This Week in History

Voltaire’s Philosopher Becomes King: May 31, 1740

Prince “Fritz,” the “Philosopher King”

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues a story we began last August, which you may read here. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

Reconciled at last with his father, Fritz had to attend to his duties as crown prince. One of these duties was to marry. The match Friedrich Wilhelm chose for his son was the Princess Elizabeta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, the niece of the Habsburg empress. Fritz was not happy with this marriage; but to please his father, he went along with it. The couple were married in 1733 and, three years later, went to live at an estate called Rheinsberg.

Fritz spent some of the happiest years of his life at Rheinsberg. There, friends visited him; he was entertained each day by musical concerts and plays (often by Voltaire), and he enjoyed conversation in French (the only language spoken at Rheinsberg) and French cooking. He became an avid buyer of books (for which he ran up great debts), studied “philosophy,” conducted experiments in physics and chemistry, and continued his attempts at composing good French verse.


The Father of English History

St. Bede the Venerable

Today is the feast of St. Bede and it is an important day for the Catholic Textbook Project. In 2000 at CTP’s inception, our first General Editor, Dr. Rollin Lasseter chose to put the new venture under the patronage of Venerable Bede, Doctor of the Church. Besides finding it natural to seek help from the Catholic Church’s patron saint of historians, Dr. Lasseter, as a convert from Anglicanism, wanted a bridge to the England that was once universally Catholic. He also found inspiration in St. Bede’s honoring the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as the greatest event in human history – a theme which remains unbroken throughout the CTP history books. 

Dr. Lasseter and his wife, Ruth, made a pilgrimage in 2000 to Durham Cathedral in England to visit the tomb of St. Bede where they prayed for his heavenly assistance and guidance of CTP. Upon the tombstone itself is inscribed one word:  “Bede.” Above the tomb are inscribed words written by St. Bede himself:  Christ is the Morning Star, who, when the night of this world is past, brings to His saints the promise of the light of life and opens everlasting day. Through the years that he wrote, until his death in 2008, Dr. Lasseter kept an image of Saint Bede on his computer screen and also in a small frame above his desk. (more…)

This Week in History

The Killing of a Compromise:

May 25, 1854

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here. 

Jefferson Davis, secretary of state to President Franklin Pierce, about 1853

American westward settlement had mostly neglected the open prairies. Settlers preferred the forested lands where they could find more water, and trees provided lumber for building and for fuel. When they did settle the prairies, most emigrants chose the river bottoms where grew stands of cottonwood, hickory, and other trees.

This settlement pattern, however, began to change in the mid 1850s with the increased construction of railroads. Instead of relying on cumbersome, slow-moving wagon trains for supplies, settlers could receive what they needed, quickly, by rail. One such railroad, the Illinois Central, when completed, ran from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois, and thus opened up the Illinois prairie for settlement. (more…)

This Week in History

King Charles Betrays His Friend:

May 10, 1641

The following comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The Development of Christian Civilization. For ordering information on this text and our other books, please click here.

Charles did not abandon his hopes of finally subduing the Covenanters. But to do this, he needed to raise a larger army. The problem was, neither his extraordinary ways of getting money nor the ship money gave him enough funds to do this. Since he could not levy taxes without Parliament’s approval, Charles was forced to summon it for the first time since 1629.

File:Sir Anthony Van Dyck - Charles I (1600-49) - Google Art Project.jpg

King Charles I

Charles’s enemies, the Puritans, controlled Parliament when it met on April 13, 1640. Headed by the radical country gentleman, John Pym, the Puritans said they would vote the king funds if he first gave Parliament greater powers. This Charles refused to do; and in frustration, he dissolved Parliament on May 5. Because it was in session for less than a month, it became known as the Short Parliament.