Music from the Year of Napoleon’s Fall

Experience music from the year of Napoleon’s fall—Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor, Op. 90, composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in the summer 1814. Played by pianist, Daniel Barenboim.



January 30, 1933: Triumph of the Führer

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World.  For ordering information on Light to the Nations II  and our other texts, please click here.

Adolf Hitler posing for the camera

Despite its name, the National Socialist Party was anything but socialist. Hitler despised socialism, especially Marxist socialism, because it rejected private property and claimed that all working men and races are equal. As he explained in Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), a book he had written in prison, Hitler thought all mankind was divided into races (Völker), but not every race or Volk was equal. The supreme race was the Aryan or white, European race. The Aryan race, according to Hitler, was the most creative of races and thus had the right to conquer and rule all others. Of all races, the worst, said Hitler, was the Jewish race. He called it the “destroyer of culture,” “a parasite within the nation,” and “a menace.” Hitler did not hate Jews for religious reasons; indeed, though he had been baptized a Catholic, Hitler rejected the Christian faith because he thought it too Jewish. Hitler hated Jews because he thought they belonged to a degraded race and were the enemies of the German Volk. (more…)

This Day in History

January 23, 1814: The Pope Escapes Napoleon

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. Our July 6, 2014 “This Day in History” told the story of Pope Pius VII’s forced exile from Rome at the hands of Napoleon’s general, Sextius Alexandre Francois de Miollis; you may find that post here

Napoleon’s victories and his defeat at Leipzig came as distant rumors to Pope Pius VII at Fontainebleau. Because the pope was undergoing a bitter struggle of his own, he had cared little for such news.

Pope Pius VII

In January 1813, nine months before the Battle of Leipzig, the pope had received a sudden visit from Napoleon. The emperor had entered unannounced into the pope’s presence; and striding up to the pontiff, Napoleon embraced and kissed him. 

Despite the friendly gesture, Napoleon had more in mind than reconciliation. In a series of interviews during which Napoleon at times erupted into anger, he and the pope worked out a new concordat to replace the Concordat of 1801. The new concordat did not force the pope to live at Paris (as Napoleon had wanted) or give secular rulers the right to nominate two-thirds of the cardinals (another of the emperor’s demands); but it did give  (more…)

This Day in History

January 12, 1829: Death of the First Romantic

Friedrich von Schlegel in 1801

 The following account of the life of Friedrich von Schlegel, the “Father of Romanticism,” comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern WorldFor ordering information on this and our other books, please click here 
Friedrich von Schlegel was a man his friends greatly admired. Indeed, they admired him so much that they gave him the name Messias, a form of Messiah or Christ — “the anointed one.” In giving Schlegel this name, his friends did not (more…)

This Day in History

January 8, 1918
Wilson Issues His “Fourteen Points” for Peace
The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern WorldFor ordering information on this and our other books, please click here.
Addressing the U.S. Congress on January 8, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson laid out his war aims and what he hoped for Europe following the end of the war. What “we demand in this war . . . is nothing peculiar to ourselves,” said Wilson. “It is that the world be made fit and safer to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation, which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression.”

President Woodrow Wilson
In this address, Wilson outlined for Congress his “Fourteen Points” for peace. These points were strangely similar to Pope Benedict XV’s Seven Points that, only a few months before, Wilson had said were impractical. In fact, someone who read both Benedict’s Seven Points and Wilson’s Fourteen Points might have thought that the U.S. president had taken his ideas from the pope. Like Benedict, Wilson called for a decrease in armaments, while the pope’s suggestion of an international institution to decide disputes between nations was very like Wilson’s call for “a general association of nations” to assure “political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.” In other instances, Wilson’s points seemed merely to be more detailed versions of Benedict’s points.

Emperor Karl
But in his Seven Points, Benedict did not call for breaking up existing states or forming new states based on national identity. Wilson did. In his tenth point, Wilson said, “The peoples of Austria-Hungary . . . should be accorded the freest opportunity of autonomous development.” In other words, Wilson was calling for the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into independent states, based on nationality. The U.S. president, who wanted to make “the world safe for democracy,” had no place in his plans for a multinational empire like Austria-Hungary. Austria’s Emperor Karl, who read Wilson’s Fourteen Points, wondered about the president’s intentions. Still hoping to make peace with the Entente, Karl sent a note to Wilson in February 1918, asking for talks between representatives of the two governments. Karl repeated the pledges he had made to the Allies a year before and said he was willing even to relinquish territory to Italy, though he insisted that all of Italy’s territorial demands were not just. Karl asked Wilson to clarify what he meant by “self-determination for the peoples of Austria-Hungary,” but the American president refused to respond to the Austrian emperor’s note.

Count Georg von Hertling
Germany’s chancellor, Count George von Hertling (who had replaced Michaelis in the fall), said that thought the kaiser could accept Wilson’s call for a “general association of nations,” he had difficulties with the president’s other points. The problem, said Hertling, with the Allied peace plans was that they were based on the idea that the Central Powers had been vanquished. This was quite wrong, he said. “Our brilliant military leaders face the future with undiminished confidence in victory,” Hertling wrote. “Unbroken joy of battle inspires the entire army — officers and men… God is with us, and will continue to be with us,” he said. 

Bartok and Mr. Zip-Zip-Zip

The following pieces — an American popular song, “Good Morning, Mr. Zip-Zip-Zip!” and Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 2 – illustrate, perhaps, the wide difference between the European and American experience of the “Great War.” Both pieces were completed in 1918.