This Week in History

Final Surrender: November 25, 1491

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.

The “Catholic Monarchs,” Fernando and Isabel

One of the greatest, most revolutionary changes not only for Europe but for all the world occurred in the late 15th century in that western outpost of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula. The little Christian kingdoms of that land – Castile, León, Aragon, and Navarre – had not been at the center of learning and culture, like France. They had not given birth to the Renaissance or been the seat of the Church, like Italy. None of these Iberian states had served as the great political arm of the Church, like Germany. For over 700 years, the Iberian Peninsula had been divided between Christian and Muslim realms, which had been locked in the struggle called the Reconquest. That struggle, in the late 15th century, was about to end and a new task to open for the Christian powers of Iberia.

The Iberian Peninsula at the time of Fernando and Isabel

When Enrique IV, king of Castile and León, died in 1474, the crown went to his sister, Isabel. Enrique IV had been a weak king, and during his reign the Castilian nobles had ignored his authority. Castile was torn by many factions, and when Isabel became queen, she faced a war with Portugal. That country’s king, Alfonso V, was betrothed to Enrique IV’s daughter Juana and claimed the Castilian throne for her. The war ended in 1479, and in 1480 Juana entered a monastery. From thenceforth, Isabel I was the unquestioned queen of Castile and León. Continue reading

This Week in History

Roosevelt Wields the Big Stick over Panama: November 18, 1903

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. 

Theodore Roosevelt

In his 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.”


Roosevelt wields the big stick over the Caribbean, 1904

Roosevelt had said about the same thing many times before but in fewer words: “There is a homely adage which runs: ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick; you will go far.’” Roosevelt almost always spoke softly when dealing with the leaders of other nations. The fear expressed when he took over from McKinley, that he would draw the nation into war, proved unfounded. Once he became president, Roosevelt did all he could to avoid war. He had granted Cuba her independence, as McKinley had promised, and had only intervened once to restore order on the island, as the Platt Amendment allowed the United States president to do. Roosevelt also allowed the Philippines to establish a degree of self-rule, though a United States governor still presided over the island nation.

Yet, Teddy was not averse to using the “big stick” whenever he thought he needed to. He proved this in the case of Colombia. Continue reading

schools students thriveBy Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed.

Catholic schools need our patronage to survive, but more importantly, they need our patronage to thrive…

In my last column, I called all of us to grant our patronage to that most important ministry of our culture and our Church: Catholic education. Yes, donor fatigue is a real feeling, but we Continue reading

This Week in History

The Coup of 19th Brumaire:

November 10, 1799

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.

Much had changed in Europe while Napoleon was fighting in Egypt.

King Fernando IV of Naples

At first, the French republic had achieved success after success in war. In March 1798, French armies overran Switzerland and forced the cantons to accept a centralized, republican government called the Helvetic Republic. In Italy, King Fernando IV of Naples declared war on France; in October, Neapolitan troops were able to enter Rome, but a French counterattack drove them from the city. When news of the defeat reached Naples, Fernando and his court fled by ship to Palermo in Sicily. For over two months, southern Italy had no government. Though the poor of Naples were devoted to their king, the nobility and educated classes surrendered to the French and established a republic—called the Parthenopean Republic.

This new republic, however, had a very short life. French victories, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, and the Directory’s decision in September 1798 to draft more men into the army convinced the monarchies of Europe that they had to destroy the French republic or be destroyed by it. By December 1798, Great Britain, Russia, and Austria had formed a new coalition against France. War began in March 1799, and over the next few months, allied armies were able to roll back the French conquests in Italy. In June, the Parthenopean Republic fell after an existence of only five months, and Fernando IV resumed his reign over Naples.

In France, many thought that the Directory was leading the republic into ruin. There had been continuous war, and France was losing everything she had won. The problem, many thought, was the government. Both the Council of Ancients and the Council of 500 were filled with incompetent men, many of whom used their offices to enrich themselves. Most of the directors themselves were corrupt and venal. The whole thing had become very unpopular. What could be done to restore glory to France and assure a lasting peace for the republic? Continue reading

1-ctpBy Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed.

An investment in faithful Catholic education produces an eternal return on investment—a transformed culture and souls on their way to heaven …  

We all know the prayer—or we all should know the Continue reading