This Week in History

Victory for the Papal Zouaves: November 3, 1867

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. It continues our account  of Garibaldi’s invasion of the Papal States. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

Pope Pius IX’s general, Hermann Kanzler

… But Garibaldi received his first check when six thousand of his Redshirts attacked several hundred members of the Legion of Antibes at the fortified town of Monte Rotondo, about 17 miles northeast of Rome. Greatly outnumbered, the hard-fighting French legionaries held off the Redshirts for 27 hours but at last were forced to retreat. The Redshirts moved in and ransacked the town, plundered and defiled the church, and terrorized the people. So great was the destruction in Monte Rotondo that Garibaldi himself rebuked his men with the sternest words. But it was no use; the “Liberator of Italy” could not control the many desperate men (bandits and other criminals) who served in his army.

Though a victory for Garibaldi, the Battle of Monte Rotondo benefited the papal army. The legionaries had so badly bruised the Redshirts that Garibaldi hesitated several days before making his final push against Rome.

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This Week in History

The Peace of Death at Westphalia: October 24, 1648

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please click here. In this selection, we discuss the final phases of the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia.

Emperor Ferdinand II

The threat of France entering the war convinced the elector of Saxony to make peace with the emperor. Ferdinand II tried to get other Protestant princes to follow the elector’s example, and in the Treaty of Prague, he granted amnesty to all princes who consented to sign it. The treaty was an attempt to unite Germany against the French foe—and several Protestant princes did indeed sign it on May 30, 1635. But other Protestant princes decided to continue supporting the Swedes and their ally, Cardinal Richelieu.

Richelieu’s strategy was twofold. France would help fund the Swedes and the Protestant princes in their war against Ferdinand in Germany, while France itself would attack the territories of Habsburg Spain. Thus, while France’s allies continued fighting in Germany, French armies moved against the Spanish-controlled Netherlands (or the “Spanish Netherlands”—the southern Netherlands, modern-day Belgium), Franche Comté (a territory of Burgundy in France), and northern Italy as well as Spain itself. So violent were the French attacks that eventually, King Philip IV of Spain could no longer send troops to help the emperor against the German Protestants—which was just what Richelieu wanted to happen.

At first, the Spanish had a far superior army and were victorious against the French. In 1636, a large Spanish force invaded northern France and nearly captured Paris itself. The following year, a Spanish army crossed the Pyrenees Mountains and invaded southern France. (more…)



This Week in History

California Conquered — by Mistake: October 19, 1842

The following comes from our textt, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. For ordering information on this and our other texts, please go here.

1838 Map of Alta California

The secularization of mission lands, along with the Mexican government’s approval of more land grants to white settlers, increased the number of private ranchos in California. These great cattle ranches centered on the hacienda — a long one-story adobe building, sometimes with porticoed wings enclosing a courtyard, but always with a shaded verandah. Rancho dons were noted for their extravagant hospitality to strangers, their rodeos, bull fights, balls, and feasting. Besides cattle raising, which was practically his sole occupation, the Californio filled his hours with singing and dancing.

For some in California, politics added a needed spice to an otherwise quiet, pastoral life. Before his death in 1836, Figueroa had appointed José Castro as civil governor; nevertheless, Lt. Colonel Nicolás Gutiérrez, a companion of the former governor, decided to unite civil and military affairs under himself. It was 1836, and centralism was triumphant in Mexico. When Governor Mariano Chico left only three months after arriving from Mexico, handing the government back to Gutiérrez, certain Liberal Californios, tired of rule by non-Californios, rose in revolt. Led by Juan Alvarado of Monterey and José Castro, Californios, Indians, and Anglo-American foreigners under Isaac Graham, attacked the governor’s residence in Monterey. When his house was struck by a cannon ball, Gutiérrez decided he had had enough and retired to Mexico. (more…)



This Week in History

Christendom Saved at Lepanto:

October 7, 1571

The following is an excerpt from our text, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. For information on ordering this or our other texts, please go here.

Sultan Selim II

The Council of Trent had been called to deal with a threat—Protestantism—that had arisen from within Christendom. Yet, throughout the 18 years of the council, all Christendom continued to face the common threat of the Ottoman Turks. Though the Ottoman Turks had been prevented from conquering Vienna, they had not gone away. That even Protestants felt this threat is indicated in the first lines of a “children’s song” by Martin Luther:

Lord, keep us in Thy Word and work,

Restrain the murderous pope and Turk,

Who fain would tear from off Thy throne

Christ Jesus, Thy beloved Son.

            It was Catholic and Orthodox Europe, however, that continued to bear the brunt of Turkish attack. When the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent died in 1566, he was succeeded by his son, Selim II. Wanting to imitate his father’s conquests, Sultan Selim began in 1570 to launch ambitious plans to expand the Turkish Empire across Europe. By 1571, Ottoman forces had conquered the Orthodox island of Cyprus, where they killed thousands of Cypriot Christians and sold many of the women and young men into slavery. (more…)