This Week in History

Death of a Truly Great Woman: November 29, 1780

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

Archduchess Maria Theresia (far right) with the Emperor Franz I and their children

Maria Theresia of Austria has never been called “the Great,” but she was truly one of the great women, and rulers, of her time. Though devoted to the Emperor Franz and the 16 children she bore him, she did not neglect her queenly duties. Indeed, she saw it as her religious duty to improve the lives of her subjects. For 20 years (1745–1765), she ruled the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg realms with her husband and, when he died, with her eldest son, Emperor Josef II. The world may never have called her “the Great,” but Maria Theresia received a better title from her subjects. They called her “a true mother of her people.”

Like the other European monarchs, Maria Theresia strove to be an absolute ruler. Yet, though she abolished local diets in most of her dominions, she allowed Hungary, Lombardy, and the Spanish Netherlands to keep their traditions and forms of self-government. She improved the discipline of the army and increased its numbers to 108,000 men; to pay for this, she made the nobility and clergy as well as peasants and commoners pay taxes. Like Friedrich, she did not think it wise to abolish serfdom; but, as an example to the nobility, she freed the serfs on her own estates. To ease the lot of the poor in Hungary (where serfdom was very hard), she decreed that peasants should be able to marry whomever they wished, raise their children as they saw fit, and change their dwelling place without the permission of their lords. Believing that monarchs should surround themselves with grandeur, Maria Theresia richly decorated her palace of Schönbrunn in Vienna. Still, she was quite frugal; instead of wasting large sums of her own wealth on luxuries, she spent it on a multitude of charities. (more…)



This Week in History

The Pope Driven from Rome:

November 24, 1848

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

Pope Pius IX, in 1847

Pope Pius IX’s refusal to declare war on Austria had turned the Liberals of Rome utterly against him. They now sought his downfall. Secret societies in the city stirred up the common people to demand nothing less than a secular, constitutional government for the Papal States. And the more the pope tried to appease the Liberals, the more they demanded of him. Even the pope’s chief ministers, led by a layman, Count Mamiani, demanded that the pope not only declare war on Austria but also abandon his temporal power altogether.

As the months passed, street violence, stirred up by secret societies, increased in Rome. The civil guard was in the hands of the Liberals, while Count Mamiani only wasted government money and did nothing about the violence. When Mamiani at last resigned, the pope appointed Count Pellegrino Rossi as chief minister. Rossi took over the leadership of the mostly lay ministry on September 16, 1848. (more…)



This Week in History

The Big Stick Strikes Panama: November 18, 1903

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Theodore Roosevelt

In his second inaugural address, Roosevelt developed his ideas about the place of the United States in the world. “Much has been given us,” he said, “and much will rightfully be expected from us . . . We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. Towards all other nations, large and small, our attitude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights.”

However, the president continued, justice and generosity required strength. “While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others,” he said, “we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.” (more…)



This Week in History

The Storm that Stirred the Dust Bowl: November 11, 1933

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Photography by Dorothea Lange: “Young migratory mother, originally from Texas. On the day before the photograph was made she and her husband traveled 35 miles each way to pick peas. They worked 5 hours each and together earned $2.25 [about $40 in current dollars]. They have two young children . . . Live in auto camp. Edison, Kern County, California.”

Among the states hardest hit by the Great Depression was California. California’s industries — the growing of fruit (thought more of a luxury than a staple by most Americans), motion pictures, and vacation spots — were of the sort to suffer most hurt during an economic downturn. Moreover, with its regions of mellifluous climate, California attracted the out-of-work from across the nation; they thought it would easier to bear poverty in a pleasant clime than in the regions where harsh winters prevailed. They also increased the number of poor unemployed in the state.

The poverty of the Depression received little effective response from California’s state government. The governor, James “Sunny Jim” Rolph ignored New Deal solutions to the crisis and continued the policies of the Hoover administration. When Rolph died after a heart attack on June 2, 1934, the lieutenant governor, Frank Merriam, assumed the governorship and perpetuated Rolph’s policies. (more…)