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.

(more…)



This Week in History

The Führer’s Immolation: April 30, 1945

The following comes from our text, 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 Allied leaders (left to right) Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Josif Stalin at Yalta

In January 1945, the Russians began their last great offensive against the German lines in the east. On January 17, forces under the command of General Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov captured Warsaw and from there, over the next two weeks, pushed westward toward Brandenburg and Pomerania. By January 31, Zhukov’s forces were on the Oder River, only 40 miles from Berlin. Less than two weeks later, another Russian army under General Ivan Stepanovich Kunev reached Sommerfeld on the Elbe River, 80 miles from Berlin.

RIAN archive 2410 Marshal Zhukov speaking.jpg

Russian General Georgy Zhukov

While his Red Army moved ever closer to capturing Berlin, Josif Stalin met with Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt at Yalta, a city on the Black Sea, to discuss the future of Europe after the war. Stalin had become indispensable to the Allied war effort. His army, numbering 12 million men, was three times larger than the army commanded by the American general, Dwight Eisenhower. With this army, Stalin kept 125 to 200 German divisions from fighting the Allies in the west. Churchill and Roosevelt needed Stalin, and he knew it. And because they needed him, Stalin also knew that they could not refuse to give him an important role in deciding the future of Europe.

(more…)



This Week in History

Antoine-Frédéric Accepts

the Challenge: April 23, 1833

Like all Europeans, Catholics in the 1840s were divided on how to meet the challenges of their time. The Church in Western Europe was in many ways still in a state of shock because of the French Revolution and its aftermath. It was hard for Catholics, bishops and popes included, to understand fully all that had happened. Thus, when they considered what needed to be done to bring Europe back to the Faith, Catholics came up with very different answers.

Gregory XVI.jpg

Pope Gregory XVI

There were those Catholics who thought Europe had to return to the way things were under the ancient regime. They saw the cause of the Church as tied up with the cause of the old monarchies, such as the Bourbons or the Habsburgs. The watchword of such monarchist Catholics was “throne and altar” — the old alliance of the Catholic Church and the Catholic monarchy.

Other Catholics thought the Church had to realize that Liberal society was not going to go away and so should look for what might be good in it. They thought that the Church must not only accept republican forms of government but even the new spirit of political liberty. Such “Liberal Catholics” said the Church should allow for freedom of the press, freedom of conscience, and the toleration of non-Catholic religions in Catholic countries. It was just such ideas, however, that Pope Gregory XVI condemned in his encyclical, Mirari Vos. Despite the encyclical, Liberal Catholics continued to spread their ideas, especially in France.

(more…)



This Week in History

Death Day of a Queen

Who was Nobody’s Fool: April 1, 1204

Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, as she appeared on the obverse side of her seal

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

At Henry I’s death, civil war engulfed England. Neither the Norman nor the English barons wanted King Henry’s chosen heir to be their king. This heir was Henry Plantagenet, the son of Matilda (King Henry I’s daughter) and Count Geoffrey Plantagenet. From Geoffrey, Henry Plantagenet inherited the French fiefs of Anjou, Touraine, and Maine, as well as Normandy. After the civil war in England ended, Henry came into his inheritance there as King Henry II. (From Henry’s family name, we call his line of English kings the Plantagenets.) He controlled not only England and a large portion of northern France, but much of southern France as well. As lord of the four French fiefs, Henry II controlled a large section of France. Before becoming king he had, in 1152, married Eleanor of Aquitaine — heiress to the French provinces of Poitou, Guienne, Gascony, and most of southern France. This marriage made Henry the most powerful man in western Europe.

(more…)