This Week in History

San Fernando Conquers Cordoba:

June 29, 1236

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.

Fernando III became king of Castile in 1217, at the age of 19, one year after the death of Pope Innocent III and five years after the Iberian Crusade. Thirteen years later, he inherited the crown of León. King Fernando III was a great war leader. Never once in his 35-year reign did he lose a battle against the Moors. But Fernando was more than a great warrior; he was a devout Catholic who fasted, did penances, and sometimes spent whole nights in prayer. It is for this he is remembered in Spain as San Fernando — St. Fernando.

Fernando III de Castilla 02.jpg

King Fernando III of Castile

King Fernando was also a just ruler. It is said of him that he was careful not to overtax his subjects, saying he feared the curse of one poor woman more than an army of Moors.

Fernando was at war with the Moors throughout his reign. One of his greatest triumphs was recovering the fabled city of Córdoba, the former seat of the caliphs of Al-Andalus. Córdoba had been the capital of the Islamic West, fabled for its wealth, its scholars, and the caliph’s huge library of some 400,000 books.

The reconquest of Córdoba began in an unexpected way. On their own initiative a small group of young Castilians, who lived in Ubeda on the Christian borderlands, attacked the great city in the off-season for war. Disguised as Moors, the men, led by a young knight named Domingo Muñoz, scaled the walls of Córdoba in the midst of a storm and took the city by surprise on the night of January 7, 1236. After gaining control of a major suburb, the intrepid group sent a messenger to the Castilian king. They would try to hold their precarious position, they told the king, until he could arrive with an army.


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  … Read more>

This Week in History

The “Second Coming in Wrath” at Hiroshima: August 6, 1945

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Albert Einstein (left) with J. Robert Oppenheimer

When Harry Truman became president following Roosevelt’s death, he learned for the first time that the United States had been working on a new, secret weapon. Among the refugees from Europe were a number of physicists, including the German Jew Albert Einstein, the Italian Enrico Fermi, and the Hungarian Leó Szilárd. These physicists had warned President Roosevelt that German scientists were working on the concept of uranium fission to produce a bomb that could wipe out large sections of cities. To beat the Germans, the United States commenced the Manhattan Project. In centers throughout the country, this top-secret project worked to master the splitting of the atom. On December 2, 1942, Fermi and other physicists had produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. By 1944, J. Robert Oppenheimer, at the laboratories at Los Alamos, New Mexico, had developed the first atomic bomb. On July 19, 1945, this atomic bomb was successfully exploded at Los Alamos. The United States now possessed a weapon that the broken but desperate might of Japan could not withstand. In a message to Churchill, Truman declared, “this is the Second Coming in wrath.” (more…)

This Week in History

The Fall of Robespierre: 9th Thermidor (July 27) 1794

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

A satirical drawing depicting Maximilien Robespierre guillotining the executioner after he had killed of everyone else in France

The Terror now entered its darkest phase. Prisons in Paris began to overflow with thousands of accused persons. Executions increased. In the year from the beginning of the Reign of Terror to the passage of the Law of the 22nd Prairial, Paris had seen 1,256 executions; but in the six weeks following the passage of the law, 1,361 died under the guillotine. A steady stream of victims, men as well as women, patriots as well as traitors, climbed the scaffold. Among them was André Chenier, the poet who had composed the hymn to Robespierre’s god.

Among those who met their deaths during this period were the Carmelite nuns of Compiègne. Since September 1792, when the National Assembly had forced them to leave their monastery and abandon their habits, they had continued to live their religious life in small groups, near to a chapel where they heard Mass. But in June 1794, they were arrested for plotting against the republic and taken to Paris. During their trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal, the prosecuting attorney accused the nuns of being fanatics on account of their “attachment to childish beliefs” and “silly religious practices.” Without an attorney to defend them, the sisters were condemned as “enemies of the people by conspiring against its sovereign will.” They were 16 in number—ten professed nuns, one novice, three lay sisters, and two servants. (more…)

This Week in History

Bismarck Goads France into War:

July 19, 1870

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. Further down, you may read the post of which this story is a continuation.

Otto von Bismarck in 1870

The Seven Weeks’ War had made Bismarck a hero in Prussia. Even the Liberals in the Landtag had changed their opinion of him. At the request of King Wilhelm I, they enthusiastically declared that everything Bismarck had done against the Prussian constitution had been legal. Many of the Liberals even discovered that they cared more about Prussian glory than Liberalism. They formed a new National Liberal Party that would in coming years work closely with Bismarck.

Bismarck, however, was not content with these past glories. He wanted to bring the southern German states into a union with Prussia and the northern confederation, but he knew that great obstacles stood in his way. The southern Germans distrusted and disliked Prussia, for various reasons. Some wanted to keep their local independence, and the Liberals among them thought Prussia’s government too oppressive. Most of Germany’s Catholics lived in the south, and they feared living under a Protestant power. They remembered that Prussia had imprisoned Catholic bishops who dared to stand up in support of the Church’s marriage laws.

Bismarck thought that it could be many years before the southern German states would consent to unite under Prussia. He was certain, however, that a war—a patriotic war—could overcome southern German reluctance and unite those states quickly to Prussia. It was just such a war that Bismarck was planning—a war against Germany’s “ancient foe,” France. (more…)