This Week in History

Cortés Driven from Mexico:

June 30-July 1, 1520

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.

A mural by Diego Rivera depicting Aztec Tenochtitlán

From Cholula, the Spaniards climbed to higher elevations. After passing between two great volca­noes, Popocatepetl (“the hill that smokes”) and Ixtaccihuatl (“white woman”), they gained their first sight of the valley of Mexico. Below them stretched the great lake, with Tenochtitlán in its midst; and far away on the northeast bank, rose the city of Texcuco. One of the soldiers, Bernal Díaz, wrote he had never seen a sight as lordly and beautiful as Tenochtitlán. “And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things we saw were not a dream,” he later wrote. So beautiful was Montezuma’s city, with its great buildings and tem­ples, that fear filled the hearts of Cortés’ men. But buoyed by their commander’s confident spirit, they recovered their courage and proceeded onward toward the city. Marching across the great causeways that connected Tenochtitlán with land, the 400 Spaniards with their 6,400 Indian allies beheld beautiful floating gardens and the vast population surrounding the lake and swarming on its waters in innumerable canoes. It was, as Díaz had said, a dream city, pulled into life from the romantic tales of chivalry so beloved to the stern soldiers of the Crown of Spain.

Montezuma welcomed Cortés and his men into the city and and showed them every hos­pitality. He allowed the Spaniards to visit the marketplace and the great teocalli. In the last place Cortés and his men saw signs of human sacrifice — hearts of victims, some still warm, set on the altars of the gods. Montezuma, whose religious sensibilities were more eclectic than those of the Spaniards, allowed the Spaniards to have a chapel in their quarters where Mass could be offered. (more…)



This Week in History

Eppur Si Muove! — Galileo Condemned: June 22, 1633

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

Galileo Galilei

At times Galileo seemed quite a humble man. For instance, he wrote, “I have never met a man so ignorant that I could not learn something from him.” Yet, despite such statements, Galileo was proud and could be quite harsh with those who disagreed with him. Firmly convinced that his discoveries had proven that the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis was true, Galileo showed little patience with those who thought otherwise. For instance, writing in the margin of a book written to defend the Ptolemaic system, Galileo called the book’s author (the Jesuit Antonio Rocco) an “ignoramus, elephant, fool, dunce.”

But though he had little respect for Rocco, Galileo was on good terms with other Jesuits—at least for a time. Jesuits had been among the foremost scientists of Galileo’s day. The Jesuits in Rome were quite interested in Galileo’s discoveries. In 1611, they welcomed him to Rome and allowed him to stay in their house in the city. What’s more, Church prelates and Pope Paul V himself showed the astronomer every sign of favor. (more…)



This Week in History

Election of a “Liberal” Pope:

June 16, 1846

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

Pope Gregory XVI

The cardinals who gathered in Rome for the conclave in June of 1846 faced a most dangerous situation. The last years of the reign of Pope Gregory XVI had not been peaceful. There had been murders of policemen and Swiss mercenary soldiers. In the mountains, the strength of the guerilla bands was growing. On August 15, 1843, a band of guerillas attacked a column of papal troops. The pope’s government responded by declaring martial law and by executing several of the captured insurgents. In September of 1845, a band of revolutionaries who had gathered in Paris and Algiers tried to take the city of Rimini. They failed, and papal troops secured the city.

Luigi Cardinal Lambruschini

Pope Gregory XVI died on June 1, 1846, unwept for, unlamented. Who would succeed him? Would the cardinals choose another pope like Leo XII or Gregory XVI? Or would the cardinals give in to the spirit of the times and choose a “Liberal”? The cardinals themselves were divided on this question. There were the staunch anti-Liberals, called the zelati (“zealous ones”), who wanted a pope like Gregory XVI. These cardinals favored Gregory XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Lambruschini. Opposed to this group were the “Liberals,” who favored two candidates—Cardinal Pasquale Tommaso Gizzi and the archbishop of Imola, Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti.

Despite their disagreements, the cardinals knew they had to come to a decision quickly. The Carbonari and others might take advantage of the fact that there was no pope to stage a revolution—just as had happened in 1831, at the election of Gregory XVI. So it was that on June 16, only one day after they had gathered for the election, the cardinals had made their decision.

That day, they chose Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti to open and count the ballots; and as he did so and saw one ballot after another with his name written on it, he could not finish. “Brethren,” he cried, “spare me, take pity on my weakness! I am unworthy.” (more…)



This Week in History

Slaughter at El Tupo: June 9, 1695

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.

A 19th century photograph of Casa Grande, in Arizona

In 1692, at the age of 52, Kino went on the first of the long explorations that would occupy him almost until his death. Kino undertook these journeys, partly to preach and seek out sites for new missions, and partly to discover if there were a land route from the Pimería to California. A land route would make it easier to supply new missions. Kino’s journeys took him into what is now southern Arizona, where, near Tucson, he established missions at Guevavi, Tumacácori, and Bac. Bac was the largest Pima village in the region and later would boast a fine mission church — San Xavier del Bac. In 1694, in what is now Arizona, Kino first saw the ruins of a great building, surrounded by irrigation ditches. This was Casa Grande, the remains of a once thriving community of Indians. Kino thought it might be the remains of one of the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola, or, if tales were true, a monument of Aztlán, the Aztecs’ ancient home. (more…)



This Week in History

A Bomb Blast Inspires a “Red Scare”: June 2, 1919

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.

A. Mitchell Palmer (right) with President Woodrow Wilson

Dread of the German “Hun” conquering the world gave way, after the World War, to fear of Russian Bolshevism and its stated aim to spark a worldwide proletarian revolution. Some, like A. Mitchell Palmer, whom Wilson appointed attorney general in June 1919, thought Bolshevism threatened the United States with unrest and revolution. In 1920, Palmer described the state of things as he saw them in 1919:

Like a prairie-fire, the blaze of revolution was sweeping over every American institution of law and order a year ago. It was eating its way into the homes of the American workmen, its sharp tongues of revolutionary heat were licking the altars of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school bell, crawling into the sacred corners of American homes, seeking to replace marriage vows with libertine laws, burning up the foundations of society.

This account perhaps did not seem so exaggerated to men whose imaginations had been stirred up by war and war propaganda and who, in the summer of 1919, had experienced a good deal of social conflict. The movement of blacks from the South to the factories and cities of the North during the war had already caused a good deal of social unrest. White workers feared that black competition would affect their wages. A riot between blacks and whites in East St. Louis in 1917 left 47 dead and hundreds wounded. Another race riot in Washington, D.C. in July of 1919 was so violent that thousands of troops had to be called in to quell it. The same month, 36 died in a three-day riot in Chicago. The same year, racial tensions made themselves felt in New York, Omaha, and in the South. (more…)