This Week in History

A New Government for Germany and Austria’s Defiance: May 18, 20, 1848

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues the story of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. To see the four previous installments of this series, please see posts for March 1, March 8, March 15, and March 22.  For ordering information on our books, please go here.

Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria (also king of Hungary, Bohemia, and Lombardy-Venetia)

On March 14, 1848, the day following Metternich’s resignation, the [Austrian] government agreed to form a National Guard — which, like the Paris National Guard during the French Revolution, would be entirely under the control of the revolutionaries. The next day, the government suggested forming a central committee of all the local diets in the empire, but this did not please the revolutionaries. Nor did they like a constitution the Council of State suggested in late April, because it gave the imperial government too much control over the making of laws.

Impatient with the government, students and national guardsmen began forming revolutionary committees. On May 15, 1848, these committees joined to form a Central Committee to organize all revolutionary activities and to direct the city government of Vienna. The Council of State at first refused to recognize the revolutionary committee; but when students and workers again took to rioting, the ministers gave in. They recognized the Central Committee as legal and agreed to call a National Convention or Reichsrat (imperial assembly) to draw up a constitution for all of the Austrian Empire, except Hungary and Lombardy-Venezia. Delegates to the Reichsrat would be elected by universal manhood suffrage.


LOS ANGELES— Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed., headmaster of a Top 50 ranked Catholic school and founder of the Catholic Textbook Project publishing company, has accepted an invitation by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to participate in its World Congress on Catholic Education. This invitation-only Congress will be held in Rome, November 18-21, and aims to formulate and refresh core education principles, guidelines for Catholic schools and universities.

“The aim of this Congress echoes everything I’ve strived for in my work—from teaching and leading as a principal,” says Van Hecke, “ to the formation of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education; to the launch of a new Catholic Textbook publishing company. The issues of this Congress are the same issues I’ve been discussing with colleagues, superintendents and bishops for … (more…)

This Week in History

The Sinking of the Lusitania:

May 7, 1915

This week, we continue our commemoration of the centenary of World War I. The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

The British government thought its main task in the war would be to supply sea power to the French and Russians, who would do most of the fighting on land. Having the world’s largest navy, the British thought they easily could stop contraband (munitions, arms, raw materials, and other necessary items) from reaching the German army.

File:HMS Iron Duke (1912).jpg

British warship, HMS Iron Duke

The British blockade was able to stop all German merchant vessels; but what was to be done about merchant ships from neutral countries, like the United States, that traded with Germany? The London Declaration, a 1908 agreement made by several nations (but not Great Britain), said belligerents could not treat certain specified goods shipped by neutral shipping to neutral ports as contraband. Such goods included forage for animals, fuel, lubricants, and food. But as early as August 20, 1914, the British began to block the shipment of materials protected by the declaration. Gradually the British blockade was keeping even food shipments from reaching Germany.