This Week in History

The King of France Becomes Catholic: July 25, 1593

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.


Jeanne d’Albret, Huguenot queen of Navarrre

By 1589, France had undergone over 40 years of religious struggle and war. Though its people were mostly Catholic, France also had a large population of Protestants who were followers of John Calvin. Many Frenchmen had gone to Calvin in Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. From Geneva, the French Calvinists had returned to France to spread their “reformed” religion.

The kings of France had made it difficult, however, for Protestantism to spread in the kingdom. Though King Francis I (Emperor Charles V’s old enemy) supported the Lutheran princes in Germany, he was vigorous in trying to stamp out Calvinism in France. Francis’s son, King Henry II, had carried on his father’s work. Throughout France the king was aided by magistrates who tried those teaching heretical doctrines and sentenced those convicted of heresy to be burned at the stake.

Yet, despite the efforts against them, the French Protestants increased in number and in power. Beginning in 1547, they began organizing churches in the major French cities, including Paris. It was in Paris in 1559 that Protestant French ministers formed a national church based on the teachings of John Calvin. These French Calvinists, called Huguenots, attracted members of the nobility—including Jeanne d’Albret, the queen of Navarre, and her husband, Antoine de Bourbon. The Huguenots thus had the backing of men of wealth and power. Continue reading

This Week in History

The Beginning of the Spanish Civil War: July 17-20, 1936

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.

Republican Spanish Civil War memorial. The inscription reads, “Better do die on your fee than live on your knees.”

The fall of the monarchy gave hope to socialists, anarchists, and other radicals that they could at last take revenge against the “conservative” forces that had oppressed them. On May 11, 1931, anarchists along with some radical socialists looted monarchist headquarters in Madrid and then wrecked or set fire to more than 12 churches in the city. As a fearful sign of what was to come, Madrid’s republican authorities either did nothing to stop the rampage or actively aided it.

Socialists and radical republicans received most of the votes in the June 1931 election for the new Cortes. The constitution drawn up by the Cortes established a secular and anti-Church state. Church and state were separated, members of religious orders were forbidden to teach anything but religion, Church schools were closed, Church property was seized, and religious processions outside the walls of church buildings were forbidden. The republican government attacked the family by making divorce easy to obtain. The new government passed laws to help workers obtain better wages and safer working conditions. The lands of large landowners were to be seized and redistributed among poor farmers. But of the more than 80,000 acres the government seized, most had belonged not to large landowners, but to small or medium-sized farmers. Continue reading

This Week in History

Draft Riots Hit New York City:

July 11-17, 1863

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. 

An English newspaper’s depiction of armed rioters clashing with federal troops in New York City

Before the fall of Vicksburg and Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, the southern armies had seemed to be advancing in the East and holding their own in the West. With continued successes, perhaps Great Britain or France would recognize the Confederacy; and Lincoln then would have to agree to peace or face war with European powers. Gettysburg and Vicksburg changed all that. Lee was back in Virginia, and the Mississippi River was a Federal highway. The blockade grew more and more efficient, and the hope of European intervention grew dim. Lincoln needed another supreme effort, it seemed, to topple the Confederacy. The problem was, he needed more troops.

In March, Congress had passed a conscription act that allowed the president to draft into service men between the ages of 20 and 45. With enlistments way down, Lincoln enacted the conscription act, and in July called for 300,000 men to serve for three-year stints. One provision of Lincoln’s draft, however, drew the opposition of Radical Republicans in Congress: if a man could come up with a $300 “commutation fee” or could find someone to serve in his place, he could avoid the draft. This law, declared Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens, “is a rich man’s bill made for him who can raise his $300 and against him who cannot raise that sum.” Continue reading

Fourth of July Trivia

At the outbreak of fighting in April 1775, few colonists wanted complete independence from Great Britain. Those who did were thought to be radical. By the middle of the following year sentiments had shifted with many more colonists now being in favor of independence.

In August 1775 a royal proclamation declared that the King’s American subjects were “engaged in open and avowed rebellion.” Later that year, Parliament passed the American Prohibitory Act, which made all American vessels and cargoes forfeit to the Crown. And in May 1776 the Congress learned that the King had negotiated treaties with German states to to hire mercenaries to fight in America. The weight of these actions combined to convince many Americans that the mother country was treating the colonies as a foreign entity.

Thomas Paine’s bestselling pamphlet “Common Sense,” published in early 1776 fueled the growing hostility against Britain and helped spread the revolutionary sentiments.

June 7, 1776, the Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, the Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies’ independence. Amid heated debate, Congress postponed the … Read more>

This Week in History

Independence Day in Sonoma:

July 4, 1846

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. 

An 1846 map of the West, showing Texas’ disputed territorial claims and the putative extent of Mexican California (in pink)

In the December of 1845, a party of about 16 armed men led by Captain John Charles Frémont of the United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers arrived at John Sutter’s fort on the Sacramento River. Frémont’s party included the explorer and trapper, Kit Carson.

It was Frémont’s second journey into California. He had first come to California in 1843 through Nevada, westward over the Sierra Nevada, and through central and southern California. From California, he made his way home via Santa Fé in New Mexico. Frémont wrote a detailed report of his expedition that not only gave details of topography, flora, and fauna, but revealed the feeble hold Mexico had on California. The report won fame for Frémont as the “Pathfinder.”

Frémont’s father-in-law was the pro-expansionist senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton; the former ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, was Frémont’s patron. After Frémont returned from his first expedition in 1844, Poinsett introduced him to both General Winfield Scott, who promoted Frémont to captain, and to President Polk. It was with the backing of such powerful men that Frémont undertook his second expedition into California. Ostensibly it was just another topographical expedition, like the first. Continue reading