This Week in History

Vienna’s Rebels Surrender:

October 30, 1848

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations II:The Making of the Modern World. It continues our series on the 1848 revolutions in Austria that we continued here. (For our last post on the 1848 revolutions in Paris, please go here.) For information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

The revolutionaries in Vienna cheered when they heard of Radetzky’s victories in Lombardy. Why did they cheer? After all, Radetzky’s enemies should have been their friends. Both the Viennese and Lombard revolutionaries were Liberals. Both battled what they thought was tyranny. Yet the Viennese radicals welcomed the news of Radetzky’s victories. Why?

Count Josef Radetzky von Radetz

The answer is simple. The Viennese revolutionaries were Liberals, but they were also nationalists. They cheered Radetzky, for he had led German and Austrian arms in triumph over people of a different nation. The success of Liberal ideals meant less to the Viennese insurgents than their nation’s glory.

Such nationalism could be found as well in the German and Hungarian diets. The German and Magyar Liberals wanted liberty and citizen rights for themselves, but not necessarily for other nationalities. Kossuth fought for Magyars but wanted to keep down the Slav minorities in Hungary. This only alienated the Slavs from the cause of Hungarian independence. The Viennese revolutionaries also alienated the Slavs by cheering the news that in June the imperial Austrian army under Alfred, Prince zu Windischgrätz, had crushed the Czech revolution in Prague.


This Week in History

Europe and America Meet:

October 12, 1492

The following comes from our text (newly published in hard cover), Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please go here.

“Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus,” 1519

No one knows when Columbus first formulated what he called the “Enterprise of the Indies” — his conviction that one could reach the Indies by sailing west across the Atlantic. This rather bold conviction arose from a miscalculation — Columbus had underestimated the circumference of the earth. Not only did he reckon the earth’s circumference to be 25 percent smaller than it actually is, he exaggerated the eastward stretch of Asia. These errors led him to conclude that the distance from the Canary Islands to Cipangu would be some 2,400 nautical miles. It is actually 10,600 nautical miles.

It was not mathematics however that inspired the Enterprise of the Indies. Columbus was a visionary, certain he was called to a special task. He saw himself as a true Christopher — Christum-ferens, the Christ-bearer — destined to carry the Catholic faith to the heathen oversea. His interests, of course, were not wholly spiritual, for he longed to find gold in the Indies both to enrich himself and the monarch he served. Yet, even Columbus’ cupidity evinced religious goals, for he hoped his monarch, flush with the wealth of the Indies would finance a new crusade against the Muslims to recover the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem for Christendom.