

In their preparations the Germans had added more razor wire to the mass, making it nigh on impossible to find a way through.

When the shelling stopped, the Germans scrambled to their posts. Machine guns and rifles were all positioned in an arc, covering the entirety of no man's land.

As the British advanced, their enemy let rip with all its might, mowing them down like grass. The Brits didn’t stand a chance.

Most of those not killed in that first wave of bullets became stuck in the vicious razor wire, sitting ducks for the subsequent barrage.

Of the few that managed to breach the defense, they were forced to fight desperate battles, in the fading hope that reinforcements would soon arrive.

In that morning alone, the British suffered sixty thousand casualties, twenty thousand of which died. Of the survivors, many had arms, legs or even parts of their face blown off and the field hospitals had to perform many amputations.

Haig though, as seemed typical of the high command during the Great War, was unconcerned with this huge loss of life.

He ordered that the attack continued.

Over the next four months, the combined efforts of the British and French could only muster small gains, positions that were never held for very long due to a lack of reinforcements, and the huge depth of the German defenses, stretching back twenty kilometers.

The most notable ‘victories’ for them in this battle came thirteen days after the initial push, when they momentarily breached the line of defense, and on the 13th November when they captured the fortress at Beaumont Hamel.

This last victory was short lived though.

Heavy snow forced the Allied Forces to retreat, and soon afterwards, because of the terrible weather, Haig called an end to the Battle of the Somme.

The biggest distance gained in the battle was one of a mere twelve kilometers.

All in all, it is estimated that the British suffered 420,000 casualties, the French 200,000, and the Germans 500,000.

It could be argued that the battle was successful from a British point of view, because one of their objectives was to inflict heavy losses on the German army.

But the way, in which it was achieved, with the colossal sacrifice of human lives has made the Battle of the Somme a terrible tragedy in Britain's history.

Film Battle of Somme


In 1919, experimental political regimes studded the map of Europe.

From Ireland to Russia, new governments were seeking to gain the active support of their citizens and to solve the grievous economic problems the war had caused.

In the Soviet Union, the Bolsheviks regarded themselves as forging a new kind of civilization, one built on achieving communism. To that end, they constructed a vast authoritarian state apparatus.

Along with the move toward political experimentation and the demands for revision of the new international order, there existed a widespread desire to return to the economic prosperity of the prewar years.

During the Great War, Europeans had turned the military and industrial power that they had created during the previous century against themselves.

What had been "normal" in economic and social life before 1914 could not be reestablished.

The casualties from the war numbered in the millions.

This represented not only a waste of human life and talent, but also the loss of producers and consumers.

Another casualty of the conflict was the financial dominance and independence of Europe.

In 1914, Europe had been the financial and credit center of the world. By 1918, European states were deep in debt to each other and to the United States.

The Bolsheviks had repudiated the debt of the tsarist governments, much of which was owed to French creditors.

The Paris settlement had imposed heavy financial obligations on Germany and its allies. The United States refused to ask reparations from Germany, but did demand repayment of war debts from its own allies.

On one hand, the reparation and debt structure meant no nation was fully in control of its own economic life. On the other hand, the absence of international economic cooperation meant that, more than ever, individual nations felt compelled to pursue or to try to pursue selfish, nationalistic economic aims.

It was perhaps the worst of all possible international economic worlds.

International trade also followed novel patterns.

The United States became less dependent on European production and was now a major competitor.

During the war, the belligerents had been forced to sell many of their investments on other continents to finance the conflict.

As a consequence, European dominance over the world economy weakened.

Slow postwar economic growth or even the decline of economic activity within colonies or former colonies lowered the international demand for European goods.

The United States and Japan began to penetrate markets in Latin American and Asia that European producers and traders had dominated.

1920s - AMERICA

The First World War had been good for the American economy.

American industries had emerged intact, even strengthened, from the war.

The war needs of the Allies had created an insatiable demand for American goods and capital.

Manufacturers and bankers had exported so many goods and extended so many loans to the Allies that by war's end, the United States was the world's leading creditor nation. New York City challenged London as the hub of world finance.

At home, the government had helped large corporations and banks to consolidate their power.

Corporate America had responded by raising productivity and efficiency to new heights through advances in technology and management.

In the 1920s however, growth rested more on consumer goods. Some products, such as cars and telephones, had been available since the early 1900s, but in the 1920s their sales reached new levels.

In 1920, just 12 years after Ford introduced the Model T, 8 million cars were on the road. By 1929, there were 27 million - one for every five Americans.

Other consumer goods became available for the first time: tractors, washing machines, refrigerators, electric irons, radios, and vacuum cleaners.

The term "consumer durable" was coined to describe such goods, which, unlike food, clothing and other perishables, were meant to last.

Even perishables took on new allure. Scientists had discovered the importance of vitamins in the diet and began urging Americans to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables.

The agricultural economy of southern California grew rapidly as urban demand for the region's fresh fruits and vegetables skyrocketed.

Improvements in refrigeration and in packaging meanwhile, allowed fresh produce to travel long distances and extended its shelf life in grocery stores.

And more stores were being operated by large grocery chains that could afford the latest refrigeration and packaging technology.

The public responded to these innovations with excitement.

American industry had made fresh food and stylish clothes available to the masses. Refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines would spare women the drudgery of housework. Radios would expand the public's cultural horizons.

Cars, asphalt roads, service stations, hot dog stands, "tourist cabins" and traffic lights seemed to herald a wholly new automobile civilization. By the middle of the decade, the country possessed a network of paved roads.

City dwellers now had easy access to rural areas and made a ritual of day-long excursions.

Camping trips and long-distance vacations became routine.

Farmers and their families could now hop into their cars and head for the nearest town with its stores, movies, amusement parks, and sporting events.

Suburbs proliferated, billed as the perfect mix of urban and rural life.

The Great World Depression


Many Americans who lived through the Great Depression could never forget the scenes of misery they saw everywhere.

In cities, the poor meekly awaited their turn for a piece of stale bread and thin gruel at ill-funded soup kitchens.

Scavengers poked through garbage cans for food, scoured railroad tracks for coal that had fallen from trains, and sometimes ripped up railroad ties for fuel.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans built makeshift shelters out of cardboard, scrap metal, and whatever else they could find in the city dump.

The called their towns "Hoovervilles," after the president whom they despised for his apparent refusal to help them.

The Great Depression brought cultural crisis as well as economic crisis.

In the 1920s, American business leaders had successfully redefined the national culture in business terms, as Americans' values became synonymous with the values of business: economic growth, freedom of enterprise, and acquisitiveness.

But the swagger and bluster of American businessmen during the 1020s made them vulnerable to attack in the 1930s, as jobs, incomes, and growth all disappeared.

With the prestige of business and business values in decline, how could Americans regain their hope and recover their confidence in the future?

The first years of the 1930s held no convincing answers.


Unleashing a Blitzkrieg or "lightning war," Hitler stunned Europe with the speed and efficiency of the German attack.

Armored columns or panzer divisions (a panzer division was a strike force of about three hundred tanks, with accompanying troops and supplies) supported by airplanes broke quickly through Polish lines and encircled the bewildered Polish troops.

Regular infantry units then moved in to hold the newly conquered territory. Within four weeks, Poland had surrender.

On September 28, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union officially divided Poland between them.

German Attack on Holland

After the fall of Belgium, Holland and France in 1940, Hitler expected the British to come to terms.

He was prepared to allow Britain to retain its empire in return for a free hand for Germany in Europe.

If there was any chance that the British would consider such terms, that chance disappeared when Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister in May of 1940.

As Britain remained defiant, Hitler was forced to contemplate an invasion, which required control of the air. Hitler had given his general staff new secret orders:

"Since England, in spite of her military hopeless position, shows no signs of coming to terms, I have decided to prepare a landing operation against England, and if necessary to carry it out...

The preparations for the entire operation must be completed by mid-August." Plans for what the Germans called Operation Sea-Lion.

The German high command realized that a successful invasion of England required air superiority over the Channel.

Day after day, night after night as many as 1,800 on a single attack German bombers and fighter escorts streamed across the Channel to bomb British ports, airfields, and factories.

In early September, seeking revenge for British bombing raids on German cities, the Luftwaffe made London its major target.

For two months, London was bombed every night. Much of the city was destroyed, and about 15,000 people were killed.

However, the Royal Air Force, aided by the newly developed radar and an excellent system of communications, inflicted heavy losses on the Luftwaffe.

Hitler lost the Battle of Britain in the air and was forced to abandon his plans for invasion.


In December 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the war against Japan and its allies, Germany and Italy. In many ways , the U.S. entry into World War II and its later decisive role in it was similar to what had occurred in World War I.

As the oppressive nature of the German occupation regime in Europe became known to the American public, opinion began running strongly in support of London and against Berlin.

Thus, the attack on Pearl Harbor only accelerated a process that was already under way toward the entry of the United States into the conflict.

Although the American peacetime military was very small and poorly equipped, U.S. industrial resources were immense and played the same important role that they had in 1917 - 1918.

Neither Japan nor Germany had the wherewithal to hold out indefinitely against this power. In an economic sense, the outcome of the war was decided as early as December 1941.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the secretary of war to define restricted areas and remove civilian residents who were threats to national security.

The targets were 110,000 Japanese Americans whom the army expelled from parts of Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona in the spring of 1942.

Those who had not moved voluntarily were sent to relocations camps in the West and Southwest. Most evacuees left businesses and property that they were powerless to protect.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court sanctioned the removals in Korematsu v. United States (1944), the nation officially recognized its liability with the Japanese Claims Act of 1948 and its broader moral responsibility in 1988, when Congress approved redress payments to each of the sixty thousand surviving evacuees.


In the last months of 1944, massive air strikes finally reduced German war production. The new American P-51 escort fighter helped B-17 bombers overfly Germany in relative safety after mid-1944.

Thousand bomber raids on railroads and oil facilities began to cripple the German economy. The raids also forced Germany to devote 2.5 million workers to air defense and damage repair.

Politics rather than military need governed the final great action of the European air war.

British and U.S. bombers in February 1945 staged a terror raid on the nonindustrial city of Dresden, packed with refugees, filled with great art, and undefended by the Germans; a firestorm fueled by incendiary bombs and rubble from blasted buildings killed tens of thousands of civilians without military justification.

Hitler struck a last blow on December 16, 1944.

Stripping the Eastern Front of armored units, he launched twenty-five divisions against thinly held U.S. positions in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium.

He hoped to split U.S. and British forces by capturing the Belgian port of Antwerp. Taking advantage of snow and fog that grounded Allied aircraft, the Germans drove a 50 mile bulge into U.S. lines.

But the German thrust literally ran out of gas beyond the town of Bastogne.

The Battle of the Bulge never seriously threatened the outcome of the war.

The Nazi empire collapsed in the spring of 1945.

American and British divisions crossed the Rhine in March and enveloped Germany's industrial core.

The Soviets drove through eastern Germany toward Berlin. On April 25, American and Red Army troops met on the Elbe River.

Hitler committed suicide on April 30 in his concrete bunker deep under devastated Berlin, which surrendered to the Soviets on May 2.

The Nazi state formally capitulated on May 8.

Read the following links:

Aftermath of the War in Europe

Berlin at the end of World War II - Site not found

Overall site World War II

Washington divided responsibilities in the Pacific theater.

General Douglas Mac Arthur operated in the islands that stretched between Australia and the Philippines.

Admiral Chester Nimitz commanded in the central Pacific. The Allies planned to isolate Japan from its southern conquests.

The British moved from India to retake Burma. The Americans advanced along the islands of the southern Pacific to retake the Philippines.

With Japan's army still tied down in China, the Americans then planned to bomb Japan into submission.

The Pacific campaigns of 1944, often called island hopping, were the American naval version of the Blitzkrieg.

Planes from American carriers controlled the air, allowing the navy and land forces to isolate and capture the most strategically located Japanese-held islands while bypassing the rest.

Racial hatred animated both sides in the Pacific war and fueled a "war without mercy." Americans often characterized Japanese soldiers as vermin.

In turn, the Japanese viewed Americans as racial mongrels and called them demons.

Pacific Naval Battles World war II

Enola Gay

"My God what have we done?" -Robert Lewis co-pilot of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb.

The clock stopped at 8:15AM, the moment the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima.

This bronze Buddha was melted by heat from the Hiroshima bomb. Bronze melts at around 1600 degrees F.

The temperature on the ground beneath the exploding Hiroshima bomb reached about 7000 degrees.

Hiroshima after the atomic bomb.

Account of the Hiroshima Bombing

China's Revolution

In 1915 Ch'en Tu-hsiu launched "New Youth," a magazine that played a role in the intellectual revolution of early twentieth-century China comparable to the pamphlets of Thomas Paine in the American Revolution. In his magazine Ch'en placed the blame for Chinese ills on the teachings of Confucius. He called for a generation of progressive, cosmopolitan, and scientific youth who would uphold the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity. With a circulation of up to sixteen thousand copies, the journal provided a forum where students in all parts of the country could discuss issues.

In the lead essay of "New Youth", "Call to Youth," Ch'en championed the young as China's saviors.

The Chinese compliment others by saying, "He acts like an old man while still young." Englishmen and Americans encourage one another by saying, "Keep young while growing old." Such is one respect in which the different ways of though of the East and West are manifested. Youth is like early spring, like the rising sun, like trees and grass in bud, like a newly sharpened blade. It is the most valuable period of life. The function of youth in society is the same as that of a fresh and vital cell in a human man body. In the processes of metabolism, the old and rotten are incessantly eliminated to be replaced by the fresh and living.

The May Fourth Movement

As the May Fourth Movement developed, ideas propounded in Peking quickly spread to the rest of china, especially to its urban centers. Protest demonstrations against imperialist privilege broke out in Shanghai, Wuhan, and Canton, as they had in the capital. Nationalism and anti-imperialist sentiments were stronger than liberalism, although few thinkers did not speak of democracy. During the period from 1917 to 1921, intellectual discussion and emphasis on individualism and achieving individual goals reached its greatest point of any time in modern China's history. The absence of a powerful state structure and the wide-open search for a new social, political, and ideological way created a liberating context for the young. But most important was the rebellion of youths, both male and female, against the cultural shackles of patriarchy and family authority. Liberation from that system, when it could come, promised to bring individual emancipation, the expression of individual wills, and the realization of individual desires.

The May Fourth Movement

The New Culture Movement is part of the May Fourth Movement, a range of political and cultural activities that can be dates from the founding of "New Youth" in 1915 to 1914, and that, taken together, can be considered a cultural revolution. It takes its name from a student demonstration in Beijing on May 4, 1919, an incident fueled by nationalistic fervor that substantially changed the direction of the whole cultural revolution movement. Prompted by the Allied decision to allow the Japanese to retain control of Shandong, the incident was the beginning of a marked increase in the politicization and political involvement of students.

Ten thousand attempted to march in demonstration in the city of Beijing on May 7, 1919. The Shanghai Student Union launched a boycott against japanese goods. The demonstrations and boycott culminated in a general strike that began on June 5. Its goal, to try to force the Chinese delegation at Versailles to refuse to sign the peace treaty. The trump card of the Shanghai general strike was that the city was the economic heart of the Republic of China and that a long general strike could bring an already weak economy to its knees. Bankers were warning the government that "the financial market cannot be maintained tomorrow, if the problem is not solved today."

On June 6 industrial workers joined the strike, first printers, then textile workers, and, most important, streetcar workers, whose participation paralyzed the city. The strike continued until June 12 when it was learned that the three offending pro-Japanese officials had been dismissed. Demonstrations continued to punctuate city life until the announcement came on July 2 that the delegation at Versailles had refused to sign the treaty.

Poster May Fourth Movement

Significant as that point was, that the Chinese delegation was asserting China as a nation in a forceful way, even more important on the domestic front was that political victory had gone to the people through the efforts of the student unions and those involved in the general strike. In cities, the movement was really a mass protest by students, the urban professional class (journalists, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and engineers), leaders and managers of business and industry, shopkeepers, and the urban working class. Acting together, they had forced the government to change its positions, not only to oust the officials that it had in the beginning strongly supported but also to refuse to sign the treaty.

= = = =

Sun Yet-sen

Dr. Sun Yat-sen

By 1920, central authority had almost ceased to exist in China. Two competing political forces now began to emerge from the chaos. One was Sun Yat-sen's Nationalist Party.

Sun sought international assistance to carry out his national revolution.

The other was the CCP that found its support among a group of young radicals, including several faculty and staff members from Peking University in 1921.

In 1923, the two parties formed an alliance to oppose the warlords and drive the imperialist powers out of China.

But tensions between the two parties surfaced by 1926. Sun Yat-sen had died of cancer in 1925 and was succeeded as head of the Nationalist party by Chiang Kai-Shek.

Chiang feigned support for the alliance with the Communists but actually planned to destroy them.

In April 1927, he struck against the Communists and their supporters in Shanghai, killing thousands. After the massacre, most of the Communist leaders went into hiding in the city, where they attempted to revive the movement in its traditional base among the urban working class.

Communist organizer Mao Zedong, fled to the hilly areas south of the Yangtze River.

Chiang Kai-Sheck, Roosevelt and Churchill in Cairo Egypt (Nov 25, 1943)

Chiang Kai-shek, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill

Unlike most CCP leaders, Mao was convinced that the chinese revolution must be based on the impoverished peasants in the countryside. The son of a prosperous peasant, Mao had helped organize a peasant movement in southern China during the early 1920's and then served as as agitator in rural villages in his native province of Hunan in the fall of 1926.

In 1934 the Communists were forced to abandon their mountain base and flee to the southwest and then north to Shensi province in northwestern China. Of the 90,000 troops that set out on this epic "Long March" of 6,000 miles, only 20,000 survived. It was during this march that Mao wrested control of the CCP and established his unorthodox view that a revolutionary Leninist party could base itself on the peasantry.


Powerpoint: China's Identity 1945 - 1949 (under construction)

Powerpoint: Defeat Chiang & Nationalist (under construction)

KMT Troops

In 1937 the KMT controlled most of China and was recognized as its government, whereas the CCP survivors of the Long March had just begun to rebuild their strength in Shensi, an area too remote for Chiang's army to penetrate. But by 1949 CCP forces had conquered China and Chiang and the KMT had been forced to flee to Taiwan. What happened, the war with Japan was the key event.

For the Communists, the Japanese occupation was an opportunity. Headquarter at Yenan, they consolidated their base in Shensi province. They began campaigns to promote literacy and production drives to promote self-sufficiency. Soldiers farmed so as not to burden the peasants. The CCP abandoned its earlier policy of expropriating lands in favor of reductions in rents and interest. This change led to the American view that the CCP were not Communists but agrarian reformers. They took only those provincial and county offices needed to ensure their control. Party membership expanded from 40,000 in 1937 to 1.2 million in 1945. Schools were established in Yenan to train party cadres, Mao's thought was supreme.

Chiang Kai-shek's government had little success in dealing with China's deep seated economic and social problems. Fearing Communist influence, Chiang repressed all opposition and censored free expression, thereby alienating many intellectuals and political moderates. Since the urban middle class and landed gentry were his natural political constituency, he shunned programs that would lead to a redistribution of wealth.

CCP Troops

By 1946, full-scale war between the Nationalist government and the Communists resumed. In the countryside, millions of peasants, attracted to the Communists by promises of land and social justice, flocked to serve in Mao's cause. By 1948, the CCP was advancing south out of Manchuria and had encircled Beijing. Communist troops took the old imperial capital, crossed the yangtze the following spring, and occupied Shanghai. During the next few months, Chiang's government and two million of his followers fled to Taiwan.

Gate of Heavenly Peace

Mao Zedong stood triumph on the Gate of Heavenly Peace to announce the establishment of the People's republic of China on October 1, 1949. In China apprehension was mixed with anticipation. The disciplined, well-behaved soldiers of the "Peoples Liberation Army" were certainly a contrast to those of the KMT. As villages were liberated, lands were taken from landlords and given to the landless. In the cities crowds welcomed the CCP troops as liberators. The feeling was widespread that the future of China was once again in the hands of the Chinese.

Because Mao Zedong dominated the People's Republic of China from its founding until his death in 1976, it is important to survey his thought for those ideas and practices that seemed to have special significance for his approaches and policies. One of his most significant emphases was voluntarism, "that properly motivated people could overcome virtually any material odds to accomplish their goals." It was a strong conviction that the people could exercise willpower to change their world. Traditional Chinese social thought, in contrast, had emphasized that a major force in all lives was fate. One was fated to be born male or female, rich or poor, to be married to this or that individual, to live in this place or that. One must then accept that fate with resignation.

Through a number of large-scale construction projects and by a wide variety of forceful and positive changes brought by the Communist regime in its first eight years, Mao had brought this new view of human capabilities into the Chinese social, political, and natural worlds. In terms of practical policies, Mao looked to the mass line and mass campaigns as structures through which to mobilize the willpower of the people. The problem, is that sometimes Mao's "revolutionary romanticism" had a way of soaring out of control with little grounding in reality.

If Mao placed great faith in the "people", he had nothing but hatred and loathing for intellectuals. Mao's strong anti-intellectualism was directed against not only scholars, writers, and journalists but scientists, engineers, and doctors as well. He chalked up the problems of late imperial China to intellectuals who were products of the civil service examination and who were in charge of sate and society. Further, intellectuals, were usually city based elite's who in many cases had been enemies during the revolution. They had none of the practical sense of the "people," yet they glorified in their presumed superiority, putting on airs and demeaning the masses. Mao also thought that they constantly raised nit-picking objections to his programs and policies. His opposition to intellectuals seriously affected developments in the People's republic.

Another of Mao's preeminent concerns was the crucial nature of ideology. To be ideologically correct ("red" or Communist) was absolutely essential. For only ideological correctness would carry the revolution on a successful conclusion. The core value regarding class was class struggle, which Mao believed would mark society until Communism was attained.

The first eight years of the People's Republic are generally seen as being the most successful period of Communist rule under Mao's control.

Mao the Theorist


During the mid-1950s, China sought to build contacts with the nonsocialist world. A cease-fire agreement brought the Korean War to an end in July 1953, and China signaled its desire to live in peaceful coexistence with other independent countries in the region.


But a relatively minor conflict now began to intensify on China's southern flank, in French Indochina. The struggle had begun after World War II, when Ho Chi Minh's Indochinese Communist Party, at the head of a multiparty nationalist alliance called the Vietminh Front, seized power in northern and central Vietnam after the surrender of imperial Japan. After abortive negotiations between Ho's government and the returning French, war broke out in December 1946. French forces occupied the cities and the densely populated lowlands, while the Vietminh took refuge in the mountains.


For three years, the Vietminh gradually increased in size and effectiveness. What had begun as an anti colonial struggle by Ho's Vietminh Front against the French after World War II became entangled in the Cold War in the early 1950s, when both the United States and the new Communist government in China began to intervene in the conflict to promote their own national security objectives. China began to provide military assistance to the Vietminh to protect its own borders from hostile forces. The Americans supported the French but pressured the French government to prepare for an eventual transition to non-Communist governments in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

At the Geneva Conference in 1954, with the French public tired of fighting the "dirty war" in Indochina, the French agreed to a peace settlement with the Vietminh. Vietnam was temporarily divided into a northern communist half (known as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) and a non-Communist southern half based in Saigon (eventually to be known as the Republic of Vietnam). Elections were to be held in two years to create a unified government. Cambodia and Laos were both declared independent under neutral governments.

Geneva Conference 1954

China had played an active role in bringing about the settlement and clearly hoped that it would reduce tensions in the area, but subsequent efforts to improve relations between China and the United States foundered on the issue of Taiwan. In the fall of 1954, the United States signed a mutual security treaty with the Republic of China guaranteeing U.S. military support in case of an invasion of Taiwan. When Beijing demanded U.S. withdrawal from Taiwan as the price for improved relations, diplomatic talks between the two countries collapsed.

Link: 1930 Ho Chi Minh

                       Ho Chi Minh
                                General Giap

China's radicalism was intensified in the early 1960s by the outbreak of renewed war in Indochina. The Eisenhower administration had opposed the peace settlement at Geneva in 1954, which divided Vietnam temporarily into two separate regroupment zones, specifically because the provision for future national elections opened up the possibility that the entire country would come under Communist rule.

But Eisenhower had been unwilling to introduce U.S. military forces to continue the conflict without the full support of the British and the French, who preferred to seek a negotiated settlement. In the end, Washington promised not to break the provisions of the agreement but refused to commit itself to the results.

During the next several months, the United States began to provide aid to a new government in South Vietnam. Under the leadership of the anti-Communist politician Ngo Dinh Diem, the South Vietnamese government began to root out dissidents. With the tacit approval of the United States, Diem refused to hold the national elections called for by the Geneva Accords. It was widely anticipated, even in Washington, that the Communists would win such elections. In 1959, Ho Chi Minh, despairing of the peaceful unification of the country under Communist rule, returned to a policy of revolutionary war in the south.

Chinese leaders observed the gradual escalation of the conflict in South Vietnam with mixed feelings. They were undoubtedly pleased to have a firm Communist ally - one that had in many ways followed the path of Mao Zedong - just beyond their southern frontier - yet they were concerned that renewed bloodshed in South Vietnam might enmesh China in a new conflict with the United States. Nor did they welcome the specter of a powerful and ambitious united Vietnam, which might wish to extend its influence throughout mainland Southeast Asia, an area that Beijing considered its own backyard.

Chinese Pilots Vietnam era

Chinese leaders therefore tiptoed delicately through the minefield of the Indochina conflict. As the war escalated in 1964 and 1965, Beijing publicly announced that the Chinese people fully supported their comrades seeking national liberation but privately assured Washington that China would not directly enter the conflict unless U.S. forces threatened its southern border. Beijing also refused to cooperate fully with Moscow in shipping Soviet goods to North Vietnam through Chinese territory.

Despite its dismay at the lack of full support from China, the Communist government in North Vietnam responded to U.S. escalation by infiltrating more of its own regular force troops into the south, and by 1968, the war had reached a stalemate. The Communists were not strong enough to overthrow the government in Saigon, whose weakness was shielded by the presence of half a million U.S. troops, but President Johnson was reluctant to engage in all-out war on North Vietnam for fear of provoking a global nuclear conflict. In the fall, after the Communist-led Tet offensive aroused antiwar protests in the United States, peace negotiations began in Paris.

THE COLD WAR - Dividing the Continents

The war's devastating effects brought two dramatic changes in the international balance of power.

The first change was the emergence of the so-called superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, and the swift development of a "cold war" between them.

The cold war divided Europe, with Eastern Europe occupied by Soviet troops, and Western Europe dominated by the military and economic presence of the United States. The second great change came with the dismantling of the European empires that had once stretched worldwide.

The collapse of empires and the creation of newly emancipated nations raised the stakes in the cold war and brought superpower rivalry to far-flung sections of the globe.

No peace treaty ended World War II. Instead, as the war drew to a close, relations between the Allied powers began to fray over issues of power and influence in Central and Eastern Europe.

After the war, they descended from mistrust to open conflict.

The United States and Soviet Union rapidly formed the centers of two imperial blocs. Their rivalry, which came to be known as the cold war, pitted against each other two military powers, two sets of state interests, and two ideologies: capitalism and communism.

The cold war's manifold repercussions reached well beyond Europe, for anti-colonial movements, sensing the weakness of European colonial powers, turned to the Soviets for help in their struggles for independence.

The cold war thus structured the peace, shaped international relations for four decades, and affected governments and peoples across the globe who depended on either of the superpowers.

The Soviet Union had insisted during the wartime negotiations at Tehran (1943) and Yalta (1945) that it had a legitimate claim to control Eastern Europe, a claim that some Western leaders accepted as the price of defeating Hitler and others ignored so as to avoid a dangerous confrontation.

When visiting Moscow in 1944, Churchill and Stalin quietly bargained over their respective spheres of influence, offering each other "percentages" of the countries that were being liberated.

The Declaration of Principles of Liberated Europe issued at Yalta in 1945 guaranteed free elections, but Stalin believed that the framework of allied cooperation gave him a free hand in Eastern Europe.

Stalin's siege mentality pervaded his authoritarian regime and cast nearly everyone at home or abroad as a potential threat or enemy of the state. Yet Soviet policy did not rest on personal paranoia alone.

The country's catastrophic wartime losses made the Soviets determined to maintain political, economic, and military control of the lands they had liberated from Nazi rule. For the Soviets, Eastern Europe served as both "a sphere and a shield."

When their former allies resisted their demands, the Soviets became suspicious, defensive, and aggressive.

In Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union used a combination of diplomatic pressure, political infiltration, and military power to create "peoples' republics" sympathetic to Moscow.

In country after country, the same process unfolded: first, states set up coalition governments that excluded former Nazi sympathizers; next came coalitions dominated by communists; finally, one party took hold of all the key positions of power.

This was the process that prompted Winston Churchill, speaking at a college graduation in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, to say that "an Iron curtain" had "descended across Europe."

A Resource Guide to the "Cold War"


The Chinese Revolution proved the start of a larger wave.

Between 1947 and 1960 the sprawling European empires built during the nineteenth century disintegrated. Imperialism had always provoked resistance.

Opposition to colonial rule had stiffened after World War I, forcing war-weakened European states to renegotiate the terms of empire.

After World War II, older forms of empire quickly became untenable.

In some regions European states simply sought to cut their losses and withdraw, their financial, political, and human resources depleted.

In others, well-organized and tenacious nationalist movements successfully demanded new constitutional arrangements and independence.

In a third set of cases, European powers were drawn into complicated, multifaceted, and extremely violent struggles between different movements of indigenous peoples and European settler communities - conflicts the European states had helped create.

India was the first and largest of the colonies to win self-government following the war.

Indian nationalist Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869 - 1948) had been at work in India since the 1920s, and had pioneered anti-colonial ideas and tactics that echoed the world over. In the face of colonial domination, Gandhi advocated not violence but swaraj, or self-rule, urging Indians individually and collectively to develop their own resources and to withdraw from the imperial economy - by going on strike, refusing to pay taxes, or boycotting imported textiles and wearing homespun.

By 1947, Gandhi and his fellow nationalist Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964), prime minister 1947 - 1964), the leader of the pro-independence Congress party, had gained such widespread support that the British found it impossible to continue in power.

The year 1948 brought more crises for the British empire, including an end to the British mandate in Palestine. During WW!, British diplomats had encouraged Arab nationalist revolts against the Ottoman empire.

With the 1917 Balfour Declaration, they had also promised a "Jewish homeland" in Palestine for European Zionists.

Contradictory promises and the flight of European Jews from Nazi Germany contributed to rising conflict between Jewish settlers and Arabs in Palestine during the 1930s and provoked an Arab revolt bloodily suppressed by the British.

At the same time, the newly important oil concessions in the Middle East were multiplying Britain's strategic interests in the Suez Canal, Egypt, and the Arab nations generally.

In 1939, in the name of regional stability, the British strictly limited further Jewish immigration.

They tried to maintain that limit after the war, but now they faced pressure from tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe.

The conflict quickly became a three-way war: among Palestinian Arabs fighting for what they considered their land and their independence, Jewish settlers and Zionist militants determined to defy British restrictions, and British administrators with divided sympathies, embarrassed and shocked by the plight of Jewish refugees and committed to maintaining good Anglo-Arab relations.

By 1947, there was one British soldier for every eighteen inhabitants of the Mandate. The years of fighting, however, with terrorist tactics on all sides, persuaded the British to leave.

The United Nations voted (by a narrow margin) to partition the territory into two states. Neither Jewish settlers nor Palestinian Arabs found the partition satisfactory and both began to fight for territory even before British troops withdrew.

Mr Wyler's Google World Maps and Information
www.historycanbefun.com - The best of people's history interest online now with the top courses at affordable prices (free). All information online now on our website.  
Get Acrobat Reader | Get "Flash" Player | AVG Free Anti-Virus | Home | Top
  © 2010 Wyler All Rights Reserved